Metric and Mass over Imperial and Volume

I’ve decided to start moving from Imperial and Volumetric measurements to Metric and Mass measurements in my cooking. (Though technically inaccurate, some people refer to measuring mass and weight interchangeably. I’ll try to be as accurate as possible by referring to measuring mass, but please forgive me when I slip up.) Why? Because it’s much more accurate, it’s far simpler, it’s easy, and it’s different.

It’s more accurate because as this article on measuring indicates, things like a cup of flour can vary in mass from 4 to 6 ounces.  That’s bound to make a difference when you’re measuring out several cups of flour for bread or pizza dough.  Weighing your flour is much more accurate.  200g of flour is always going to weigh 200g.

It’s simpler because, as anyone who has taken Chemistry is aware, the metric system is all based on multiples of 10.  1 milliliter is one tenth of a centiliter. 1 centiliter is one tenth of a deciliter. 1 deciliter is one tenth of a liter.  Thus 1 milliliter is one thousandth of a liter.  Same thing with milligrams, centigrams, decigrams, and grams.  See Wikipedia for a much more comprehensive list.  On the other hand, who has time to remember that 1 teaspoon is one third of a tablespoon; one tablespoon is one sixteenth of a cup; a half cup is 8 tablespoons, one cup is half a pint; one pint is half a quart, and one quart is one quarter of a gallon?  Can you keep all the thirds, halves, quarters, and sixteenths in your head?  I can’t.

It’s easy because if you ever need to double or halve your recipe, it’s all a matter of multiplying or dividing nice round numbers by two.  If the original recipe wants 500mL of water, and you double it, you’ll end up with 1000mL, or one liter, of water. But what happens if a recipe wants 2 cups of water, and you double it? Sure, you could measure out 4 cups of water, but you could also measure out 1 quart of water as well. But it gets worse. What if the original recipe asks for 1 tablespoon of water, but you halve it, you’d end up with either half a tablespoon, or 1.5 teaspoons of water. Who has time to remember all these dumb conversions??? How about we move to metric, and make every unit only a simple move of the decimal place away from any other?

It’s different because almost every (American) recipe out there is done by volume and imperial measures. I did a quick search on a few recipe sites, grabbed the first recipe I saw, and all of them were by volume and imperial measures:

The one caveat I’ll give is that there are some things that just don’t make sense to measure by metric or mass measurements.  Here’s a few examples:

  • Eggs: They come in a natural, naturally variable package.  It’s not exactly feasible to measure out 100mL of eggs.  If you crack two and they come to 120mL, what are you going to do with the other 20mL? Dump it? Not likely. So if you ever see me use eggs in a recipe, they’ll always be by count, rather than mass or volume.
  • Fresh herbs: one sprig of rosemary is going to be pretty variable, but I’m not going to bother counting out the individual leaves for you.
  • Very small volumetric measurements: unless you have an incredibly accurate scale–down to the tenths or hundredths of a gram–it doesn’t make much sense to convert one teaspoon of water to it’s corresponding mass (it’s about 0.167 ounces or 4.9 grams by the way).

One thought on “Metric and Mass over Imperial and Volume

  1. Pingback: Brian @ Wongside » Brian’s Chocolate Chip Cookies Revisited

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