How to properly measure flour

I have no illusion that a post on how to properly measure flour will be destined for the best-seller list but it’s important stuff and I am just a wealth of information, so I cover it here.

I fully appreciate that the thought of taking time out of the day to read a post on how to properly measure flour would be unfathomable for many. However, for those of us who like to bake, it’s one of the most critical aspects of the baking process.

a full cup of flour

Search the thousands of baking sites online and you’re bound to come across someone, somewhere on the site, asking the author how to properly measure flour. It’s the question that haunts so many bakers, and incorrectly measured flour is one of the most commons reasons that a recipe goes astray.

Now I will admit, in a pinch, I will certainly bake from a box (as is evidenced by the one below that I had readily available for the photo shoot).

However, if you are the type of baker who has one-upped Sandra Lee, and prepare Nothing-Homemade, chances are this post may not be for you.

IMG_0228

It’s nothing personal and you’re more than welcome to continue reading if you’re hoping to get the skinny on measuring flour.

For the from-scratch bakers though, the knowledge of how to properly measure flour is serious business.

First things first: There are a variety of flour types on the market – bread flour, cake flour, all-purpose flour, and so forth. Each has a different structure. For the purpose of this post I focus on how to properly measure 1 cup of all-purpose flour, in a dry measuring cup (as opposed to a liquid measuring cup which is used to measure liquids. Who knew.).

A dry measuring cup is measured flush to the top of the cup.

But it has to be measured correctly. Too much flour and your baked goods will most certainly turn out dry and tough. Too little flour and you’ll end up with a wet, dense mess. Neither are appealing.

You see, flour is compacted in the bag, bin, or canister it’s stored in. All of those poor little flour particles are sitting on top of each other, crowding one another nearly to death. They need a little love. They need to breathe. We do that by fluffing up the flour to aerate it or sprinkling it into a measuring cup or bowl, to loosen all those particles. 

Some people will fluff it up and then turn around and dredge the measuring cup through the flour to fill the cup. Talk about being counterproductive. Those little particles are suffocating again because they have just been compacted into a measuring cup! They don’t know if they’re coming or going and this is almost always a sure way to end up with too much flour for the recipe. 

So how exactly DO you measure flour with some degree of accuracy? 

It’s actually easy: Either weigh the flour using a digital scale, or use what others refer to as the spoon-and-level method.

Weighing your flour is, by far, the most accurate method as it takes all the guesswork out of it.

I subscribe to the following:

1 full cup of all-purpose flour = 4.5 ounces = 125 grams of flour

If you’re in that range, you’re good to go. If you’re off by .2 ounce, or a gram or two there is no reason to get yourself worked into a tizzy.

My OXO scale  is a great scale but there are others that cost less and work just as well. I recommend one that lets you weigh in metrics as well as by volume.

This is how easy it is. First, turn the scale on.

OXO Kitchen Scale

Set an empty bowl on top.

Press zero to tare

Press the “zero” button to tare, or zero out, the weight of the bowl.

Reset the scale to zero

Add flour to the bowl and measure either in volume:

measure in volume

Or measure in grams.

measure in grams

Either way, you will always be accurate.

The next best thing, if you don’t have a digital scale, is to use the spoon-and-level method.

Use a spoon to aerate the flour by fluffing it up a bit in the canister. And by the way, I know these photos aren’t exactly award-winners. I’m still trying to figure out how to use two hands and take photos at the same time.

aerate the flour

Then spoon the flour lightly into your measuring cup until it’s overflowing with flour.

spoon flour into cup

Don’t press it down, don’t try to get as much as you possibly can into the cup. Just take a deep breath and level it off with the your straight edge. No compacting done and you should be right on the money with your measurement.

level flour with a straight edge

So there you have it. It’s really not complicated but it is important that it’s done right. If you don’t have a scale and have no intention of buying one, use the spoon-and-level method for the most precise measurement.

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10 thoughts on “How to properly measure flour

  1. This is hysterical!!! I loved it! You have a way of writing no one can top! Yes, I learned this once but had forgotten how important aerating flour is. I will pass this on to others–you can count on that!

  2. That is the most awe-inspiring piece of info I have ever read – such depth! I am so happy that I just happened to find this blog – it has changed my life.

  3. I loved how you explained the importance of measuring flour, you are correct, it is very important and the way you did it is just how I always heard was the correct way. Thanks for the info, very informatived. Kathryrn

  4. I loved your way of measuring flour Colleen. You’re off to a great start with your Royal Icing Diaries. We’re pulling for you to be a BIG success and I know you will. You go
    girl.

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