An Old-Timey Measuring Tip for Cooks: The Water Displacement Method

published May 3, 2012
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

When I was very young and learning how to bake, I was shown something called the Water Displacement Method. I haven’t seen this method for measuring solid fats mentioned recently, so perhaps it’s gone out of fashion. Is this still being taught today?

This method works if you have a solid block of butter that hasn’t been cut into quarters or if you are measuring shortening or coconut butter or other such scoopable solids like nut butters (as long as they’re quite solid and not the runny kind.)

It works like this: Say you need a 1/2 cup of shortening. Get a 2-cup liquid measuring cup and fill it with COLD water up to the 1.5 cup mark. Add spoonfuls (or small slices) of the shortening until the water comes up to the 2 cup mark. It helps to bend over and view this at eye level for an accurate read. Carefully pour off all the water or, alternatively, scoop the fat out of the water and drain it slightly, and what you have left is 1/2 cup of shortening.

Be sure the water is cold, and your fat as cold as possible, to prevent any melting. It’s also really important that the fat is totally immersed in the water for proper measuring. The easiest way to achieve this is to have much more water than fat. Measuring 1 cup of fat in a 2 cup measuring container will probably be problematic, for instance.

The best part of this method is that clean up is so easy — very little of the fat sticks to the measuring cup. It’s also very accurate, although I confess to being a big fan of weighing my ingredients these days.

See more about this method: Water Displacement Method at Nifty Chef

Do you use the water displacement method?

Related: Praise for the Adjust-A-Cup

(Image: Nifty Chef)