Knowing how to accurately measure ingredients is crucial to the success of your recipe. In this article, we’ll answer a few common questions like How Many Cups in a Pound of Flour, and how to convert cups to pounds and pounds to cups for making successful recipes in the kitchen.

vintage measuring cups filled with flour, sugar, oats, and chocolate chips. A chocolate chip cookie sits next to the measuring cups.

Being successful in the kitchen, especially when baking, requires the accurate measurement of ingredients. When following recipes to make a meal, you might be able to eyeball the amount of herbs and spices and other ingredients when making a dish, but baking is a different story. It’s important in baking to be more concise with measurements. If you add too much flour or too little, the outcome of your recipe might not be what you had hoped for.

a glass jar filled with all-purpose flour sits next to silver measuring cups filled with chocolate chips, brown sugar and flour

Accurate measuring is critical to successful baking. It’s a good rule of thumb to measure (or weigh) all of your ingredients before beginning to make a recipe. And it’s important to use the appropriate tools for the particular ingredient you’re measuring.

What is a Cup

There are two different types of measuring cups – liquid and dry. Liquid measures volume and US fluid ounces and dry measures weight. The differences of the two are minor, but it matters which one you use.

Dry Measuring Cups

These are used to measure dry ingredients like flour, chocolate chips, nuts, beans, rice and oats. One dry measuring cup equals the same amount as one liquid measuring cup. When using a dry measuring cup, it’s customary to fill it to the brim (with say flour or sugar) then level off the top by using the back of a dull knife. For instance, when measuring flour, you would lightly spoon the flour into a dry measuring cup and fill it to the brim, then take the back of a dull knife and scrape along the top to scrape away the excess flour.  There are different methods for filling a dry measuring cup, such as scooping sifting and spooning.  A properly measured dry cup of flour, sugar or oats should have a flat surface that is even with the brim.

When measuring foods that aren’t dry nor are they purely liquid, such as mayonnaise, yogurt, or sour cream, you could still use the dry ingredient measuring cup and level the top evenly with the top by using  the back of a knife or another strait edge. If your recipe calls for your ingredients in measurements in ounces or pounds, such as flour, chocolate chips or nuts, you would need to use a kitchen scale to measure the exact weight of the ingredient. As an example, one cup of flour weighs more than one cup of nuts or chocolate chips.

Liquid Measuring Cups

These are used to measure liquid ingredients like olive oil, milk and broth. You would place your liquid measuring cup on a flat surface, and pour the liquid even with the measuring line. Squat down to eye level to make sure your measurement is precise.  If a recipe calls out for one ounce of a liquid, you would measure it in your glass liquid measuring cup. When measuring liquids, you could use a dry measuring cup, however using a liquid measuring cup is designed to conveniently help  prevent spills. Liquid measuring cups that hold 1 cup of liquid means they hold 8 fluid ounces. The weight of dry measurements vary, so you can’t rely on the same conversion as you can for the liquid measurements. 

The US Legal Cup

This is another definition of a cup as a customary unit of volume used in the United States. It’s called the US legal cup which is used mainly for nutrition labeling by the FDA based on United States laws and it is customarily used for cooking measurements.  Cups are often abbreviated as “c” and “C”. As an example 1 cup can be written as 1 c or 1 C. 

  • 1 US cup = 240 mL

What is a Pound

In the United States, a pound is a measure of weight that is equal to 16 ounces or .45359237 kilograms. Pound is commonly abbreviated as lb, lbs, lb, or #.

There are two types of pound – the avoirdupois pound used in the United States and the Troy pound used in the United Kingdom.

Units of Weight

The term “weight” is used to describe how light or heavy an object is. Weight is a measurement in the US Customary System that uses three units: ounces, pounds and tons. An ounce is the smallest unit for measuring weight and a ton is the largest unit for measuring weight. 

The US Customary System

What is the U.S. Customary System? It’s short for the United States Customary System, which is a system of weights and measures used in the United States and some other countries. This system includes units for measuring length (inches, feet, yards and miles), weight (ounce, pound, ton), and capacity (teaspoons, tablespoon, cups, pints, quarts, gallons).

  • One (1) US Cup =  236,588 ml
  • One (1) US Cup – 16 US tablespoons (Tbsp)
  • 1 US Cup – 15.77 metric tablespoons (UK & international)

How Many Cups Are in a Pound

Converting cups to pounds and vice versa will vary depending on the ingredient you’re measuring. A pound of sugar measures slightly different than a pound of flour. Different ingredients have different densities. When converting pounds to cups and cups to pounds, always remember that the cup is a unit of volume and the pound is a unit of weight. So when making the conversion, you’ll need a substance density figure.  Here are some common cups to pounds conversions:

How many cups in a pound of flour (unsifted)?

