Recipes will tell you how much of an ingredient you will need, then tell you whether you need to peel, chop or grate it. Always use standard measuring cups and spoons for measuring. If an ingredient, such as salt, is listed without an amount, it means you should taste and decide for yourself how much of the ingredient is needed.

Types of measuring tools
Dry and wet ingredients are measured in cups and spoons. Measuring cups for dry ingredients are made of metal or plastic and usually come in sets of 1/4, 1/3, 1/2 and 1 cup. Measuring cups for liquid ingredients are made from clear glass or plastic, with the measurements marked on the sides. Measuring spoons typically come in sets of 1/4 teaspoon, 1/2 teaspoon, 1 teaspoon and 1 tablespoon. The same spoons are used for wet and dry ingredients.

Measuring dry ingredients
To measure dry ingredients such as flour, spoon the ingredient into the correct-size dry measuring cup. Do not pack down the ingredient (unless it is brown sugar, which is measured firmly packed). Using the flat side of a table knife, sweep off the excess even with the rim. Loose dry ingredients, such as raisins, can be scooped into dry measuring cups. Fill the cup but do not pack it tightly unless the recipe says to.

To measure small amounts of dry ingredients, dip the correct-size measuring spoon into the ingredient, then use the back of a table knife to sweep off the excess.

Measuring liquids
To measure liquid ingredients such as milk or water, set a clear liquid measuring cup on a flat surface, like a countertop. Pour the liquid into the cup. Now, scoot down so that your face is level with the cup and look at the measuring line for the amount you need. Does the level of the liquid match the correct line? If not, add more liquid (or pour some out) until the two lines are even.

To measure a small amount of liquid, carefully pour the ingredient into a measuring spoon until it reaches the rim.

Measuring equivalents
dash = 2 or 3 drops
pinch = amount you can pick up between your thumb and forefinger
3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon
4 tablespoons = 1/4 cup
5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon = 1/3 cup
1 cup = 8 fluid ounces
2 cups = 1 pint
2 pints = 1 quart
4 quarts = 1 gallon
4 ounces = 1/4 pound
8 ounces = 1/2 pound
12 ounces = 3/4 pound
16 ounces = 1 pound

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Fun Food, by Stephanie Rosenbaum (Simon & Schuster, 2006).