This Is the Proper Way to Measure Flour
Two wise words from our food editors: spoon and sweep!
Measuring flour might seem like a super basic kitchen task, but you'd be surprised by how many people get the technique wrong, especially since flour is undoubtedly the most important ingredient in baking. The majority of home bakers measure by volume, but if you're simply dipping your measuring cup into a bag of flour, you won't get the recipe's intended results. This increases the amount of flour in the cup and can cause your baked goods, from cakes and cookies to breads and pastries, to be dry, dense, and crumbly. That's why it's so important to understand the proper way to measure flour—luckily, our test kitchen team has a simple, tried-and-tested method that works.
To avoid adding excess flour, our food editors use a spoon-and-sweep method. Assistant food editor Riley Wofford says, "A good experiment for anyone who has a cooking scale is to compare how much a cup of flour weighs spooned and leveled versus scooped—it's amazing to see how much of a difference it can make." The food editors start with measuring cups that are designed for dry ingredients and have their rims intact (any chips or cracks will affect the volume). Riley also fluffs up the flour with a measuring cup before proceeding. Meanwhile, deputy food editor Greg Lofts skips the fluffing step: "I don't keep flour in the original bag, where it is compacted. I decant into a jar, which fluffs up the flour, so there's no need to do it again." Now it's time to spoon and sweep!
Instead of dipping the measuring cup into the container of flour, use a spoon to scoop the flour into the measuring cup, piling it slightly over the top. This prevents the flour from being packed so firmly in the cup that you would have more flour than the recipe calls for. It also ensures that the cup is completely filled with flour, without any gaps on the sides, so you don't end up using too little flour.
Once the cup is generously filled with flour, gently run the straight edge of a knife over the rim of the cup to level the flour, sweeping the excess back into the original canister. This avoids waste and guarantees that you measure exactly the amount of flour called for. Greg likes to use a regular dinner knife to level, but a butter knife or small offset spatula works equally well. While we can't promise all of your baking projects will be successful, using the spoon-and-sweep method will certainly help!