US and UK measurements compared

With great thanks to the Internet, we’ve got recipes at our fingertips 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Whether we’re looking for a new pasta recipe or we’re not sure what to do with all that leftover chicken, we can find recipes from all over the world. Our mothers never had things so easy.

As convenient as it all is, did you know that the way ingredients are measured varies from place to place? For example, there are certain differences in measurements between the United States and the United Kingdom that you should be aware of before cooking up that next meal or baking that next treat.

Although the UK has offically adopted the metric system, imperial units are still widely used and one can find many older recipe books that still use pints, pounds and ounces.

A cup is not always a cup

You may already know there are differences in weight measurements between the US and the UK. How you make conversions depends on the type of ingredients you’re using and it’s not always straightforward. After all, if you know how much 1 stick of butter is in the UK, it doesn’t help you figure out how much 1/4 pound of ground beef would be because the volume to weight measurement is not the same.

But here’s a further complication. Did you know that straight volume measurements also need conversion? There are teaspoons, tablespoons, cups, fluid ounces, pints and gallons in the US and the UK, but they’re not the same. The UK measures refer to the imperial system, still popular although the metric system is the official one, while the US measures of the same name are slightly different.

1 UK pint or imperial pint is 568.26125 ml and it contains 20 fluid ounces, while 1 US pint is 473 ml and it has only 16 fluid ounces.
  • To get 1 UK teaspoon, you need to measure 1.399 US teaspoons.
  • To get 1 UK tablespoons, you need to measure 1.041 US tablespoons
  • To get 1 UK cup, you need to measure 1.066 US tablespoons
  • To get 1 UK fluid ounce, you need to measure 0.961 US fluid announces
  • To get 1 UK pint, you need to measure 0.832 US pints
  • To get 1 UK gallon, you need to measure 0.832 US gallons

If you search around online, you may find some disagreement on the above conversions, but the numbers above are a good estimate. Then when you try to compare to metric measurements, things really get thrown for a loop, but we can leave that for another discussion.

What's in a pound

There are 16 ounces (28.35 g) in a UK pound (454 g rounded) but there are not ounces when shopping for food in the US. Ask for fractions of a pound when shopping, i.e. half a pound, not eight ounces, or a quarter of a pound, not four ounces.

Cooking units

Of course, this all sounds really quite complicated and you might wonder how you can figure it all out when working with a recipe. The good news is the difference in volume measurements is often negligible. Of course, if you’re using strong spices or key ingredients in large amounts, you may want to be sure you’re using the correct amount.

1 UK cup is 280 ml - 1 US cup is 240 ml - 1 metric cup is 250 ml

Overall, just be aware of what type of measurement the recipe is using and keep to that system, if possible. It is not recommended to mix measures and you may want to make some adjustments as necessary. However, for simple recipes just keep the recipe as is. You’ll probably be just as happy with the results.