Top of page

Everyday Mysteries

« Back to Food and Nutrition page

Question Can you make a better cookie?



Escambia Farms, Florida. Sunday morning in the McLelland kitchen. Making cookies for dinner. John Collier, photographer, 1942. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

Use the right measuring tools

Use the right equipment for wet and dry ingredients. Milk, water, eggs, extracts and oils are all wet ingredients; dry ingredients include flour, sugar and salt. While you could to use some of the same measuring tools interchangeably for wet and dry ingredients, your measurements might not always be precise.

All things considered, it is best to use a digital scale and weigh all ingredients, if possible, to ensure that you bake the tastiest cookie.

Substitute materials. Glass utensils. New type glass measuring cups have easy-to-read markings. The quart measuring cup shown here makes simple the job of preparing baby’s formula or cooking recipes Prints and Photographs Division. Library of Congress.

The weight of flour can vary depending upon the amount of moisture in the air, the manufacturer, and the settling process. Generally, the manufacturer will provide information on the packaging or on their website that will give you equivalences. For example, one manufacturer may indicate that a cup of their flour measures 4¼ ounces while another may say that a cup of their product weighs 5 ounces. It is important to note that some flours have greater compressibility than others and can yield different weights. According to Nila Jones at Serious Eats,External link “a cup filled by dipping a cup into a container can weigh as much as 50% more than a cup filled by sifting flour into it!”

Mom and daughter baking. U.S. Department of Agriculture Flickr Photostream.

Try not to not compact flour or other dry ingredients when measuring them, unless the recipe calls for them to be “packed.” If you are using a cup measure made for dry ingredients, you can run a knife or bench scraper over the top to level it. When measuring liquids make sure you are at eye level with your measuring cup to check the measurement line. And for small amounts use official measuring spoons.

Minneapolis, Minnesota. Women of Swedish extraction, members of a church group, baking cookies for a servicemen’s center. Jack Delano, photographer, 1942. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

Interesting Facts

  • A cup of cake flour weighs 4 ounces; a cup of unbleached all-purpose flour weighs 4¼ ounces.
  • A cup of whole wheat⁄graham flour weighs 5¼ ounces.
  • A cup of rolled oats weighs 3½ ounces.
  • A cup of loose raisins weighs 5¼ ounces; a cup of packed raisins weighs 6 ounces.
  • 1 stick of butter weighs 4 ounces.
  • A cup of chocolate chips weighs 6 ounces; a cup of chocolate chips chopped weighs 6 ounces.
  • A cup of brown sugar, ‘packed’ weighs 8 ounces; a cup of granulated sugar weighs 7 ounces.
  • 1⁄2 cup of vegetable shortening weighs 3¼ ounces.

Published: 11/19/2019. Author: Science Reference Section, Library of Congress

Have a question? Ask a science librarian