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Measure Without Measuring Cups

pinchsmI rarely measure anything with measuring cups and spoons these days. But, it wasn’t always that way.

Because I cook so often, I learned to recognize what a cup of flour looks like in my mixing bowl, and what a quarter teaspoon of salt looks like in the palm of my hand. It’s technically a Montessori method — learning by visualization — and works perfectly when you need a half teaspoon of cinnamon and can’t extract the measuring spoons that managed to tangle themselves around the wires of the balloon whisk in your overcrowded utensil drawer.


To free yourself from measuring cups and spoons, you’ll need to learn what each measurement looks like:

  1. Lay out a long sheet of parchment paper across your table or counter, about 24″ long.
  2. Using flour, rice, oats or any similar dry ingredient, measure out 1 cup, 1/2 cup, and 1/4 cup.
  3. Dump them onto the parchment paper in separate piles.
  4. Study how large the piles are — this represents what would be in your mixing bowl or sauce pan.

Take it one step further and see what those measurements actually look like in the bowls and pans you use most. And you don’t have to do it all at once. Be observant the next time you cook, paying special attention to what that half cup of rice looks like in your sauce pan.


You can also recognize what liquid ingredients, like water, cream and oil,  look like by measuring them in appropriate cups and spoons and adding them to your most commonly used bowls and pans.

Measuring by hand:
We girls can fit a full 1/4 cup in the palm of our hands. And with up to 1/4 cup, we can measure anything. Need a cup of rice? Measure out four handfuls; it’s that easy. And if you need a tablespoon, teaspoon or similar, pay close attention the next time you measure something. Place it in the palm of your hand before adding it to whatever you’re cooking, and notice how much space it takes up in your hand. When you need 1 tablespoon of tumeric, simply measure out 3 teaspoons in your hand.


  1. >My kiddos would like this post; when I am teaching them to cook, we often use 'gluggs' and 'pinches'

  2. Wicked Good Dinner says:

    >Hi Janelle – I love the "gluggs" and "pinches." :-)

  3. whineaux (dawn) says:

    >Do you eyeball with baking? I'm amazed if you do.

  4. Wicked Good Dinner says:

    >@whineaux Yes, sometimes I do eyeball with baking, but it really depends on what it is. I've made quickbreads, muffins and pancakes enough times that I can definitely mix without measuring.

    But, for cakes, brownies and confections, I always use measure by weight and also use traditional measuring cups/spoons.

  5. Lazy Gourmet says:

    >This is a great post! And I love all the pictures. I've left it as a permanent reference on my site: http://www.lazykitchenette.com/p/too-lazy-to-wash-measuring-spoons.html

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