Yes, There Is a Right Way to Measure Flour—and It Makes All the Difference to Your Cookies and Cakes

If you're simply dipping a measuring cup into a bag of flour, expect too-dry baked goods.

Measuring flour might seem like the most basic kitchen task, but you'd be surprised by how many people get the technique wrong. In many countries, bakers use a scale to weigh ingredients like flour, but in the United States, most home bakers use recipes that call for flour in cup units—this is called measuring by volume.

That sounds straightforward, but there's a right way to get that flour into your measuring cup. Depending on the method and the tool you use, you might be adding more flour than the recipe needs—and too much flour can cause your cakes, cookies, breads, or pastries to be dry, dense, and crumbly. Baking experts share why mastering this simple technique is so important and how to do it the right way each and every time.

Before You Measure

How you store flour and the tools you use to measure it are as vital as the technique you use for measuring.

Storing Flour Correctly

Professional bakers transfer their flour to large plastic containers or wide-mouthed glass jars for airtight storage. Doing so not only makes it easier to measure—it also looks good and makes the process less messy, explains baker Jessie Sheehan, the author of Snackable Bakes.

Use the Right Measuring Cups

Measuring flour and other ingredients by volume requires using measuring cups—specifically dry measuring cups. Sets of metal or plastic nested measuring cups are designed for measuring dry ingredients like flour or sugar. Make sure the measuring cups you use have their rims intact, as any chips or cracks will affect the volume.

Dry vs. Liquid Measuring Cups

No, your liquid and dry measuring cups aren't interchangeable: If you use a glass cup designed for liquids to measure flour, you will be adding too much to your baked goods.


"The primary reason flour is sifted is to separate and aerate the flour particles, enabling them to mix more uniformly with the other ingredients," says baking expert Rose Levy Berenbaum, the author of The Cookie Bible and other books.

When to Sift

It makes a difference when your flour is sifted—but should you sift before or after you measure out the flour? That ultimately depends on the recipe. Does it call for "1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted" or "1 cup sifted all-purpose flour"? In our recipes, if "sifted" appears after the measurement and ingredient, the flour should be sifted after being measured. If the recipe calls for a measurement of "sifted flour," you should sift flour and then measure the amount you need for your recipe.

discarding extra flour from measuring cup
Getty Images

The Right Way to Measure Flour by Volume

While Sheehan, Berenbaum, and other expert bakers prefer to use a digital scale for measuring ingredients, they agree there is a right way to measure flour using the volume method. At King Arthur Baking, they call it "fluff, sprinkle, and scrape." We refer to it as "fluff, spoon, and sweep," but the technique is the same. It's important not to just "plunge a dry measure into the bag of flour, as you will end up with way more flour in your cup than you think," says Sheehan.


Before measuring the flour, the first step is to lightly fluff it in its container; it may have become compacted during storage.


Instead of dipping the measuring cup into the container of flour, always 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.


Once the cup is generously filled with flour, gently run the straight edge of a knife over the rim of the cup to level it, sweeping the excess back into the original canister. This avoids waste and guarantees that you measure exactly the amount of flour called for. A regular dinner knife, butter knife, or small offset spatula work well for this task. Do not bang the cup on the counter, or shake it back and forth to try to level it. Either of these methods will give you too much flour (and thus, heavier, dry baked goods).

3 Simple Steps for Measuring Flour the Right Way

Here's a step-by-step breakdown you can refer to whenever you're ready to measure flour.

  1. Using a fork or ballon whisk, lightly fluff the flour in its container.
  2. Use a spoon to scoop the flour into the measuring cup, piling it slightly over the top.
  3. 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.

Does the Measuring Method Really Make a Difference?

Short answer: yes. Berenbaum uses a chart in her books to show various ingredients measured by the dip and sweep method and using the spoon and sweep method (which she calls "lightly spooned.") One cup of all-purpose flour sifted weighs 4 ounces. One cup lightly spooned weighs 4.2 ounces and 1 cup measured by dipping the cup into the flour weighs 5.2 ounces. If you have a digital scale, you can check this for yourself.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles