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How to Convert Recipe Measurements and Cooking Temperatures

Updated on January 15, 2017
Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

Marcy writes about cooking, hobbies, and many other topics. She has published hundreds of articles online and in newspapers and magazines.

Cooking ingredients need precise measurements

Quarts and Liters are not the same.  Grams and Ounces are different ways to measure ingredients.
Quarts and Liters are not the same. Grams and Ounces are different ways to measure ingredients.

Tips for converting international temperatures and measurements

Any experienced cook has faced this problem: You've found the perfect recipe for next week's luncheon, or for the cake you want to make for your friend's birthday, and the entire recipe is written for measurements and temperatures in a different country.

Have no fear; cooking and food are universal topics, and while it might take a little work, you can convert a recipe into the terminology you use in your kitchen. It just takes a bit of understanding and some research.

The big question? How to measure recipe ingredients when the terms are foreign to you

Recipes from Europe use different measuring systems than we do in the USA.
Recipes from Europe use different measuring systems than we do in the USA.

Why do you need to convert measurements in cooking?

If you like to find recipes online, you already know what you're up against. The popularity of online cooking sites means you could be in the Midwest of the USA and stumped when you find a recipe posted on a site from England. Suddenly, you realize you're not in Kansas anymore.

Before you can start making that elegant looking dessert or tempting entrée, you realize you'll need to convert measurements into the system you use, which is probably what you grew up with. In the United States, we use terms like ounces, cups, quarts, gallons and the like.

Recipes from other countries will have grams, kilograms and liters. Or, if you're from another country, the amount you need to measure for 1/4 cup of an ingredient may not be immediately obvious. Pretty soon, your head starts to hurt and you're ready to run down to Costco and get a cake in a box.

For those who don't remember, a liter is a bit like a quart, but don't try to use that trade-off in a detailed recipe that relies on accuracy; you'll need the exact conversion for some recipes to come out the way the picture looks.

The guidelines below explain some quick tips and list some valuable online resources that will do the math for you.

Time-saving tip: Find an online calculator to calculate measurements and oven temperatures

Easy-to-use online calculators will convert recipe ingredients and measurments for you.
Easy-to-use online calculators will convert recipe ingredients and measurments for you.

Here's the fastest and easiest way to convert cooking temperatures and measurements

The easiest way to quickly swap out the confusing terms and numbers in a recipe for something familiar is to go to an online sites that has calculators to do the work for you.

This may sound like a lot of work at first, but once you're on the site, almost all the information you need to convert a recipe will be at your fingertips. In addition, you will often have many measurements of the same size (a cup of this, three cups of that) so you can run the calculator for multiple purposes during one visit to the site.

Eventually, you may begin to recognize some measurements you most commonly use. Note that each online conversion calculator will usually ask you to enter the recipe's ingredient you're converting, which can make a difference in the end result.

Change recipe measurements when you add or subtracting servings or portions

Use an online calculator to help you increase or reduce the serving amounts of a recipe
Use an online calculator to help you increase or reduce the serving amounts of a recipe

How to change the portions or servings in a recipe

While some measurements might be easy (one half of a cup is easily found on your measuring cup), others might be more difficult to calculate.

If you need to change a recipe's measurements, this Culinary Arts site has useful information and tips on how to do the math.

The site explains how to come up with a recipe conversion factor (such as reducing a 10-serving recipe to one that will serve six, which uses a 0.6 conversion factor). It's not that hard once you see how it's done.

Too tired or stressed to do the math yourself? This site has a cooking measurement calculator that does the math for you! The site also has a helpful chart to tell you that a pinch is 1/16th of a teaspoon and one tablespoon is 1/2 of a fluid ounce!

Converting oven temperatures for baking and roasting

Now that you've figured out how to measure your ingredients, you notice the temperature settings are different than the ones on your stove.

Not to worry! The site below will tell you that 350 degrees on a U.S. oven converts to 175 if you're in the U.K., and you will need a setting of 4 if you're using a gas stove with settings ranging from 1/4 to 10.

How to use a convection oven

With the recent trend toward buying convection ovens, many cooks are left puzzled as to how to change the time or temperature on various recipes.

Using a convection oven can be scary at first, like trying to learn a foreign language.

This video has simple instructions for making those changes:

Video on how to convert cooking times for convection ovens

Bottom line - when in doubt, do a bit of research!

Chances are, you'll increasingly find tasty recipes that use terms you're not used to in your kitchen. Or you will find the new, energy-saving appliance you just bought requires you to tweak a few things when you cook or bake.

Just about any information you want or need can be found online. Many government sites in various countries have guidelines posted for conversions, and manufacturers of appliances also provide tips if they know consumers are changing from one way of cooking to another.

Here's hoping the information in this hub will help you bake that cake that tempted you, or change your recipe to add a few servings, or otherwise tweak it so you can enjoy cooking in our new global culinary environment!

