October 25, 2019

Why two smidgens equals a pinch.

Your guide to strange cooking measurements.

Many of those seemingly imprecise recipe amounts are actually real measurements. Most of us just don’t have the spoons that can measure that small.

The official cooking micro-measurements.

The following are generally agreed on by organizations that create standards of measure:

  • A dash is 1/8 of a teaspoon. A tad is also generally accepted to be the same.
  • Historically a pinch is an amount of a dry ingredient loosely held between the thumb and forefinger. Officially it’s 1/16 of a teaspoon.
  • A smidgen is 1/32 teaspoon and a sprinkle is generally accepted to be as well.
  • A drop is considered to be 1/64th of a teaspoon.
  • The smallest size is a hint at 1/128 of a teaspoon.

There are actually measuring spoons available for most of these sizes.

How much is a dollop?

Other less precise cooking and serving measurements include:

  • A dollop is usually a heaping tablespoonful.
  • A handful is generally accepted as a 1/3 to 1/2 cup, depending on the hand.
  • A glug is about two tablespoons of a liquid. When you turn a bottle of oil upside down, a glug will pour out before air displaces it and momentarily stops flow. Seems like the laws of gravity, would make this a consistent amount, but a glug varies on how full the bottle is, how wide the opening is and whether the bottle is glass or plastic.
  • Rarely you’ll see “a trace of”. This actually a legal measurement defined by the FDA of less than 100 parts per million. It’s used to note residual particles that can get into a food that’s processed at a factory that also handles possible allergens like dairy, wheat, soy etc.

The confounding world of citrus measurement.

It’s assumed that a standard lemon or lime yields about 2 1/2 tablespoons of juice and 2 teaspoons of zest, but the size of the fruit varies, so this measurement isn’t exact.

  • A wedge is 1/8 of a lemon or lime and yields about a teaspoon of juice.
  • A squeeze of lime is even more vague, but I tend to think of it as a squeezed wedge, so a teaspoonful.
  • A twist is not a liquid measurement, but refers to a twisted length of zest (not the peel, just the outer skin) about two inches long. Victorinox actually makes a knife for cutting twists.

How much is a jigger?

Bar measurements tend to seep into food recipes.

  • No one can agree on where the name came from, but a jigger has been around for a long time. It refers to an hour-glass-shaped measuring device commonly seen in bars. The larger side is a jigger, which measures a standard shot of 1.5 ounces.
  • The smaller side is a pony shot that measures 1 ounce. These measures have remained fairly precise and constant, since alcohol is such a regulated industry.
  • Less critical are the non-alcoholic ingredients at bars, like a splash, regarded as a little less than a teaspoon.
  • A drizzle is expected to be more than a splash.

While you may not measure your recipes precisely, now you have an idea of exactly how much the recipe intended for you to use. It may seem silly to measure anything below 1/4 of a teaspoon, but with some boldly-flavored ingredients, it matters. Now you can keep your apple pies with a smidgen of clove from tasting like clove pies or that mild, white-chicken chili with a sprinkle of Ghost Pepper sauce from blowing your guests heads off.

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