How to Measure Flour Correctly and Why It Matters
If cooking is an art, then baking is a science. You've probably heard this categorization before, and while there is some overlap between the two fields, cooking and baking require different skillsets. Generally speaking, cooking is about spontaneity and touch, while baking requires precision and exactitude.
Baking relies on a series of chemical reactions that result from manipulating certain ingredients and quantities—changing just one factor can result in an entirely different product. That is why it's crucial to ensure that you're using the exact quantities called for in a recipe. Specifically, altering the quantity or type of flour can completely derail your baking project; adding a little too much flour can lead to dry, crackly bread dough, thick, tasteless cookies, or gummy cake.
Measuring the correct quantity of flour can be particularly tricky, as this is one scenerio where there are right and wrong methods. (We hate to break it to you, but Grandma's scoop-from-the-bag technique won't cut it anymore.) Don't fret: We're here with two easy techniques for correctly measuring flour (one using a food scale—our preferred method—and one using measuring cups) to help you bake with confidence.
How to Measure Flour with a Food Scale
The most accurate way to measure flour is with a food scale. As opposed to cup measures, which can result in inconsistencies, a food scale measures quantities down to the gram. As a professional baker, I can't live without my food scale. Luckily, you don't need to splurge on this kitchen essential—you can find our favorite digital kitchen scale on Amazon for only $13.95.
To measure flour with a food scale, place an empty bowl on your food scale and be sure to click "zero" or "tare" before adding any ingredients; this zeroes out the weight of the bowl, ensuring that you're only counting the weight of the ingredient. Pour your flour into the bowl until you reach the desired quantity. If you're mixing more dry ingredients right in with the flour, feel free to tare the scale again and measure the remaining ingredients directly into the bowl.
How to Measure Flour with Measuring Cups
If you don't have a food scale, there is another technique to ensure that you're getting the most accurate measurement of flour. If you simply scoop flour out of the bag with the measuring cup, you're actually packing more flour into the cup than you may need. The difference can be quite dramatic: by packing the flour into the cup, you can end up with up to 50% more than necessary.
Our preferred technique for measuring flour is the scoop and level. Use a large spoon to scoop flour out of the bag and deposit it in a measuring cup. Do not pack or press the flour down; simply let it fall into the measuring cup. Continue scooping until you've filled the measuring cup, then use the back of a butter knife to level off the top (without pressing it down).
This is a core technique to keep in your baking repertoire and pass on to future generations. What are you waiting for? It's time to get baking.