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  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 2 years ago from Planet Earth

    So glad you found the information helpful, Peg - I love that the wonderful cuisines in our world are being shared across borders and across the oceans! I used to see recipes that sounded so tempting, but I was stumped on how to convert the measurements or temperatures. It's so great to have a place to go, so we can just cook and enjoy those great recipes! Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • PegCole17 profile image

    Peg Cole 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

    This is great information, Marcy. My online recipes use measurements from the US but some of my visitors would definitely have needs for alternative quantity measurements. I'm glad to know there are sites that offer conversions. Thanks!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Ha! I will try not to sound too pushy! You can just ignore my growling stomach, okay?

  • Made profile image

    Madeleine Salin 4 years ago from Finland

    Thank you Marcy. I feel the pressure now that I have your eyes on me. :)

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, Made - Oh, I truly hope you will publish some of your recipes! I see so many interesting dishes that are unique to other countries, and I'd love to know how they're made. Yes, yes! My vote is to share those recipes with us!

    Thanks for commenting here - and I will watch for your hubs!

  • Made profile image

    Madeleine Salin 4 years ago from Finland

    Great and useful hub! I've been avoiding writing a hub about recipes just because I've been afraid to screw something up. I live in Europe and need to convert my recipes into US measurements and temperatures. Maybe I should give it a try. Thank you so muck for writing this hub. Voted up!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, Horatio - yes, we have graduated measuring cups marked with ounces, 1/4, 1/2 and 1-cup measures, and some even list milliliters. But I also remember my grandmother using a coffee cup to measure flour, milk and cornmeal for cornbread in one-cup increments, and I've done that before, too. But then, cornbread is a very forgiving thing to prepare.

    It's really interesting to see the mutual (or global, I should say!) confusion we have about how all this works from country to country. I'd love to see what's used in other countries. If I ever get to England, I will bring some measuring cups with me for my friends there!

    Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • Horatio Plot profile image

    Horatio Plot 4 years ago from Bedfordshire, England.

    Thank you Marcy. The perfect stopping off point for my recipe hubs.

    Cups remain an American mystery. Do you actually have a physical measure you can use, or do you use any old cup you find in the cupboard? It'd be a bit hit and miss if you did.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Thanks, Victoria - I can't wait to hear what recipes people start trying now! I appreciate your comments!

  • Victoria Lynn profile image

    Vicki L Hodges 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

    Hi, Marcy. I'm glad you wrote this hub. I'll have to remember this to find that link to see conversions. Good job! Many votes!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, Redpointhq - I'm so glad this is timely and helpful to you and your fiancée! I love German recipes; you will have some great meals, I bet! Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

  • redpointhq profile image

    redpointhq 4 years ago from Tucson, AZ

    This post is going to come in pretty handy. My fiancé has a German cookbook her mother gave her and she hasn't used it much because the measurements were a bit confusing. Good stuff!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    LOL! I so know what you mean, Ardie! I grew up in a family of five, and as the only girl, I learned to cook and my brothers didn't. Even now, I can hardly make anything in small amounts - I cook for at least five hungry people! That was fine when my big-eater kids lived with me all the time, but it's a lot of food these days!

    Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

  • Ardie profile image

    Sondra 4 years ago from Neverland

    Excellent Hub Marcy! I always use an online tool to help me convert measurements when Im cooking :) Now my problem is how to convert recipes to include healthier ingredients :) Oh and I almost always have to double up on recipes in order to have leftovers for the next day after feeding the family of 5.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Wow - Angela, you must do some amazing cooking if you're trying recipes from other countries so often! I would love to see a hub about that culinary adventure - how you decide what to try, and what it's been like to do that. Or maybe you are converting for servings? Either way, I think there's an art to it, and people could learn from you!

    Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

  • Angela Kane profile image

    Angela Kane 4 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

    Thanks for writing this hub, it so annoying when I have to go online and check for a measurement conversion site so I can understand how much something is, I have go through this on a weekly basis. Voted up and useful.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    I'm so glad you like the information here - I love the way the calculators work; almost magic! It takes no time at all and you immediately understand how to go forward with the recipe. Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Kitty!

  • kittyjj profile image

    Ann Leung 4 years ago from San Jose, California

    I love the Online conversion calculators. They are easy to use and fast on providing the answers. Supper useful to someone like me who always confuse on different measurements. Thanks for sharing! :)

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Thank you, Molometer - I lived in Spain years ago, and we had no idea how to use the tiny oven in the apartment! The settings were a mystery to us! I appreciate your comments, and I'm so glad you liked the hub!

  • molometer profile image

    molometer 4 years ago

    I agree with Gordon,

    In the UK we have a dual system of measurement.

    I always have trouble with electric ovens. They seem to be either not hot enough or full on.

