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Scientific Dimensional Analysis

Use ratios of equivalent units to solve problems.

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Can I Have the Recipe?

Can I Have the Recipe?


Credit: Ollie Svensson
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ollesvensson/3113672785/
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

You find a recipe for butterscotch apple crisp in a cookbook, a magazine, or online. The picture makes this dessert look so appetizing that you decide to try it out. You need to buy the ingredients and make sure you have enough to make this dessert. That’s where the questions begin.

Why It Matters

  • Recipes routinely list ingredients in terms of cups of material, for both liquids and solids. Packaged goods bought at the grocery store will generally state contents in terms of volume (for liquids) and weight (for solids).
  • Credit: Dinner Series
    Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dinnerseries/9919941506/
    License: CC BY-NC 3.0

    Measuring cups allow you to measure in cups and ounces. Be careful not to get them confused [Figure2]


  • Cooking measurements are not meant to be accurate in the same way lab measurements are. In a recipe calling for a cup of a liquid, that liquid may entirely fill the cup or not, depending on the technique of the cook. Very experienced cooks will sometimes dispense with a measuring cup and just add liquid until they feel there is enough.
  • In the same way, the amount of a solid ingredient will vary, sometimes by choice and sometimes by necessity. The same weight of chunky materials (such as apple or other fruit) will occupy different volumes depending on how the material is sliced. In these situations, a weight of the ingredient will be given instead of a volume amount.
  • Watch a video on measurements in cooking at the link below:


Show What You Know

Use the links below to learn more about recipes. Then answer the following questions.

  1. What help does the recipe provide in converting units?
  2. How many cups are there in five tablespoons?
  3. Can you realistically measure a liquid that accurately in a measuring cup?
  4. How would you determine in a recipe whether the ounces should be measured in volume or mass?

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Ollie Svensson; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ollesvensson/3113672785/; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: Dinner Series; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dinnerseries/9919941506/; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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