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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...

How to ... measure in a pinch

At the SheKnows test kitchen, you'll catch us adding a pinch of this and a dash of that. It may look like we're casually cooking, but we've got this measuring thing down to a science.

measure without measuring cups

Normally, we're precision machines in the test kitchen, measuring everything precisely. But when we get to play with recipes, we rarely measure anything with measuring cups and spoons these days. It wasn’t always that way, though. Because we cook so often, we learned to recognize what a cup of flour looks like in our mixing bowl and what a quarter-teaspoon of salt looks like in the palm of our hands. This comes in handy, especially at home, when we refuse to fight with the whisk -- which has managed to get tangled in every measuring spoon in the drawer.

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.

Measuring by hand

We girls can fit a full 1/4 cup in the palm of our hands. And with up to 1/4 cup, we 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. When you need 1 tablespoon of turmeric, simply measure out three teaspoons in your hand.

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For more info on this topic...For more parenting tips, check out:
Super Moms guide to cleaning & cooking for the family

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