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British Cookery Equivalents

When confronted with an American recipe, a British cook will usually see ingredients given in cups, teaspoons and tablespoons.

There may occasionally be references to pounds, ounces, pints or fluid ounces, but they're not that common. In addition, there will be several ingredients that are unfamiliar, or simply unobtainable in the UK. So, what's a British cook to do?

When it comes to measuring, the first point to remember is that if pints and fluid ounces are given, then they should be converted to British pints and fluid ounces. Fortunately, the British fluid ounce is only very slightly adrift and, except for the most critical cooking, they can be considered the same. However, the pint is markedly different. So:

  • To convert U.S. fluid ounces to British fluid ounces - multiply by 1.04
  • To convert U.S. pints to British pints - multiply by 0.83
  • Some U.S. recipes do give the measurements in metric ml, in which case no conversion is needed.

Measuring Cups and Spoons

In America, a cup is 8 US fluid ounces, a tablespoon is 1/2 US fluid ounce, and a teaspoon is 1/6 US fluid ounce. While you can use a British teaspoon or tablespoon measure (5ml and 15ml, as used for medicines, are very close to the US measures of a teaspoon and tablespoon), don't be tempted to use a British cup. The standard British cup is half a pint, or 10 fluid ounces, and it's about a fifth greater than the US equivalent.

Equivalents: This table gives the equivalents with an accuracy slightly greater than is practical for measuring.

U.S. Measure

U.S. Volume



1 teaspoon 1/6 fluid oz 0.17 fluid oz 4.9 ml
1 tablespoon 1/2 fluid oz .52 fluid oz 14.8 ml
1 cup 8 fluid oz 8.3 fluid oz 237 ml

1 cup = 16 tablespoons = 48 teaspoons | 1 tablespoon = 3 teaspoons

Although these measurements work just fine for liquids, dry ingredients are also measured in cups and spoons and this creates a further problem: British cooks are used to flour, sugar and so on being measured by weight.

It is certainly possible to convert US cups and spoons to a weight, but it is not always a sensible thing to do as the equivalent weight will depend on the type of ingredient used. For instance, a cup of brown sugar may weigh 8 ounces (about 225gm), but a cup of plain flour may weigh only 4 ounces (about 115gm). A rough guide to some key ingredients is given in the table below, but it's better to use a measuring jug or "cup" measures and go by the original recipe.

It's also important to realize that when an American recipe calls for "1 cup of flour", there is an assumption in how this is measured. Scooping out of a bag will compress the flour, and a cup can easily end up containing an extra quarter or even half an ounce, and this could make a big difference to the results. Instead, the "official" measuring technique is to stir the flour with a spoon to "aerate" it, then pour it into the measuring cup and level it off with a straight edge. Don't pat it down, or tap the cup on the workbench to level it off.

However, this only applies to very powdery dry ingredients, like flour. Other ingredients, like rice, brown sugar or fats, should be packed firmly in the measuring cup to avoid air gaps. The exact same principle applies when using measuring spoons.

But, if you'd really rather not go through this, the following table gives some approximate weights (in grams) for the most common dry ingredients. The equivalent weights should be taken as approximations only, but they should be within about 5 grams. I should add that these figures are based on official figures issued by the US Department of Agriculture in 1996 and assume that ingredients like flour are "stirred" first, but that sugars etc are "packed".

Approximate Equivalents:


1 cup

1 tablespoon

1 teaspoon
White Flour 125 gm 7.8 gm 2.6 gm
Whole Wheat Flour 120 gm 7.5 gm 2.5 gm
Strong White Flour 140 gm 8.75 gm 2.9 gm
Rye Flour 100 gm 6.25 gm 2.1 gm
Granulated Sugar 200 gm 12.5 gm 4.2 gm
Brown Sugar 220 gm 13.75 gm 4.6 gm
Icing Sugar 120 gm 7.5 gm 2.5 gm
Long-grain Rice 185 gm 11.5 gm 3.9 gm
Short-grain Rice 200 gm 12.5 gm 4.2 gm
Wild Rice 160 gm 10 gm 3.3 gm
Egg Noodles; dried 38 gm 2.4 gm 0.8gm
Peas; Frozen & Fresh 144 gm 9 gm 3 gm
Table Salt 290 gm 18 gm 6 gm

Oven Temperatures:



Gas Mark
80 30 -
100 40 -
240 115 1/4
265 130 1/2
290 140 1
300 150 -
310 155 2
325 160 -
335 170 3
350 175 -
355 180 4
375 190 -
380 195 5
400 200 6
425 220 7
450 230 8
470 245 9

U.S. recipes always give oven temperatures in degrees Fahrenheit. The table below gives the approximate Centigrade and Gas Mark equivalents (for fan ovens, check the manufacturer's instructions) - there are considerable variations in different references when it comes to the "gas mark" equivalents!

A Note on Butter and Margarine:

When a U.S. recipe calls for "half a stick of butter", it is referring to the fact that butter and other fats are sold in "sticks". You normally buy butter in packs of a pound, consisting of four sticks, and they're usually marked in quarters (sometimes also in eighths), making it easy to measure off, say, 2 ounces of butter, or "half a stick".

Commentary and Information Source: Mike Todd at

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