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Converting Measurements

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Kitchen Mysteries is a weekly exploration of oddities surrounding cooking and food. They could be recipes that fail when they shouldn’t, conflicting advice from different sources, or just plain weirdness. If it happens in a kitchen, and you’re not sure why, send a tweet to The Food Geek to find out what’s happening.

Elizabeth asks via The Twitters:

Three.

Okay, okay, there’s more to write than that. I was able to fit just that reply in twitter with room to spare. I am terrible about memorization, and conversion factors are not high on my list of things to keep at hand. I happen to have that one memorized, and I can usually work out the whole half -cup to gallon chain of doublin g, but by and large, I don’t keep that info on the top of my head.

I wrote for my own blog a while back about using google as a handy conversion tool, and it definitely still is. Go to google, type teaspoons in 4 tablespoons or liters in 50 hogsheads and you’ll generally get a numeric answer lickety split.

Of course, if you want to go a bit more in depth into measurements and comparisons, you might want to try WolframAlpha. This is a fancy and well-hyped website designed to… well… answer computable questions. It has not only the ability to do calculations, but it also has access to a huge amount of data about food and the world in general. 

So, yes, you can start with teaspoons in a tablespoon, and it will start by telling you the answer, then give you all sorts of other related information like, well, take a look:

So, it gives you what you’re looking for and a bunch more. Not much necessarily terribly useful in that query, but it doesn’t really hurt to have it. But you can do a lot more with it, although sometimes you have to jump through hoops. For example, if you wanted to know how many teaspoons are in, say, the Atlantic ocean, you can’t quite put “teaspoons in the atlantic ocean,” although I expect at some point that will work. Instead you start with volume of Atlantic ocean and put it into teaspoons in 3.236×10^8 km^3 to get 6.565×10^22 tsp in the Atlantic ocean.

Useful? Absolutely.

Really? Er, no. But you can find out that a 12 oz can of coke has about a cup of water in it, which is useful for baking substitutions. Or you can find whatever sorts of nutritional information you want, in case you want to know that a banana has roughly the same amount of fiber as 50g of whole wheat bread.

There are times when I don’t necessarily have access to the internet, and these are either dark, dark times or times when I’ve sequestered myself away from the world. And even for day-to-day work, I tend to rely on my phone for conversions. There are several programs that you can use, but I lean mostly on one called Convert. Here are a few sample screen shots showing temperature, volume, and weight conversions.

Those are the tools that tend to get me through the day when I need to figure out how many x are in a y. One day it might serve me well to memorize more, but I’ve never been a fan of memorizing something that’s really easy to look up, and these things are really easy to look up. 

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