The metric system, that wonderful system of grams, ounces, centimeters and meters, used in every single country apart from 3 – the USA, Myanmar (formerly Burma) and Liberia. All three still use Imperial and customary units.
First introduced by the French First Republic in 1799, discussed in English parliament in 1818, officially sanctioned in the United States since 1866, and formally introduced in the United Kingdom in 1965, America remains the only industrialized country that has not adopted the metric system as its official system of measurement.
Of course we wouldn’t have to worry about this if we weren’t trying to make an English recipe in the USA, but trust me, it is pretty easy to overcome.
Basically when following an English recipe you will not find the word ‘cup’ or ‘pounds’. What you will find is grams (g) ounces (oz) and cooking temperatures in Celsius. But have no fear, a good set of kitchen scales will solve the problem and I have already converted the majority of the temperatures for you – from Celsius to Fahrenheit.
The Golden Rule
There is however one golden rule when using weight, which is very important to remember – when using a recipe stick to using either g’s or oz’s but never a combination of both. Measuring one ingredient in g’s and another ingredient in oz’s, trust me, can get you in all sorts of trouble.
So lesson over lets look how the metric system can become your friend.
For many years, most cookbooks did not specify quantities precisely recipes would call for ‘ a “cupful” of lentils, a piece of butter “the size of a walnut” and a “pinch” of salt.
Today, most of the world prefers to measure ingredients by weight. Baking is a lot more precise than cooking and exact measurements are vital to a recipes success.
In part this highlights how easy it is to switch to using grams and ounces as opposed to relying on some of the instructions you receive when working in volume –
Firmly packed, lightly packed, even/level, rounded, heaped.
Dont get me wrong, I make many America baking recipes, with great results, and once you get used to something it is what you come to trust.
My point is this, dont be scared of switching to grams and ounces, the difference is very easy to overcome and you will be very satisfied with the results.
Pints and fluid ounces
One thing I should bring to your attention is that when making an English recipe there is a slight difference with pints and fluid ounces. A US pint is 473 mL, while a UK pint is 568 mL, about 20% larger. A US fluid ounce is 1⁄16 of a US pint (29.6 mL); a UK fluid ounce is 1⁄20 UK pint (28.4 mL). This makes an Imperial pint equivalent to 19.2 US fluid ounces. For more information click here.
But trust me, I only discovered this helpful hint recently and all of my recipes have turned out just fine using the American Volumes, and unless you are using a pint, quart or gallon of something there is very little to worry about.
You can view also the full list of conversion charts here.
So there you have it, grams, ounces, Celsius and the not so scary metric system – you are now all set to bake the English way.