Measuring Spoons

Measuring cups, Measurements, and Spoons are several terms for the same thing.

Unofficial measurements include teaspoons and tablespoons.

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However, for the purposes of metric conversion in nutrition labeling, U.S. federal law finally attempted to define these quantities, stating that a tablespoon is 15 ml (by convention, for kitchen use, it is thought of as 1/2 oz, though this isn’t quite accurate) and a teaspoon is 5 ml.

Keep in mind that measurement precision for any home measuring tool — be it a cup, a scale, or a teaspoon — is not mandated in North America. In 2018, the consumer website “Don’t Waste Your Money” tested eight different brand-name measuring spoon sets and discovered that only one of them was nearly 100% accurate. The most prevalent problem they encountered with each set was the 1/4 teaspoon measuring out as 1/3 teaspoon. 


Stainless steel, plastic, wood, copper, ceramic, and even Jadeite glass can be used to make measuring spoons.

If you choose metal ones, ensure sure they can be washed in the dishwasher. If you’re digging out something like solidified brown sugar with stainless steel ones, gently bend them back into form as much as you can.

Many plastic ones in North America wind up getting melted into something unrecognizable after being rinsed out of the cutlery basket in the dishwasher by a jet of water and falling on the heating coils at the bottom of North American dishwashers.


Measurement spoons made of metal or plastic usually include holes in the ends of the handles that are joined by a ring that goes through them. The sets are held together by the rings. For storage, the spoons in the set usually nestle together in each other’s bowls.

The bottoms of most measuring spoons are rounded. Some have bent handles that allow them to rest on the counter without spilling the contents of their measuring bowls; others have flat-bottomed bowls that allow them to rest.

There is no industry standard for what should be included in a set of measuring spoons; it will differ from manufacturer to manufacturer. 1/8 teaspoon, 1/4 teaspoon, 1/2 teaspoon, 1 teaspoon, and 1 tablespoon are the standard sizes. The 1/8 teaspoon will be omitted in less expensive sets. 1/2 tablespoon, 2 teaspoons, 1 1/2 tablespoons, and 2 tablespoons are odd-size (but still functional) ones. Some manufacturers solely make standard-sized sets, while others sell standard and odd-size sets separately, while still others include some or all odd-size sets in their normal sets. 1/16 teaspoon (pinch), 1/3 teaspoon, 2/3 teaspoon, 1 1/2 teaspoon, and 1/2 tablespoon quantities are occasionally seen. Even though there are thousands of recipes that call for 1/3 teaspoon of anything, finding 1/3 teaspoon quantities is difficult. When faced with this, a heaping 1/4 teaspoon is the best option.

Measuring spoons that don’t look like spoons are also available. Instead, they’re long flat plastic pieces with a covered rectangular bowl at one end. The bowl is divided into an “accessible” portion and a “closed off” portion by the cover, which glides and has an edge that goes down into the bowl. You alter the size of the “available” area by sliding the cover to match various lines on the handle, producing the “measuring space” that you require.

Measurement spoon that can be adjusted. Denzil Green (Denzil Green, Denzil Green, Denzil Green, Denzil Green.

The majority of people advise having two sets of measuring spoons. You don’t have to stop everything to wash the 1 teaspoon from one set if it merely had butter on it to measure a teaspoon of sugar.


Some plastic ones easily detach from their rings for independent use, then snap back on when not in use (though eventually, of course, one spoon gets forgotten, then another, and eventually you have just this ring floating by itself about your drawer.) Thus begins the great debate many people have with themselves: do I keep my set of measuring spoons together so they’re easier to find and one of them doesn’t go missing, or do I separate them so that when one is dirty, only one needs to be washed, and so that when I’m using them, I’m not trying to keep the dirty one with butter on it from flopping into the baking powder I’m measuring with another? Some individuals disassemble them all together and use a slot in their drawer divider to overcome the “storing together” problem.


In their conversion attempts, government metric authorities in the United States and Canada appear adamant about not using the words “teaspoon” or “tablespoon.” Instead, they’ll state “5 ml” or “15 ml.”

The reality is that officialdom in the United States and Canada is “trying too hard,” and that teaspoons and teaspoons remain a fundamental kitchen measurement in countries where the metric system has been in place for 200 years or more, and that they are unofficially the same measurement in dozens of countries. 

Large quantities of dry and solid substances are often measured by weight in metric countries.

Small amounts of such ingredients, on the other hand, are weighed with measuring spoons rather than by weight because weighing them is too much trouble. Instead of referring to their metric volume in milliliters, they are referred to as teaspoons, tablespoons, and so on in metric countries. A French recipe would ask for “une cuillère” instead of 15 mL of dried sage (a teaspoon.)

If you’re translating a recipe from North American to metric, just say “tablespoon” or “teaspoon” instead of “ml”; attempting to convert such amounts to ml would only confuse your intended audience.


