Many otherwise perfectly clear recipes for the British market contain references to measurements of volume which are confusing as they are not finite metric units like grams and litres. Recipes mix metric units with references to kitchen implements and old imperial quantities. This can lead to disastrous results as aspiring cooks add the wrong amount of an ingredient to their creation. Here are the most commonly problematic measures with translations:
What a totally vague quantity that is! Recipes constantly mention things like “a cup of Rice “or “A cup of milk”. This measure can be for liquids or solids but how much should you add? In the real world cups do, after all, vary somewhat in size! There is actually no definitive metric measurement for a cup but 250 ml is a safe average to use.
Spoons of different sizes are used in recipes for both liquids and solids. Spoons are where it gets really complicated! In America a tablespoon is the largest spoon you actually eat with, whereas in Britain it is a serving spoon and consequently much larger. A measure in a spoon can be level or heaped which begs the question how high the heap should be? There is no finite, universally accepted metric conversion for a tablespoon but a level spoonful is generally considered to be 15ml and the heaped variety 30ml.
Oh good another spoon! This one can also be heaped or level and is traditionally one third of a tablespoon and therefore equivalent to 5ml when level.
The Dessert Spoon
This one falls in between the teaspoon and tablespoon, no surprise there! It is roughly 10ml when level.
Dashes, Pinches and Smidgens
These are all measures of very small amounts with no definitive metric equivalent but are all smaller than a teaspoon. That is as clear as mud! A smidgen is considered to be smaller than a pinch, and a pinch smaller than a dash. You can safely consider a dash to be 2ml and then do the maths on the others!
This is an historical measurement of liquid equivalent to a quarter of an imperial gallon which is also a little ambiguous because British and American gallons are of different volume but for cooking purposes a quart is 1 litre (ish!)
The Fluid Ounce
Another imperial measure which was one twentieth of a pint. I have no idea why this anachronism still appears in recipes in Britain, sometimes alongside metric measures, when it would be far simpler to say 28ml! By the way, this all makes a fluid ounce one eighth of a cup which is in turn 50 teaspoons!
Hopefully in the future all recipes will list ingredients in metric measures preventing frantic cooks running to their computers to discover that half a cup is roughly 8 tablespoons or 25 teaspoons and therefore is almost certainly 125ml or that a quarter of a cup of rice is pretty much four level tablespoons which might be 60ml.
- License: Creative Commons image source
Olive Loves Alfie offer a great range of Rice cups in a variety of styles and colours