Chances are you already have measuring cups and spoons in you kitchen arsenal. However, it is possible that you have had to work without proper measuring tools — maybe you weren’t cooking in your normal kitchen, or maybe your tools were simply stuck in a long dishwashing cycle when you needed them most. Either way, not having all of the proper tools on hand can be a huge inconvenience when cooking a meal.

Did you know there are actually creative ways to measure cooking and baking ingredients using common household products–even your own hands? You might be stuck without your cooking tool belt someday, so knowing how to improvise your measurements can be a useful skill to have. With a little practice, you may even become proficient at eyeballing amounts.

Who doesn’t love a good kitchen life hack? Below, we’ll outline this helpful cooking hack that will surely help you survive the kitchen without measuring cups and measuring spoons.

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1. Size Comparisons

There are a number of ways you can estimate measurements normally made with a teaspoon. Whether it is a forth of a teaspoon or a whole tablespoon, there are simple ways to compare your desired measurement with other small household items, which will give you a somewhat accurate reading for your cooking and baking.

Here is a good rule to follow:

2 tablespoons = Ping-pong ball1 tablespoon = Ice cube; depression on the bottom of a soda can; poker chip-sized1 teaspoon = 1/2 of a normal teaspoon used for eating; quarter-sized

You can also use this concept for measuring cups:

1 cup = Baseball1/2 cup = Light bulb; Tennis ball1/4 cup = Egg

Even if the exact measurement that you are looking for is not listed above, you can still use these as frames of reference. Measuring this way will help you become comfortable with estimating measurements just by looking at them.

2. Train Yourself

You can also train yourself to eyeball amounts, which can expedite your time in the kitchen as well. In order to train yourself, you will need to start out with proper measurement utensils.

All you need to do is measure out a specific amount — say, a teaspoon of salt — and pour it in the palm of your hand. Try to memorize the way it looks and feels in your hand. Try this will all different measurements and many of the ingredients that you commonly use in the kitchen.

By allowing yourself to familiarize with the weights and appearances of these ingredients, you will soon be able to make accurate estimations while cooking without the help of measuring spoons and cups.

This is not a practical method for every type of ingredient. For example, you probably don’t want to measure a sticky ingredient, such as syrup, in the palm of your hand. If you prefer to not have to measure things in your hands, you can use the previous tip and simply pick common items around your kitchen to use as comparisons for your measuring.


3. Hand Comparisons

You can also to estimate your portions in the kitchen using size comparisons with your hand. This method is sort of a combination of the first two tips, because you are using size comparisons and your own two hands at the same time.

Of course, everyone has different size hands, so be sure to accurately adjust your measurements to accommodate for your hands. If you have small hands, shoot for a little over these suggested estimations. Likewise, if you have larger hands, use a little less than what is suggested below.

1/8 teaspoon = 1 pinch between thumb, index and middle fingers1/4 teaspoon = 2 pinches between thumb, index and middle fingers1/2 teaspoon = Cup your hand, pour a quarter sized amount in your palm1 teaspoon = Top joint of index finger1 tablespoon = Entire thumb1 cup = Entire fist; heaping handful

Using your hands as reference points for measuring ingredients is a useful method to adopt, seeing as you will never be without them.

Be sure to practice good hygiene by remembering to wash and sanitize your hands before you cook. You might also consider wearing gloves while cooking to avoid getting your hands too messy.

4. Use a Scale

The great thing about kitchen scales it that you can measure both liquid and solid ingredients on them. Many people do not own a kitchen scale because they rely on measuring cups and spoons.

However, this can be a great investment to make because it consolidates your measuring items and you’ll never find yourself needing your scale while it washes.

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To use a kitchen scale, you need to make sure that you calibrate the scale so it does not account for the container that is holding your ingredients. To do this, you would need to set the scale to 0 while the container is on it. For example, if you wanted to measure out 5 ounces worth of water, you would first put the glass that you plan on holding the water in on the scale first, zero it, and then add the water until it reads the proper amount.

Kitchen scales are extremely useful alternatives to measuring spoons and cups, and they allow you to keep your hands clean, too!

Final Note

Again, these are all intended to be estimations. If you are creating a recipe that requires exact measurements, it might be more beneficial if you went out and purchased proper measuring spoons and cups. With recipes you are more comfortable with, or even with recipes that allow for more creative freedom, such as some stews and soups, you should be able to get away with these estimations without hurting the integrity of the dish.

Practice makes perfect! The more you practice approximating measurements in the kitchen, the more confident you will become while preparing your meals.