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How to measure without measuring cups

Dawn Viola is a research and development chef and food writer. She serves on the board of directors for Slow Food Orlando, and works with local and national companies as a healthy recipe consultant with a focus on organic, local and sus...

Surprise! You don't really need measuring spoons and cups to be a great baker

All of us Food Network junkies have witnessed pro chefs casually add a pinch of this and a dash of that without measuring — only to have flawless results. It's a situation that usually ends in disaster for most. How the heck do they pull it off?

More: 5 easy egg substitutes every baker needs to know

While it's true that some people are just born naturally gifted in the kitchen, it's actually possible to learn how to eyeball those measurements without cups and spoons. It's all about teaching yourself to eyeball the ingredients correctly. Here's how.

Step 1: Prepare your area

Lay out a long sheet of parchment paper across your table or counter, about 24″ long.

Step 2: Measure (just this once!)

Using flour, rice, oats or any similar dry ingredient, measure out 1 cup, 1/2 cup and 1/4 cup.

Step 3: "Un-measure"

Dump them onto the parchment paper in separate piles.

Step 4: Look carefully

Study how large the piles are — this represents what would be in your mixing bowl or saucepan.

More: 10 easy ingredient substitutions to rescue your recipe

Take it one step further and see what those measurements actually look like in the bowls and pans you use most. And you don’t have to do it all at once -- be observant the next time you cook, paying special attention to what that half-cup of rice looks like in your saucepan.

You can also recognize what liquid ingredients -- like water, cream and oil -- look like by measuring them in appropriate cups and spoons and adding them to your most commonly used bowls and pans.

More: 10 smart pasta hacks for better, faster and easier meals

How to measure by hand

Surprise! You don't really need measuring spoons and cups to be a great baker

You can probably fit a full 1/4 cup in the palm of your hand. And with up to 1/4 cup, you can measure anything. Need a cup of rice? Measure out four handfuls; it’s that easy. If you need a tablespoon, teaspoon or something similar, pay close attention the next time you measure something. Place it in the palm of your hand before adding it to whatever you’re cooking and notice how much space it takes up in your hand.

Before you go, check out our slideshow below:

Surprise! You don't really need measuring spoons and cups to be a great baker

Image: Brandi Bidot/SheKnows

Originally published September 2015. Updated January 2017.

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