Measuring is especially important to beginning cooks. As your proficiency grows, you will find that you’re depending less and less on your measuring cups and spoons and more on instinct and eyeballs, but until then, here’s all you need to know about measuring ingredients for cooking. The one exception to this rule is baking, which is a science that requires more precise measurements, regardless of your level of expertise.
The first step is to get yourself a good selection of measuring cups and spoons:
A clear glass measuring cup is necessary to get precise liquid measurements.
Dry Ingredients – The most important thing to know about measuring dry ingredients is that they should be level with the top of your measuring cup. Dip your cup into the bin, fill to overflowing and level it off by sweeping the edge of a butter knife across the top. Be careful if you are using a cup larger than what is needed (as in a one cup measure to get 1/2 C worth of ingredients). Because of the way certain foods settle, this will only be an approximation. The same leveling technique should be used with measuring spoons.
To pack or not to pack? That is the culinary question. Most ingredients don’t need to be packed into the measuring cup. Granulated sugar does it for you. Flour should actually be aerated of fluffed up before measuring. Brown sugar is the one exception, this you want to pack down while measuring in order to get the proper amount.
Measure liquids at eye level. In other words, place the cup on a flat surface and crouch down so your at the same level as the cup in order to check the accuracy of the amount in the cup.
To measure solid fats (shortening, butter etc.): Most butter has measurements listed on the wrapper, so you can simply cut off the amount you need. Another method that works well for butter and especially shortening is water displacement (this works for any fraction of a cup measurement). For instance, if you need 1/2 C shortening fill a 1 cup measure 1/2 full with water. Carefully add shortening to the cup until the water reaches the top of the cup. Drain the water and use the shortening.
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