The Truth about Spoon Measurements

When you bake, are you the kind of person who measures by the mil? When called upon to add cocoa to cupcake mix or chilli powder to chowder, do you go by the book? Or, do you employ culinary license and grab the nearest spoon for a there-and-thereabouts heaping?

We’ve been thinking about spoons. Last week, this query was posted by Andrew Phillips, a member of our Facebook community:

I don’t know if this is something you do, but I need to resolve a kitchen utensil dispute, and I can think of no higher authority than Yuppiechef. Yesterday I baked brownies requiring 6 tablespoons of cocoa. I dug through our cutlery drawer and the only thing resembling a tablespoon seemed too big, so I asked my friend if it was, perhaps, a tablespoon. She laughed derisively and said a tablespoon is just a regular spoon – the kind you eat cereal with.

This totally contradicts what I’ve held to be true since childhood days of baking with my mom: There are three main spoon sizes. A teaspoon is the smallest, a tablespoon is the largest, and then a DESSERT spoon falls in between. When I called the regular cereal-eating-sized spoon a ‘dessert spoon’, I was once again met with scornful laughter.

I’ve asked other girls and they agree: there is no dessert spoon – only teaspoons and tablespoons. I’m not sure I can live in a world with this kind of spoon dichotomy. Please help.”

We could but respond to this eloquent and earnest seeking of the truth about spoons, and are pleased to report Andrew’s childhood baking memories to be beyond reproach and the third member of the spoon family – the dessert spoon – to be absolutely existent.

Here’s why.

A tablespoon (in the UK and South Africa) is accepted to mean 15ml of powder or liquid, while a teaspoon clocks in at 5ml. It would be difficult to argue this to be anything other than the truth (see measuring spoons above, neatly engraved).

Moving on to traditional tableware pieces – a typical place setting consists of a knife, forks and two spoons. Most people call the littler of the two spoons a ‘teaspoon’ – which is dead right. The smaller spoon (although flattened) holds 5ml:

And finally, the weapon in question:

Our commenter’s friend classed the larger spoon in the tableware family as a ‘tablespoon’, but our research (and testing) reveals that it holds only 10ml and is a third short of its bigger brother the tablespoon.

Hello, dessert spoon – neither table nor tea, and sitting squarely in the middle of the spoon continuum (much like the mother in the Goldilocks story).

Spoon dichotomy resolved. Thanks for the question, Andrew.

Got a kitchen question? Send it to us and we’ll hit you back with some facts.