    I prefer cooking on gas.

    Useful tips here Marcy. Voted up and interesting,

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    I'm so glad you like the hub, Habee! I've abandoned some recipes in the past, too - or just read them in puzzlement and regretfully moved on. Thanks for your comments!

  • habee profile image

    Holle Abee 4 years ago from Georgia

    Marcy, this is very useful info. So many times I've found a European recipe I'd like to try, but I usually give up on the conversions. Voted up!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
    Author

    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Thanks for your kind comments; I hope your mom can more easily convert her recipes now!

  • prasetio30 profile image

    prasetio30 4 years ago from malang-indonesia

    Very inspiring hub. I am so happy to share this hub with my mom. Thank you very much for share with us. Rated up and useful. Have a nice day.

    Blessing,

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    I'm so glad these are helpful for you, Sadie! I know what you mean about painstakingly searching one at a time - particularly difficult if you're in the middle of a recipe! Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • Sadie14 profile image

    Brittany B 4 years ago from U.S.

    Thank you for the conversion links Marcy! I have spend a lot of time searching for conversions one by one when this problem arises. This will definitely save some time!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

    Oh, gosh - I've never heard of the perches! But I think chains and rods are used in surveying - at least the terms are used there. Many thanks for reading and for your very interesting comments!

  • JaneA profile image

    JaneA 5 years ago from California

    Great hub. I went to school in Australia and learned imperial until I was around 12, then the country switched to metric (so I am kind of bilingual). Then I moved to the US.

    Oh the agony of being 12 and learning antiquated and illogical measurements like perches, chains and rods. My kids here never had to learn that stuff under US imperialism (if you will pardon the expression).

    I can't really convert anything except miles to kms (x 1.6) and fahrenheit to celcius (-32 x 5/9). But in cooking I still have my old measuring cups for when I have a metric recipe!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, homesteadbound - I appreciate you asking such an interesting question! I'm glad you like the answers here - and thanks for your comments!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
    Author

    Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, Kimberly - Thanks for reading and commenting! I'm looking forward to converting some great recipes I've seen on this site, now that we have the information! I'm glad you enjoyed the hub!

  • homesteadbound profile image

    Cindy Murdoch 5 years ago from Texas

    Marcy, thanks so much for answering my question. Now I have a tool, this hub, to include on my recipe hubs so that someone can easily convert my recipes to the units they understand. Thanks so much!

  • KimberlyLake profile image

    Kimberly Lake 5 years ago from California

    This is an important hub. I am sure a lot of people will benefit from this information. Socially shared and voted up.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
    Author

    Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

    Thanks, old albion! I will rely on all of my friends here from the UK and elsewhere to let me know where we can expand the information here! Thank you for commenting!

  • old albion profile image

    Graham Lee 5 years ago from Lancashire. England.

    Hi Marcy. I agree with Gordon as above we have been 'converted' over here in the UK for some years now. Unless one is younger and have been brought up to and taught metric measures, one still thinks in imperial measures. It causes us to smile at times to say the least.

    Graham. voted up/thanks for sharing.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, Gordon - I very much appreciate the feedback from someone 'across the pond,' here! I'm not clear on UK measurements, so if you see anything that doesn't make sense at your end, please let me know!

    A cup is eight ounces - and our measuring cups are marked that way (many also have grams, etc.). But if you don't have a marked measuring cup, you're left wondering if they mean a teacup, a coffee mug, or what!

    FYI - my grandmother used to measure her cornmeal and flour for cornbread with a plastic teacup. As long as she used roughly the same amount for each of the one-cup measures, it seemed to work out fine. But cornbread is one of the easiest things in the world to make!

    Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • Gordon Hamilton profile image

    Gordon Hamilton 5 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

    Hi, Marcy

    Love it and you have certainly hit a nail upon the head! :)

    In the UK, it is particularly confusing, as we use both metric and imperial. Europe wanted us to convert to metric but the outcry was so wide, shops (stores) now advertise products in both measurement forms. I am old school and think imperial but one example of a near disaster in my own family says it all:

    A couple of months back, my brother was hosting a dinner for the boys from the fishing club. I was asked if I would help him cook it. He e-mailed me a list of things he wanted but it was all a kilogram of this, or so many grams of that - I e-mailed him back and asked him to translate it in to English! That is two brothers... :)

    Cups is a measurement I don't understand. We simply don't have it and I've always wondered, "Small cup, medium sized cup, big cup...mug?" Similarly, liquid measurements are confusing, as a British pint is 20 fluid ounces and a US pint only 16.

    A little known fact is that the US imperial system is older than the British one. It was of course the British that introduced the system in the United States but when Britain's was revamped in the early 19th century, the US was already independent and refused to follow suit.

    Here's to our somehow continued understanding! :)

    Gordon

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