Water, specifically a cup of water, is a common ingredient in both baking and cooking recipes.
Although you can usually estimate ingredients for cooking, baking requires much more precision.
For this reason, it can be tricky to know you’re adding the correct amount of an ingredient if you don’t have a measuring cup.
Luckily, there are several ways that you can measure water without one.
Use a Scale
Aside from using a measuring cup, the most accurate way to measure a cup of water is with a kitchen scale.
To begin measuring, choose a sturdy container such as a glass or bowl. Place the bowl on the scale.
Most scales have a feature that allows you to zero out the weight once an object is placed on the scale, essentially erasing the weight of the container.
The button is usually labeled “zero” or “tare.” If your scale has this feature, you can use it. Otherwise, make a note of how much the container weighs. Then, start to add water.
One cup of water weighs 8 ounces or 250 grams. If you’ve zeroed out the scale, you can simply add water slowly until you reach one of those numbers, depending on whether you’re working in grams or ounces.
If you haven’t zeroed out the scale, check whether you’re using grams or ounces, and then add the weight of the scale to either 8 or 250.
You’ll then need to slowly pour in water until you reach the total weight of both the water and the container.
If you don’t have a measuring cup but you have tablespoons or teaspoons, you can also measure out water very accurately.
There are 16 tablespoons in 1 cup, so you can measure out one tablespoon at a time into another container or directly into the bowl you’re using to make your recipe.
There are 3 teaspoons to every 1 tablespoon, so if you only have a teaspoon handy, you’ll need to measure out 48 to make 1 cup.
These methods might seem laborious, but they’re very accurate, which helps to ensure that your recipe will turn out correctly.
Use a Coffee Mug
If you have neither a standard measuring cup nor tablespoons or teaspoons, you can still use a regular coffee cup to help you estimate 1 cup of water. You’ll need a mug that’s an average size.
Coffee mugs usually hold between 8 and 12 ounces of liquid, and 1 cup is equal to 8 fluid ounces.
Large mugs, such as those used for hot chocolate, might be too large, while small mugs, especially teacups, sometimes only hold about 6 ounces.
Once you’ve chosen an average-sized coffee cup, you can double-check the amount of liquid it holds by emptying a 12-ounce water bottle or drink container into it.
If it holds a little over half, the cup is probably an 8-ounce mug. Remember that mugs are designed to be filled to just below the brim, but not to the brim.
Filling to the brim can sometimes give you 8.5 to 9 ounces instead.
Estimate Using Ice Cubes
Another easy way to measure water is to make a tray of ice cubes. You can purchase ice cube trays in different shapes and sizes, and some will vary a bit in how much liquid actually goes into the ice cube holder.
However, standard ice cubes usually contain about 1 tablespoon of liquid. If you have an average ice cube tray, you can simply make 16 ice cubes and then, once they’re frozen, pop them out and into a bowl or glass to melt.
You can also fill up 16 spaces in a tray and then simply pour the water from the tray into a larger container.
Estimate Using Other Objects
If you’re really in a pinch, you can use other familiar objects to estimate how much water is in 1 cup.
For example, if you can picture a baseball or an average apple, you’re picturing an object that could hold or is about the same size as 1 cup worth of ingredients.
Your fist is also probably about the same size as 1 cup. It can be tricky to use solid objects to compare to water, as water won’t hold a shape.
However, you can pour water into a glass with the same diameter as an apple or your fist to get a better feel for your estimate.
You can also use a tennis ball to visualize 0.5 cups or a large egg to envision 0.25 cups.