Pet peeves of the day: measuring spoons and cups

I am out for war with kitchen right now and it seems Pinterest has sensed it and is giving me all sorts of pictures on measuring spoons! Yes! MEASURING SPOONS! And then I happened on this article, which was posted in 2010, which makes me only hope that they have become smarter over the time, but, in case they have not, I’d like to clear out this argument once and for all.


There was a reader’s letter that asked about dessert spoon and using spoon measurements in recipes. As of now I’m really starting to see the measuring spoons as equal of degrading cooking education, here’s a little reminder of how things are, so you wouldn’t have to buy yourself all 8 plastic tiny spoons and don’t have to have 8 extra spoons to clean up while you might just do the same work with 2 spoons and spend your lovely time on something else.

So, what’s the deal with tablespoon, soup spoon, dessert spoon and teaspoon and all those measuring spoons?

This argument rises only because of cultural differences. In Europe you have 3 spoon types -teaspoon (ab 5 g sugar), dessert spoon (ab 10 g sugar) and soup spoon, aka tablespoon (ab 15 g sugar). In cooking, there is teaspoon and tablespoon measurements, which in European standard would equal to teaspoon and soup spoon. That’s all there is to it. And to check this over in numbers:

16 tablespoons = 1 cup (that is 16 x 15 g = 240 g, usual drinking glass)
3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon (3 x 5g = 15 g)

Dessert spoon is not used for measuring, because it wasn’t commonly used in all society groups, only teaspoon and soup spoon (tablespoon). The soup spoon is understood as tablespoon because of the very same principle – you would have spoons to eat soup. Nowadays it doesn’t matter any more if the “tablespoon” is dessert spoon or soup spoon, for unless you follow strict etiquette, most people choose the spoons for their family’s table based on preferences, not on sizes.

As for the cooking, the simplest is to just check over the sizes of the spoons in your kitchen and stick with the same size spoons while measuring your ingredients.  Same goes about cups – keep to one cup throughout the recipe and you don’t have to measure anything in grams.

Here’s the reason why that will save you a lot of headache: if the recipe is given in cups and/or spoonfuls, then it’s not about the actual weight, but about scale and ratio of the ingredients. Like 1 part of flour, 2 parts of sugar, 1/4th part eggs… It’s because households didn’t use scales, they used ratios. Each household had different size cups and spoons, and thus their cooking never tasted the same as their neighbors. But the recipes still worked.

We are too obsessed with accuracy these days, forgetting why the recipes are as they are. Of course the recipe doesn’t work if you search accuracy from such recipes – you need to ease up a bit, let your inner voice guide you. It’s about tuning – if there is too much flour, you add spoonful of water for consistency. If it’s too lean, you might want to add quarter a cup extra flour or if the taste is too plain, you can add that extra spoonful of sugar. Of course you can follow the recipe to exact measurements, but as our ingredients differ from country to country and from season to season, it is lunacy in making.

It’s not that hard if you think it through once, because it’s not punch of numbers, it’s a method to make your life easier. A skill which made women perfect chemists ;).

Also, here’s an old favorite of mine that all the old cook books came with. It is a kind of a marker in change of times, from when the recipes were about ratios were changed to recipes of accurate measuring, which killed the skill of tuning your own food, not just blindly following the recipe:

Screen shot 2010-09-19 at 5.36.27 PM

Have fun washing less spoons and cups!


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Filed under OLD CRAFTS, Toidukultuur

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