It’s the oldest story. You move to Europe imagining a new life of cobblestone streets, cars with size limits, quiet Sunday strolls, impassioned café discussions, timeless architecture, and fine foods. With it will come a change in lifestyle that includes running to the morning market for fresh bread and local produce, buying only what you need, and yes that includes that truffle oil, and of course, cooking at home.

You planned ahead too. You brought all the favorite recipes you’ve been carrying around with you for years, just waiting for a real kitchen to cook real food. And only after you’ve landed and set up home do you realize that all your recipes follow the imperial system of weight & measures, and Europe does not.

All of us in the United States remember learning the metric system in school, and then never using it again. While we imported the imperial system from Europe, shortly after signing our own Declaration of Independence the metric system was developed in France to coincide with the age of reason, such that the metric is a much simpler system. Our independence of course mandated that Americans continue to use the system of kingdom we rebelled against and reject the more rational system. Makes sense.

Cooking conversion guide and glossary following the format:

measure [abbr]

metric | imperial | conversion  ⇒  definition

cup [C]

imperial  ⇒  liquid unit = 8 fluid ounces

cups to liters

conversion  ⇒  L = C /4.2268

grams [g]

metric  ⇒  unit of weight = 1 /1,000 of a kilogram

liters [L]

metric  ⇒  basic unit of volume = 1 liter of water ≅ 1 kilogram

milliliters [mL]

metric  ⇒  unit of volume = to 1 /1,000 of a liter

ounces [oz]

imperial  ⇒  unit of weight = 1 /16 of a pound = 16 drams = 28.349 grams

ounces to grams

conversion  ⇒  g = oz /0.035274

quart [qt]

imperial  ⇒  unit of volume = 0.946 liters

quarts to liters

conversion  ⇒  L = qt /1.0567

teaspoons [tsp]

imperial  ⇒  cooking measurement

teaspoon to milliliters

conversion  ⇒  mL = tsp /0.20288

I once posted about the difficulty of converting butter in recipes. Grams are a measurement of weight, while butter is measured by volume in most U.S. recipes I have. So the easiest way to do a butter conversion is by using sticks. A stick of butter in the U.S. would have the tablespoon equivalents inside the wrapper, according to which the entire stick is equal to 8 tablespoons. The irony is that the packaging for a stick of butter indicates that it weighs a half pound. With this information at hand, we can map out the imperial measurements as:

1 stick butter = 8 tablespoons ≅ 1/2 cup ≅ 4 ounces

Using the ounce to gram conversion above, we determine that 1/2 cup of butter ≈ 113 grams. About.

Similarly, before I bought a scale, I found myself needing to convert sugar weight into volume so I could measure it using the cup measurements I had on hand. I’m not sure how I determined this conversion:
Pyrex measuring cup

2/3 cup ≅ 150 grams

Likely I fell back onto my trusty Pyrex measuring cup, because while it uses both metric [mL] and imperial [C] measurements of liquid volume, it also has imperial volume [C] to weight [oz] indications:

1 cup ≅ 8 ounces ≅ 227 grams