Want to be a better baker? Toss your measuring cups. And brace for confusion.
“There’s no better way to fail than to measure by volume instead of weighing things,” says Francisco Migoya, co-author of The Cooking Lab team’s recent cookbook, “Modernist Bread.”
Except it isn’t as simple as it sounds. When it comes to baking weights, there is little consensus. We surveyed the published metric weights of 1 cup of a dozen varieties of flour from 22 sources. We got nearly as many answers.
One cup of all-purpose flour? Weights ranged from 120 grams to 148 grams. Whole-wheat flour went from 113 grams to 156 grams. Which is to say, measuring flour is the Wild West of culinary endeavors. What to do?
To make sense of it all, we wanted to come up with a reasonable average for each flour. We started by throwing out the outliers, the extreme highs and lows, then averaged the remaining weights. We then performed our own series of measurements here at Milk Street to confirm that the numbers were in the ballpark. They were.
A few final adjustments later, and we had average gram weights for 12 types of flour. Of course, we can’t account for every variable (different grain varieties, milling techniques, even humidity can change weights). When too many variables were at play, we specified the brand we used in our testing.
A final word about measuring flour by volume. Don’t. Buy a $20 digital scale if you want consistent results. But for those who prefer unpredictable baking results, here are some tips for using the “dip and sweep” method.
Do not scoop flour from the bag it came in; that can add more than 20 grams per cup. Pour the flour into a storage container or a bowl. And scoop gently through the flour—don’t scoop down—to avoid compression.
Finally, sweep off the extra flour using a knife or bench scraper held straight. Do not sweep at a 45-degree angle; this will push the flour into the measuring cup. But please (we beg you!), ignore that advice and weigh flour by the gram. Your baking will improve dramatically.