In recipes, quantities of ingredients may be specified by mass ("weight"), by volume, or by count.
For most of history, most cookbooks did not specify quantities precisely, instead talking of "a nice leg of spring lamb", a "cupful" of lentils, a piece of butter "the size of a walnut", and "sufficient" salt. In Europe, cookbooks used mass ("weight") rather than volume, though informal measurements such as a "pinch", a "drop", or a "hint" (soupçon) continue to be used from time to time. In the U.S.A., Fannie Farmer introduced the more exact specification of quantities by volume in her 1896 Boston Cooking-School Cook Book.
Today, most of the world prefers measurement by weight, though the preference for volume measurements continues in North America. Different ingredients are measured in different ways:
Liquid ingredients are generally measured by volume worldwide.
Dry bulk ingredients, such as sugar and flour, are measured by weight in most of the world ("250 g flour"), and by volume in North America ("1/2 cup flour"). Small quantities of salt and spices are generally measured by volume worldwide, as few households have sufficiently precise balances to measure by weight.
Meats are generally measured by weight or count worldwide: "a 2 kg chicken"; "four lamb chops".
Vegetables may be measured by weight or by count, despite the inherent imprecision of counts given the variability in the size of vegetables.
Chopped or cut-up meats and vegetables are generally measured by weight, except in North America where they are measured by volume.
In most of the world, recipes use the metric system of litres (l, sometimes L) and millilitres (ml, sometimes mL), grams (g) and kilograms (kg), and degrees Celsius (°C). The word litre is always spelled liter in the USA.
The English-speaking world frequently measures weight in pounds (avoirdupois), with volume measures based on cooking utensils and pre-metric measures. The actual values frequently deviate from the utensils on which they were based, and there is little consistency from one country to another.
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