What to Use If You Don’t Have Measuring Cups

Having a decent set of measuring cups and spoon is a must in any well-stocked kitchen. It’s even more essential to have such tools available when you’re fond of baking. While it might be possible to eyeball wet and dry ingredients while cooking and still have a decent result, baking requires accuracy for almost every recipe.

However, you might still find yourself without measuring cups or spoons from time to time. You may simply not have bought your own set yet or misplaced it. The baking bug might also sting you while you’re on vacation or at a friend’s home.

While it’s not an ideal situation, there’s no reason why you can’t wing it without measuring cups. Here are a few tips to help you through:

Select Your Basic Equipment

If you can find some containers that have almost the same volume as a measuring cup, tablespoon, and teaspoon, you’d have an easier time with your ingredients. Fortunately, your measuring cup alternatives might already be in your kitchen (or wherever you’re baking).

A standard coffee mug, for instance, is usually equivalent to a measuring cup. If you’re using an old recipe, it might call for imperial cups. These are a bit larger, so keep this in mind when you’re getting your ingredients ready.

Similarly, a common dinner spoon can be your measuring tablespoon. Use a coffee spoon for your measuring teaspoon and estimate the quantities if you require less of them.

You wouldn’t be using these substitutes like regular measuring cups, though. Take the coffee cup, for example. When you’re filling it with flour, cocoa, powder, oil, or any other ingredient, stop before you reach the brim. You don’t fill this cup all the way up with coffee, and the same stands for your baking or cooking ingredients.

The dinner spoon can be used to scoop out the ingredient you want, but make sure you get a little pile. When you shake the spoon a little, some excess should fall off, but not a whole windfall. If you’re scooping out a wet ingredient like oil, butter, or water, fill the spoon and put it in the mixing bowl. Then, take an additional quarter-spoon and add that as well.

As for the coffee spoon, think of this as half a regular measuring teaspoon. With this in mind, use this spoon twice when you need a whole teaspoonful. For half a teaspoon, use one full coffee spoon and so on. Dessert spoon, however, usually measures two regular teaspoons. You’ll only have to fill half of it to get one teaspoon’s worth.

No matter what you’re measuring, try to stay as consistent as possible. If you overestimate your cups and underestimate the half-cups, the recipe will probably be ruined. If you’d like to try something easy, check out these tips for cooking simple meals at home.

Use Your Hands and Eyes

In the olden times, even professional bakers don’t have measuring cups. Even so, they managed to make excellent recipes and perfect them through other forms of measurements. Take a look at your capable hands; these are some great measuring tools right there.

To start with, you can measure out one-eighth of a teaspoon for any dry ingredient by pinching it between your middle finger, forefinger, and thumb. Double this amount for a quarter teaspoon.

For the whole teaspoon, take an amount that seems equivalent to the whole tip of your finger, from the first joint to the top.

For a tablespoon, estimate half a ping-pong ball or a whole ice cube. If you want to be more certain, try packing the ingredient in an empty ice cube tray compartment.

Furthermore, a quarter cup is usually the size of an egg (large), and a half-cup is about the same as a tennis ball in size. One cup will be around the size of a baseball or apple.

Of course, you may have very large or very small fingers, various sizes of apples, and several types of ice cube trays as well. It can be difficult to know if you’re doing it the right way, but we have to forge one ahead anyway. Don’t be too afraid of guessing and estimating–even if you make a mistake, that’s how we learn!

Eventually, you might even feel motivated enough to make your own gummy bears or Christmas candy at home.

Use a Kitchen Scale

Here’s yet another reason to invest in a kitchen scale. Whether you get a digital or an analog one, this little device could even eliminate the need for measuring cups. All you have to do is convert the required amount to ounces or grams. You can then put each ingredient on the scale (use different bowls or some parchment paper to avoid a mess) and measure accordingly. Make sure you subtract the weight of the container or paper you’re using.

Measuring Liquids

If you don’t have liquid measuring cups, getting the right amount of liquid can be tricky. In addition to trying different containers, you can also try to bend down and see the level that’s been poured. If you’re experienced enough, it might be possible to tell when you’ve got just the right amount. Commit the amount to memory and use that information for all future estimations.

If you’re using a kitchen scale, it’s usually safe to assume that juice and milk will have a similar density to regular water. However, dense and thick liquids like honey, syrup, or molasses might require some more calculations.

Some kitchen scale models might give you the option to weigh different types of liquids. If your scale doesn’t have this feature, you’d have to work out the right weight manually. Weight the container or glass you’re using first, and then add your liquid. You can also calibrate the scale in order to eliminate the container’s weight.

Tips to Remember

Apart from the main courses of action above, there are some tips you can keep in mind for measuring general. Hopefully, these will generally make things easier for you in the kitchen:

  • In many parts of the United States, you can get sticks of butter at any store. This is usually equal to half a cup, but it also sometimes has tablespoon markings on its label. Look at the packaging on your ingredients and see if there are any similar visual references that can help you out.
  • One cup is usually equal to 16 tablespoons of wet or dry ingredients. For older recipes, an imperial cup might require 19 tablespoons.
  • Make sure to check the measurements required in your recipe. If they’re penned by a European author instead of an American one, the amounts might be completely different. Try converting to get the volume of each ingredient if you have any doubts.
  • When pouring the liquid ingredients or the final batter, make sure you take it slow. This will avoid any spillage or overflowing.
  • You can get more precise measurements by using spoons instead of cups. However, this will take a longer time, so it all depends on the flexibility of your schedule and the risk you can afford to take.
  •  If there’s a recipe that only calls for cup measurements, you can use any container you like. Just keep the ratio the same, and the result will probably turn out well. You may get a bigger or smaller cake at the end of the day, with the same taste as intended.
  • Know your batters and adjust the ingredients accordingly. Your cookie batter should be thick enough to form balls, while a muffin batter should be slightly thinner but still scoopable. You should be able to pour your cake batter, but make sure it remains fairly thick.

The Bottom Line

Not everyone has a set of measuring tools on hand at all times, but it’s still important to measure ingredients before combining them. Follow the tips above and trust your instinct, especially if you’re fairly familiar with baking. You might have to concentrate a bit more and spend some time in estimating the amounts, but we’re confident that the end result won’t let you down. These tips will also come in handy if you don’t have one particular measuring cup and need an alternative.