If you want to use weights when baking and the author of a recipe doesn’t give you a weight for their flour, I recommend you use 128 grams for a cup of all-purpose flour. That’s the average across four brands of flour that I weighed using methods that I describe in this post in order to figure out how much a cup of flour weighs in grams.
Why Should You Use Weights for Baking With Flour?
Working with weights instead of cups is important if you want to be able to convert American recipes over to the metric system (converting flour from cups to grams) or if you want to break down a recipe to see the ratios of different ingredients. Knowing the answer can also help you more easily scale recipes up or down.
How I Calculated the Weight of a Cup of Flour
If you do a Google search, you may find yourself on the Instructables page that says that a cup of all-purpose flour weighs 120 grams. Allrecipes says one cup of flour is 128 grams. Joy of Baking weighs in, calling one cup of flour 130 grams. Why is there a discrepancy, what number should you be using, and does it matter at all? I weighed 192 cups of flour to figure out how much a single cup of flour weighs!
I decided to look at three different factors that could cause weight variation: the method of getting the flour into the measuring cup, the brand of flour, and the type of measuring cup.
This is a long post, so grab a drink and get ready. First, I share my findings. Then, I tackle the important issue of whether the difference in weight matters. At the end, I summarize all of my conclusions (skip to that section if you are short on time).
The Dip Versus The Scoop
There are two main ways that people fill their measuring cups.
I’m calling the first method “The Dip”. This is where you dip your measuring cup right into the bag or jar of flour.
The second method is “The Scoop”. In this method, you use a scoop to pour flour from the bag or jar into your measuring cup.
In both methods, it’s important to level off the top of the measuring cup after it is full.
I ran 72 tests on each method using different brands of flours and measuring cups. Here are the averaged results:
|The Dip||139 grams|
|The Scoop||128 grams|
|Difference||The Dip yields 8.5% more flour than The Scoop|
Perhaps more telling is the difference in standard deviation between The Dip and The Scoop. I know, I’m getting all mathy on you now. As a quick math refresher, the standard deviation is a measure that is used to quantify the amount of variation in set of data values. A standard deviation of 0 would mean that I got the exact same answer when I did things the same way. What I found was that the standard deviation for The Dip was 2.43 grams and the standard deviation for The Scoop was 1.93 grams. Using The Scoop yields more consistent results.
The Flour Brand
For this project, I looked at four different brands of flour: King Arthur Flour, 365 Everyday Value Organic (Whole Foods’ house brand), Gold Medal, and Pillsbury.
When calculating the brand results, I used an average of measures taken using The Dip and the Scoop Method with a variety of measuring cups for each flour brand. The results are as follows:
|King Arthur Flour||138 grams|
|365 Everyday Value||136 grams|
|Gold Medal||130 grams|
That’s a 7.3% difference between Pillsbury and King Arthur Flour!
The Measuring Cups
Will you get the same result using any measuring cup? It looks like the answer is “no”.
|Yellow Cup||133 grams|
|Blue Cup||132 grams|
|Pink Striped Cup||135 grams|
The difference in standard deviation is also striking here. The yellow cup’s standard deviation was 2.80 grams, the blue cup’s was 2.05 grams, and the pink striped cup’s was 1.68 grams. I attribute this to the round shape of the striped cup and the fact that it has less of a rim. This makes it easier to level the cup.
Liquid Measuring Cups
I am including a liquid measuring cup in this post because I know that some of you use a liquid measure to measure dry ingredients. The standard deviation when I used a liquid measure was 8.76 grams! Because you can’t level a liquid measure, it is nearly impossible to get an accurate result using one.
Do not use a liquid measuring cup to measure dry ingredients!
Does a 20 Gram Difference in the Weight of a Cup of Flour Matter?
In short, a 20 gram difference in weight can matter greatly; it depends upon your application and the recipe.
The highest weight that I measured for a cup of all-purpose flour was 144 grams (King Arthur Flour using The Dip) and the lowest weight was 124 grams (Pillsbury flour using The Scoop). That’s a 20 gram difference. It sounded like a lot, but would it really matter? I wanted to know. So, I baked two loaves of bread.
I used a scale to measure all of the ingredients. I treated a cup of flour as 124 grams for one loaf and 144 grams for the other. I kept everything else exactly the same.
As the loaves were going through their second rise, I already had my answer.
The loaf on the left used the higher measurement and the loaf on the right used the lower measurement. Everything else was the same. Wow!
Here’s how the two loaves looked after the bake. (For more on this, King Arthur Flour has a fabulous post about how small differences in ingredients can significantly affect bread baking.)
In bread baking, flour is the main ingredient and interacts with the yeast and the liquid. I wondered if the difference would be as prominent in cupcakes where flour is just one of many ingredients.
The chocolate cupcake on the left used the higher weight number and the one on the right used the lower weight number. If you see a difference, let me know. To me, they are basically identical and they were also identical in taste.
- If a bread recipe includes weights, use them. This can make or break your end result.
- Measuring using weights may not matter as much for cakes and cookies. If you like using cups, stick with it and don’t worry. However, if it’s something delicate (like macarons or pastry) or if getting a specific rise is important to you, I would still consider using weights.
- Never use a liquid measuring cup for dry ingredients.
- When possible, use a measuring cup that has a very clean, defined top (ideally with no lip) as it is easier to level and will yield more consistent results.
- The Scoop produces more consistent results and a lighter weight than The Dip. Most cookbook authors will tell you to measure by scooping. Follow that advice if you want to get the same results they do.
- If you successfully make a recipe using cups and want to make it again using a different brand of flour, you may need to adjust the recipe slightly to take the different weights into account.