Food Trivia – Substitutions and Ratios


Proper Salting Proportions:

If the recipe says, salt and pepper to taste, don’t risk ruining the food by guessing.  Follow these ratios and adjust just before serving, if necessary:

  • For soups, stocks, sauces and gravies: 1.5 teaspoons salt per quart.
  • For raw meats, poultry, fish and seafood: 3/4 to 1 teaspoon salt per pound.
  • 1 teaspoon of salt is 0.2 oz. by weight.
  • 1 teaspoon of salt = 2325 milligrams.


Most recipes call for salt and pepper to taste.  For soups and sauces, you can start with a 4:1 salt:pepper (by volume) ratio. By weight, salt:pepper = 10:1.

Black pepper weighs 0.083 oz. per teaspoon. (0.25 oz. per Tablespoon).

Garlic Salt, Celery Salt and other flavored salts:

Flavored salts are typically 66% – 80% salt.

Instead of using garlic salt, consider using 1/4 the amount of garlic powder or granulated garlic and 3/4 the amount of sea salt. This is much cheaper and easier to stock.

Fish Sauce:

Fish sauce is a salty sauce like soy or Worcestershire that adds an umami flavor (translates to satisfying like bacon) to lots of dishes.  You can substitute 3 parts fish sauce for 1 part salt.  So if the recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of salt, just use 3 teaspoons of fish sauce instead.

Use fish sauce in roasts. 2 tsp. per lb. of meat.


Salt dissolves into smaller ions that can penetrate foods.  Heat helps this process.  Salt should be added toward the beginning of the cooking process to maximize the benefit.

Other spices are larger and don’t really penetrate food.  They also tend to diffuse with heat and liquid and lose their flavor.  You should add other spices toward the end of the cooking process.

Butter, Shortening, and Margarine

  1. In the U.S., butter must contain at least 80% milk fat.
    1. Salted butter contains about 1/4 tsp per stick of salt. You can convert Unsalted to Salted by adding the 1/4 tsp back in.
  2. Margarine is made from animal fat, vegetable fats, etc.  The amount of fat in margarine should be roughly equivalent to butter but some have far less fat.  
  3. Crisco or shortening is almost 100% fat (soybean and palm oil).  Crisco also comes in a butter-flavored variety.  

For most recipes, you can substitute any of these 3 ingredients with equal portions of another.  If you are making a recipe where the fat and water content are critical, you can use the following:  

  • If the recipe calls for 1 stick (4 oz by weight) of butter, use 3.2 oz. by weight (80%) of shortening plus 2 Tablespoons (20%) of water.  So, shortening = 0.8 * butter plus water = 0.2 * butter.
  • If the recipe calls for 4 oz. of shortening, use 5 oz of butter and decrease the other liquids in the recipe by 1 oz. (2 Tablespoons).  So butter = shortening / 0.8 and you must reduce other water by shortening * 0.2


  • 1 Tablespoon = 3 teaspoons = 14.8 milliliters
  • 2 Tablespoons = 1/8 cup = 29.6 milliliters
  • 4 Tablespoons = 1/4 cup = 59.2 milliliters
  • 1 ounce = 2 tablespoons = 29.6 milliliters
  • 1 cup = 8 oz. = 236.8 milliliters
  • 2 cups = 1 pint = 473.6 milliliters
  • 1 quart = 4 cups = 947.2 milliliters
  • 1 quart = 2 pints = 947.2 milliliters
  • 1 gallon = 4 quarts = 8 pints = 16 cups = 128 fluid oz = 3800 milliliters = 3.8 liters
  • 1/2 gallon = 2 quarts = 4 pints = 8 cups = 64 fluid oz = 1.89 liters

Conversions – DRY MEASURES:

  • 1 pinch = 1/8 teaspoon = 1 dash
  • 1 cup = 8 fluid oz = 16 tablespoons = 48 teaspoons = 237 ml
  • 3/4 cup = 6 fluid oz = 12 tablespoons = 36 teaspoons = 177 ml
  • 2 cups of granulated sugar = 1 lb.
  • 2 2/3 cups of powdered sugar or brown  sugar = 1 lb.


