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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...

Use your hands to measure dry ingredients, no measuring spoons required

If you've ever watched professional chefs, you'll catch them adding a pinch of this and a dash of that. It may look like they're casually cooking, but they've got this measuring thing down to a science.

You can easily learn to recognize what a cup of flour looks like in your mixing bowl and what a quarter-teaspoon of salt looks like in the palm of your hand. To free yourself from measuring cups and spoons, you’ll need to learn what each measurement looks like.

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.

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.

How to measure by hand

Use your hands to measure dry ingredients, no measuring spoons required

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.

More cooking tips

5 Easy egg substitutes every baker needs to know
10 Smart pasta hacks for better, faster and easier meals
10 Easy ingredient substitutions to rescue your recipe

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