There are 3-1/2 cups in 1 pound of all-purpose white flour

How many cups in a pound of flour (sifted)?

There are 4 cups in 1 pound of sifted all-purpose white flour

How many cups in a pound of granulated sugar?
There are 2-1/4 cups in 1 pound of granulated sugar
How many cups in a pound of brown sugar?
There are 2-2/3 cups in a pound of Brown Sugar
How may cups in a pound of powered sugar?

There are 4 cups in a pound of powered sugar

How many cups in a pound of butter?
There are 2 cups in a pound of butter
How many cups in a pound of rolled oats?
There are 5-1/3 cups in 1 pound of rolled oats
How many cups in a pound of cocoa
There are 4-3/4 cups in 1 pound of cocoa
How may cups in a pound of honey
There are  1-1/3 cups in 1 pound of honey
How many cups in a pound of almonds
There are 3 cups in 1 pound of almonds
How many cups in a pound of rice
There are  2-1/2 cups in 1 pound of rice

How to Measure Flour with Measuring Cups

This is called the scoop and scrape method of measuring flour if you don’t have a kitchen scale. Weighing flour is always the best way to go, but if you don’t have a scale, then this “Scoop and Scrape” method will work for you.

  1. Aerate Dry Ingredients – Dry ingredients tend to settle and compact over time, so it’s best to aerate them with a fork or tablespoon to fluff it up a bit before you scoop it into your measuring cup (or place it on your kitchen scale) in order to get a more precise measurement.
  2. Scoop Ingredient – Using a spoon, gently scoop your flour into the measuring cup until it piles up just above the rim of the measuring cup. 
  3. Scrape – Using the back of a dull knife, scrape the knife across the top of the measuring cup to level off the flour. This will scrape away excess flour without packing it down inside the measuring cup.

How to Weigh Ingredients

When you measure ingredients by volume (using measuring cups) rather than by weight, the actual amount of flour you use could vary depending on factors like how you scoop and pack the ingredient into the measuring cup. On the contrary, using a kitchen scale to weigh your ingredients will provide you with the most accurate measurement of your ingredients every time, which will have a favorable impact on the outcome of your baking efforts.

Tips to Measure Like a Pro

  • A good rule of thumb is to use a dry measuring cup or a tablespoon when measuring dry ingredients, use a liquid measuring cup when measuring liquids, and use a kitchen scale when you need to measure your ingredients by weight.
  • Be sure to fill dry ingredients such as flour and sugar to the brim of the measuring cup, and scrape away the excess from the top.
  • When measuring liquids, make sure the measuring cup is sitting level on the counter (don’t hand-hold it or it won’t be precise) and squat down to eyeball the measurement line to make sure you have the precise measurement.
  • Dry ingredients can compact over time, so it’s best to use a tablespoon to aerate a dry ingredient (such as flour) to fluff it up a bit in order to get a more precise measurement.
  • When measuring a tablespoon, the tablespoons should also be level to ensure a precise measurement. Give the tablespoon a little tap on the counter to make the ingredient as level as possible. Or you can run your forefinger across the top of the measuring spoon to remove the excess.
  • For a “heaping tablespoon” include more of the dry ingredient piled on top of the tablespoon.
  • Measure dry ingredients over a piece of waxed paper or parchment to make cleanup easier.
  • Never “pack” flour like you would brown sugar.

Essential Kitchen Tools

Mixing Bowls

Glass, ceramic, plastic or stainless steel. The choice is yours. Stainless steel bowls are light-weight, unbreakable and you can heat or freeze foods in them. Just make sure you purchase nesting bowls so they take up very little space.

Measuring Cups

Dry measuring cups are usually nested inside each other and are marked with 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, 3/4 and 1 cup for measuring dry ingredients like flour and sugar. Liquid measuring cups are usually glass (or Pyrex) that have a mug-like handle with measurement lines marked on the surface.

Measuring Spoons

I like stainless steel measuring spoons the best. Sometimes ingredients will get stuck in plastic measuring spoons.

Parchment Paper

Parchment paper makes baking a lot easier. It’s not necessary to grease baking sheets if they are lined with parchment paper. It’s much easier to lift a cake out of a pan that has been lined with parchment paper first. You can find parchment paper at most grocery stores. You can find pre-cut parchment paper circles online or at many kitchenware stores, or just make your own by tracing the outer rim of the bottom of your baking pan and cut out the circle. 

Kitchen Scale

Whether you’re a novice cook or a seasoned baker, having a kitchen scale can make your next baking (or cooking) endeavor much easier, more reliable with a better outcome for success. It’s a great tool for precise measurements, especially when baking. If you “tare” the scale first, you can measure your ingredient directly into mixing bowls when using a kitchen scale. To “tare” a scale means to reset the scale to zero and subtract the weight of the bowl or cup that your ingredient is in from the measurement.

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