Biscuits12-15400 degrees
Cornbread25-30400 degrees
Loaf Bread50-60400 degrees
Rolls20-30400 degrees
Layer Cake25-30375
Pound Cake60-90325
Beef25 min./lb. 300
Pork40 min./lb. 350
Ham30 min./lb. 300
25 min./lb. 350
Turkey20-25 min./lb. 300
  • 1 ounce or 2 Tablespoons of dough makes about a 3″ cookie.
  • 1/2 ounce or 1 Tablespoon of dough makes about a 2″ cookie.

Pasta Measurements:

  • Dried pasta doubles in size when cooked.
  • Fresh pasta only grows by about 25%.

Dried Pasta:

  • 2 oz. Uncooked, dried pasta yields approximately 1 cup of cooked pasta.
  • For a side dish: 1 serving of dried, spaghetti style pasta is 2 oz. uncooked or 1 cup cooked.  (For smaller dried pasta shapes, use 1/2 cup pre-cooked)
  • For a main dish: 1 serving of dried, spaghetti style pasta is 4 oz. uncooked no or 2 cups cooked.  (For smaller dried pasta shapes, use 1 cup pre-cooked)

Fresh Pasta:

  • For a side dish: 1/2 egg  and 1 cup flour per person.
  • For a main dish: 1 egg and 2 cups of flour per person.

00 flour (double-ought flour) in Pasta:

  • If you want to add some body to your pasta, substitute 1/3 semolina and 2/3 all purpose flour for 00 flour in pasta recipes. Make sure you use fine-ground semolina or grind it yourself before use. Course ground semolina does not really work well for pasta.
  • King Arthur pasta blend flour contains 11.75% protein content.  This is about the same as most bread flours.  You could used bread flour for pasta and just add a little more water to compensate for the larger grind.


1 lb of raw potatoes makes 2 cups of mashed or cooked potatoes.  

Random Food Factoids

Egg Volumes and weights:

  • One large egg is approximately 3 Tablespoons.
  • 1/3 of the volume (1 Tablespoon) is yolk and 2/3 of of the volume (2 Tablespoons) is white.
  • To be more precise, large eggs weigh 48 grams. The yolk weighs 0.6 ounce (18 grams) and the egg white weighs 1.05 ounces (30 grams).

Eggs that turn green or grey:

  • To keep scrambled eggs from turning grey, avoid using aluminum pans and utensils.  The American Egg Board recommends 1/8 teaspoon of lemon juice for every 12 eggs you scramble to minimize these chemical reactions.


Sprinkle the top of the cake with flour as soon as you remove it from  the oven.   This will help strengthen and dry the top of the cake.


Dip a knife in water before cutting to keep it from  sticking.


Coat with lemon juice.


Place peeled or cut potatoes into cold water immediately to keep them  from  turning brown.


Cut the core out and run water into the hole.


Store upside down (lid down) to  keep the oil from  separating.


Boil potatoes for  10 minutes before baking.


Warm 1 Cup of milk and add 1 Tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice.  Let it stand for 10 minutes.   The vinegar adds acid to the milk.  The acid is the reason buttermilk helps biscuits rise (think vinegar and baking soda reaction) and the reason why it helps tenderize chicken.


It is a pain to  try to  measure out sticky ingredients into  a measuring cup before adding it to a recipe.   Using the water displacement method makes this easy.   Place 1/2 Cup or 1 Cup of cold water in a measuring cup.   Add chunks of butter or shortening until the volume increases by the amount called for in the recipe.   Strain out the water and dump the butter or shortening into the mix.

Spice Conversion Rules of Thumb

When substituting dried herbs for fresh, use 1/3 the amount called for:
1 tablespoon fresh herb = 1 teaspoon dried herb

When substituting ground dried herbs for dried leaf herbs, use 1/2 the amount:
1 teaspoon dried leaf herb = 1/2 teaspoon ground dried herb

SPICE Equivalents:

1 teaspoon beef bullion granules = 1 cup prepared bullion (with 25% more salt).

1 bullion cube = 1 teaspoon bullion granules.

Bullion Cubes are approximately 40% salt so reduce salt by about half a teaspoon for each bullion cube added.