When it comes to measuring spoons, most Europeans “don’t sweat the tiny details.” They simply pull a spoon from the drawer.

If taking any old spoon from the drawer sounds alarming, keep in mind that there are no official standards-checkers for measuring spoons in North America, either: it’s not uncommon for one pair to differ by as much as 25%.

However, there are certain guidelines for determining how much volume is intended. A list of volumes in milliliters is shown below (though to be clear, the measuring spoons are never referred to as 5 ml or 15 ml.)


5 ml “cuillère à café” (coffee spoon) teaspoon

15 mL tablespoon: “cuillère à soupe” (soup spoon).


In Dutch cooking, teaspoons, tablespoons, and even cups are still used.

KL (teaspoon) 5 ml; abbreviation for “koffie lepel” (coffee spoon);

15 ml tablespoon: EL (short for “eet-lepel” or “eating spoon”).

A “loot” was roughly equivalent to a tablespoon in Old Dutch, weighing 14 g.


A teaspoon is abbreviated as TL, t, or ts. 5 ml; abbreviation for “Teelöffel” (teaspoon);

15 ml tablespoon, short for “Esslöffel,” or “eating spoon.”


5 ml teaspoon “Cucharadita” (cdta);

15 ml “Cucharada” (cda) tablespoon


5 mL teaspoon

20 ml/tablespoon

When Australia adopted the metric system, administrators decided to define a bigger tablespoon for reasons unknown to us. As a result, Australian metric tablespoons are larger than the rest of the globe, at least officially. An Australian metric tablespoon now contains 4 teaspoons, putting them out of step with the rest of the English-speaking world: New Zealand, Canada, America, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Ireland, the United States, and so on, all use 3 teaspoons / 15 ml. Many European countries followed suit.

“Metric spoons are now established in Australia: a teaspoon equals 5 mL and a tablespoon is 20 mL.

We chose to just use teaspoons and tablespoons, avoiding all additional measurements (dessertspoons, salt-spoons, and so on) as they were useless and prone to error. We write the names, teaspoons, and tablespoons, in full whenever possible. This eliminates any potential for misunderstanding. However, we occasionally use the abbreviations mentioned here when writing or editing small size books:

5 millilitres = 5 mL = 1 teaspoon = 1 ts

20 millilitres = 20 mL = 1 tablespoon = 1 TS

We prefer to say two teaspoons rather than dessertspoon because it appears to be widely recognized that a dessertspoon equals two teaspoons. We never use the phrase dessertspoon in a printed recipe. We also don’t use terms like salt-spoons and coffee-spoons. Only tablespoons (20 mL) and teaspoons (5 mL) are used.”


5 mL teaspoon

15 ml/tablespoon

New Zealand did not formally adopt the 20-ml tablespoon as Australia did. However, because of the enormous influence of Australian food media in New Zealand, several government food experts appear to believe they did.


Any measuring, such as pouring vanilla extract into a teaspoon, should be done away from the basin in which you’re combining everything. That way, if something goes wrong, you won’t lose all you’ve already got in the bowl. We all get lazy about it, then lament our carelessness when an oops eventually catches up with us after a run of good luck.

Finding a measuring spoon that fits into a spice jar is always a challenge. Alternatively, see if one of the smaller measuring spoons, such as 1/8 teaspoon, will fit in to scoop out the spice. It will be difficult to transfer the scooped contents into your 1 teaspoon if it is attached to the spoon you are using as a scoop by a ring. With long handles and long thin rectangular or oval bowls, certain measuring spoons are specifically intended to fit into spice bottles.

To measure liquid, hold the measuring spoon level in the air and slowly pour the liquid into the bowl until it reaches the top of the rim.

Always presume that when a recipe calls for a tablespoon of melted butter unless the recipe specifies that you should melt the butter first and then measure it, that it implies you should measure the butter unmelted. When measuring butter, it’s best to start with soft butter. Simply use a knife to scoop some up and press it into the tablespoon. If the butter is firm, you may have to cut it into little pieces and massage it in.

Unless otherwise noted, measuring spoon measurements are considered to be level.

Very experienced cooks can judge how close an amount of baking soda in a drawer is to an official teaspoonful by using a coffee spoon. However, even they would struggle to estimate 1/4 and 1/8 teaspoons by eye.

In fact, for the sake of convenience, you might want to spend a few minutes comparing how spoons from your cutlery drawer compare to actual measuring spoons using water. You might be able to find ones that you can substitute for measuring spoons in a pinch.


7 ml = 1 1/2 teaspoons = 1/2 tablespoon

15 ml = 3 tablespoons = 1 tablespoon

60 ml = 4 tablespoons = 1/4 cup

10 ml = 1 dessertspoon = 2 teaspoons

1/4 teaspoon Equals 1 saltspoon

1/2 teaspoon Equals 1 barspoon

If your 8 tablespoons don’t equal half a cup, either your tablespoon or your cup is incorrect.