How to Measure Flour Accurately
If you’re plunging and measuring, you’re doing it wrong.
By Jessie Sheehan for Food Network Kitchen
Jessie Sheehan is a baker and cookbook author.
It goes without saying that flour is essential to the vast majority of baking recipes, and yet despite how frequently home bakers come across it, it is also one of the trickiest ingredients to measure accurately. Flour is fine grained and can be both dense, like when it is packed down into the paper bag in which it was packaged, and airy, like when you sift it. If your flour is dense and you add too much, your baked good might be dry and tough; if it’s airy and you add too little, and it might lose structure.
Although there is little more satisfying and wonderfully efficient than plunging your measuring cup into a big ole’ bag of flour, scooping out the amount you need, leveling off the excess with a finger or the back of a knife, and dumping it into your mixing bowl, doing so is not going to do your baked goods any favors. In fact, measuring flour that way is the fastest way to a disappointing bake. Measuring flour accurately requires a few more steps than the plunge and scoop. Once the technique becomes second nature, you won’t believe the difference in your baked goods. Gone are the days of diligently following the recipe to a “t,” only to discover the end-product doesn’t live up to the hype. You’re welcome.
What Is the Best Method for Measuring Flour Accurately?
The most accurate way to measure flour is to use a digital scale. Weighing flour is better than measuring it by volume, because when you weigh it, you avoid all the problems associated with its density, or lack thereof. You don’t have to worry that your flour might be packed in its bag or in the container to which you transferred it; you won’t have to spend time fluffing it up with a fork or a spoon. Instead, you merely pour it or spoon it into a bowl on your scale and voila! Perfectly measured flour.
How Much Does 1 Cup of Flour Weigh?
1 cup of flour weighs 125 to 130 grams, or about 4 1/2 ounces. Yes, we realize we are giving a little range here, but the 5-gram difference is negligible. Some recipes that include gram measurements call for the lower number, and some for the higher.
How Do I Properly Weigh a Cup of Flour on a Scale?
To properly weigh a cup of flour, turn on your scale. Once it reads “0,” choose either ounces or grams, and place your mixing bowl on the scale. The scale will now display the weight of the bowl. Press “tare” so that the scale returns to “0,” and fill the bowl with your flour until the scale reads 4 1/2 ounces or 125/130 grams.
How Do I Accurately Measure a Cup of Flour if I Do Not Have a Scale?
To accurately measure flour without a scale, incorporate some air into the flour by stirring it a bit with a fork or a spoon. You don’t need to go crazy here, you just want to break up the flour a bit, as it has likely settled in its bag/container. Next, spoon the fluffed-up flour into your measuring cup until the flour just reaches over the top of the cup. With the back of a knife, or even your finger, scrape off the excess flour so that it is level. Some folks, in an abundance of caution, transfer flour from the bag/container to a mixing bowl and then aerate it with a fork or spoon, and then spoon it into their cup. This seems a tad fussy to us, but you do you. On the opposite end of the spectrum (ie: maybe not fussy enough), you can aerate the flour in the bag/container somewhat aggressively and then scoop the flour directly, without spooning it first. This way does cut out a step, which we all love, but is more likely to lead to a heavy-handed cup, and so proceed this way with caution.
Is Measuring Flour Really So Different Than Say, Measuring Sugar?
Yes! In fact, it could not be more different. For instance, granulated sugar’s structural composition, as it were, does not change. You cannot pack granulated sugar into a measuring cup, nor can you fluff it up before measuring it. Granulated sugar, unlike flour, can thus be measured by simply plunging and scooping. Even brown sugar which can indeed be packed is easy to measure because your recipe will actually state that you must pack it (ie: “1 cup packed light brown sugar”). And, pro tip: industry standard is such that even if it does not say “packed,” that is the expectation.
Do You Measure All Kinds of Flour the Same Way?
The short answer is yes: whole wheat flour, cake flour, bread flour, and pastry flour, for instance can all be measured via weight, obviously, and can also be measured via the “fluff and spoon” method. Nut flours, too, can be measured via weight, and also the “fluff and spoon” method.
If a Recipe Calls for Sifted Flour, Should You Sift It Before or After Measuring?
Whether you measure flour before or after sifting it will depend on where the word “sifted” is placed in the ingredient list. For instance, “1 cup sifted flour” instructs you to sift the flour before measuring it, as the word “sifted” is before the word “flour.” “1 cup flour, sifted” indicates you should measure the flour first and then sift it, because the word “sifted” comes after the word “flour.”