If you aren't well-versed in cooking, looking at recipes can be a bit overwhelming. What do all those abbreviations mean? Why is this using the metric scale? I can't find my tablespoon -- what do I use instead?

Don't worry, we've got the answers to all of your questions: how to read the abbreviations, the English vs metric systems and accurate measurement conversions.

Measuring Volume

Teaspoons To Cups

  • Teaspoon (t, tsp.)
  • Tablespoon (T, tbl., tbs., tbsp.)
  • Cup (c)
  • One tablespoon is three teaspoons.
  • One cup is 16 tablespoons.

These measurements can be used for solids or liquids, but the measuring devices are different. For measuring solids such as sugar or flour, standard measuring cups or measuring spoons work well. With liquids, a graduated measuring cup works the best. When using liquid measuring cups, make sure to set it on a level surface or your reading won't be accurate.

The Metric System

  • Milliliter (mL)
  • Liter (mL)
  • One liter is 1,000 milliliters

Though the U.S. typically uses the English system for cooking measurements, many places in the rest of the world rely on the metric system. Some recipes, though, list ingredient measurements according to the metric system even in the U.S.

measuring spoons and cups filled with ingredients

Pint, Quart and Gallon

  • Pint (p, pt.)
  • Quart (q, qt.)
  • Gallon (g, gal.)
  • One quart is 2 pints.
  • One gallon is 4 quarts.

These are liquid measurements, so use them when adding water, oil, milk, etc. to your recipe.

Fluid ounce (fl oz)

  • One fluid ounce is 1/16 of a pint, or about 2 tablespoons.

Fluid ounces are used to measure liquids, but they are not interchangeable with ounces. Ounces measure weight while fluid ounces measure volume. To measure a fluid ounce, you need to use a liquid measuring cup.

liquid measuring cup filled with water

Measuring Mass And Weight

The English System

  • Ounce (oz)
  • Pound: (lb)
  • One pound if 16 ounces.

Measuring by weight is the most accurate way to measure ingredients. These measurements typically have to do with solid ingredients such as meats and vegetables. It's common for ingredients to be packaged and sold by the ounce or pound as well. To measure weight, you'll need a food scale.

The Metric System

  • Milligram (mg)
  • Gram: (g)
  • Kilogram: (kg)
  • One gram is 1,000 milligrams
  • One kilogram is 1,000 grams

What about a "pinch," "hint," "dash," "drop," etc?

These are not precise measurements and typically have to do with how much spice or sweeteners to add to your recipe. Because these are not exact measurements, just use a small amount of what the recipe is calling for -- typically, using your thumb and forefinger to grab the ingredient is an accurate way to add these vague amounts.

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