Spice Substitutions

  •  Allspice – substitute cinnamon, cassia, a dash of nutmeg or mace, or a dash of cloves
  • Aniseed- substitute fennel seed, a few drops of anise extract or anise stars
  • Apple Pie Spice – substitute 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon plus 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg plus 1/8 teaspoon cardamom plus 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice for 1 teaspoon Apple Pie Spice
  • Cajun Spice – substitute equal parts white pepper, black pepper, garlic powder, paprika, cayenne and onion powder
  • Cardamom – substitute ginger
  • Chili powder – substitute a dash of bottled hot pepper sauce plus a combination of oregano and cumin
  • Cinnamon –  3 inches cinnamon stick = 1 teaspoon ground.  You can substitute nutmeg or allspice (use only 1/4 the recipe amount of allspice)
  • Cloves – 3 whole cloves = 1/4 teaspoon ground.  You can substitute allspice, cinnamon or nutmeg
  • Coriander – substitute ground caraway seed or cumin
  • Cumin- substitute chili powder
  • Garlic – 1 garlic clove = 1/8 teaspoon ground
  • Ginger- substitute allspice, cinnamon, mace or nutmeg
  • Mace – substitute allspice, cinnamon, ginger or nutmeg
  • Mustard – substitute wasabi powder (using only 1/4 to 1/2 as much as the recipe calls for since it is hotter), horseradish powder, or dry mustard powder using the equivalent 1 teaspoon dry mustard powder = 1 tablespoon prepared mustard
  • Nutmeg – substitute cinnamon, ginger or mace
  • Poultry Seasoning – substitute sage plus a dash of marjoram, thyme, and black pepper
  • Saffron – substitute a dash of turmeric or annatto powder for color
  • Turmeric – substitute equivalent amount of Curry Powder or a dash of saffron for color plus ground mustard powder using a 1-to-1 ratio or use annatto powder
  • Vanilla – 1 inch vanilla bean = 1 teaspoon extract

Melting Cheese:

Cheese with a higher moisture content melts better.  Or shredded cheese is usually drier than block cheese.  Don’t use pre-shredded cheese to make sauces (Mac & cheese).   Shred block cheese yourself just before melting.

Cake Flour Substitute:

Cake flour has less protein than General Purpose flour.  You need to thin our the flour to lower the protein content by about 12%.  The easy way to do this is to measure out 1 cup of flour then remove 2 Tablespoons and replace them with 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch.  The result is a flour that is 7/8 General Purpose flour and 1/8 cornstarch.  You could also measure out 123 grams of General Purpose flour and 17 grams of cornstarch for each cup of flour.  

Weight of All Purpose Flour:

1 cup of flour weighs about 128 grams.   

Baking Powder Ratio:

1 to 2 teaspoons per cup of general purpose flour.  

Self Rising Flour:

If a recipe calls for self-rising flour, use:

  • 1 cup All-Purpose Flour (or 4.25 oz. by weight)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Self Rising Corn Meal:

If a recipe calls for self-rising corn meal, use:

  • 1 cup corn meal
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Tomato Paste to Tomato Sauce:

12 oz. can of tomato paste + 16 oz. water = 28 oz. tomato sauce

Some recipes actually call for 1 part paste to 2 parts water.


When you buy in bulk, it is helpful to know how much is actually in a #10 can. I found this chart on the Internet and copied it here for reference.

Can SizeWeightCups
8 oz. can8 oz.1 Cup
Picnic10-1/2 to 12 oz.1-1/4 cups
12 oz. vacuum12 oz.1-1/2 cup
#111 oz.1-1/3 cups
#1 tall16 oz.2 cups
#1 square16 oz.2 cups
#21lb. 4oz.2-1/2 cups
#2.51lb. 13 oz.3-1/2 cups
#2-1/2 square31 oz.Scant 4 cups
#34 cups
#556 oz.7 cups
#106 lbs. 6 oz.12-3/4 cups
#30014 to 16 oz.1-3/4 cup
#30316 to 17 oz.2 cups
Baby food jar3-1/2 to 8 oz.depends on size
Condensed milk15 oz.1-1/3 cup
Evaporated milk14-1/2 oz.1-2/3 cup
Frozen juice Concentrate6 oz.3/4 cup
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