Do I sift the flour before or after I measure?


This is a question I am getting more often lately, which I think is odd since most recipes (in my experience) have not been listed as “sifted” or “not sifted” flour.

Of course I have seen then written that way, but it is not the norm.

I suppose because I am an advocate for weighing ingredients in baking as the best way to get to the greatest most consistent results instead of volume measure, this was always a given.

Since if you are using a scale you will never have to worry when to sift because air does not weigh anything, therefore your measure will never be off.

However, I do see your point when you use the far more inferior cups volume measure, well….you may often wonder “How did the recipe’s author measure this? Was it sifted flour? Or do I sift after I measure??”

I use weights measure all the time, so I sift my dry ingredients after.

But of course I do provide the measurements for folks who prefer to stick with the good ol’ cups and spoons, so when I convert these recipes for the majority of people who use cups, I am a “fluffer and a scooper, then I sift”

Meaning I fluff up the bag of flour, scoop my cups, level off the excess and then sift all the dry ingredients together (or combine as the recipe advises)


I will now go into my tangent about why you should all invest in a scale!

You all know that I am an advocate for weighing, and I believe every person who is serious about baking should own one. They are fairly inexpensive ( I have one that was under $15 and it works great).

Quite possibly the NUMBER 1 reason for recipe failures is due to incorrect measuring. This will be the first thing I will ask you when I get the question,

“Gretchen, my recipe did _____, and then it did ____. What do you think went wrong?”
I will almost ALWAYS answer “Double check your measurements, are you SURE you measured correctly?”

Now I am not immune to mistakes, I have had terrible failures in baking many times before. So I always look to my measurements first when my recipes fail. Often times I am rushing through, or simply not paying attention, or thinking I put in the baking powder when I actually did not. Or better yet, putting it in TWICE! Yikes, talk about LAVA CAKES! hahaha!

Now, mistakes are mistakes, and I have made them whether using volume measures as well as weighing on the scale.
Forget to press the TARE function? Yep- mistakes happen. But what I am talking more specifically about is INFERIOR measuring devices, such as the “Good Ol’” American Cups and Spoons!
Yes, I said inferior, and here’s why I do:

Here’s the deal about the American way of Volume Measure:

A cup is a cup. But what you put in that cup makes all the difference in the world!
Don’t be confused by thinking, “well, my cup measure says it is 8 ounces. So if I need 8 ounces of flour, then that’s 1 cup. Right?”
So you see we are already being tricked with volume vs. weights in the American measuring system.

The answer is easily explained when you think about 1 cup of feathers and 1 cup of rocks. Everyone knows these two things don’t weigh the same amount even though they have the same volume. This holds true for ingredients because density (therefore weight) does vary from ingredient to ingredient.

Not to mention, the word “ounce” can refer to both volume (capacity) and weight (mass).
There are ‘weight’ ounces and there are ‘fluid’ ounces. For example, you can have 4 ounces of flour (weight) and 4 fluid ounces of milk (volume). Totally different things. You could put a 1/2 cup of flour into a liquid measure that reads 1/2 c= 4oz. But this is FALSE. a 1/2 c of flour is NOT 4oz at all. It is more like 2.25oz.

Let’s take this thinking over to the Metric System if I need 1 cup of flour it will weigh 130g. But 1 cup of sugar weighs 200g.
This is the rocks vs feathers example and a good thing to always remember when getting used to this new way of measure.
Please take a moment to check out this great video made by my friend Joseph. He took the time to give a great demonstration on exactly why the US Volume Measures are inferior.

Click Here for the Measuring Cups Demo

I know it is difficult to accept CHANGE. Trust me, I KNOW.  But believe me when I say, if you can just invest less than $20 on a digital scale, your recipes will start to transform!
Now look, I do understand that some of you cannot simply spend the money right now. I GET IT!
So in the meantime you will have to do some extra work in converting your recipes. Check out this great website for help there INGREDIENT CONVERSIONS

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  1. Well that explains why my Devil Dog batter was a bit thick even though they came out awesome! So I’ve purchased a scale and can’t wait to see how these babies turn out now! Thanks Gretchen for clearing that up!

  2. Thanks Gretchen! I never knew that, pretty bad for a former bakery owner. I can’t weight (lol) to get a scale and check out the difference.

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