Spoon Measurements & Conversions

Traditional UK Tablespoon with deep bowl measured at 20ml

© Cooking Conversions 2011

Spoon measurements are common in traditional recipes, as cooks have always had spoons to work with and could easily pass information in terms of the number of tablespoons or teaspoons of a particular ingredient as the spoon sizes didn't vary too much. This page covers spoon sizes in millilitres and fluid ounces, follow this link for teaspoon to tablespoon conversions.

Traditional UK tablespoons (see picture to the right) and teaspoons have a fairly deep bowl in comparison to modern spoons of similar bowl length and width, with the traditional tablespoon in the picture having been measured at 20ml whereas most modern tablespoons are closer to 15ml, which is the de facto standard tablespoon size used in recipes today (apart from in Australia where 20ml is used).

This means that you could be using 25% less of an ingredient if using a modern tablespoon to measure the ingredients for an older British recipe (see below).

Abbreviations commonly used are for teaspoons tsp or tsps, for tablespoons tbsp or tbsps and for dessertspoons dsp or dsps. Other abbreviations that may be seen for teaspoons are t, ts and tspn. Other abbreviations that may be seen for tablespoons are T, tb, tbs, tbl, tblsp and tblspn. Other abbreviations for dessertspoons are dspn and dstspn.

Level, Rounded & Heaped Spoons

Often recipes will specify a level tablespoon, heaped teaspoon or rounded teaspoon of a particular ingredient. It is fairly easy to remember what these mean as they are almost self explanatory.

  • A level spoon is the measure you get if you fill the spoon with the ingredient and then run a knife across the top to remove anything above the rim of the spoon. For liquids you will only ever get level spoon measures.
  • A rounded spoon is the measure you get by filling the spoon with as much of the ingredient as possible and then tapping it a few times until the the excess has fallen over the side so that the top is rounded. This will give you approximately double the level spoon measure for dry ingredients.
  • A heaped spoon is the measure you get by filling the spoon with as much of the ingredient as possible, this is known as a heaping spoon in North America. This will give approximately triple the level spoon measure for dry ingredients. For fine powders (e.g flour or cocoa powder) heaping the spoon can give measures four of five times that of the level spoon.

Tablespoons & Teaspoons in Millilitres

The table below gives the equivalent in millilitres (ml) for tablespoons, dessertspoons and teaspoons (results are given to 2 decimal places).

Country TeaspoonDessertspoonTablespoonFluid Ounce
Australia 5102028.41
Canada 5101528.41
South Africa 5101528.41
UK & Ireland 5101528.41
USA 4.93-14.7929.57

Notes:

  • Spoon sizes in the US are commonly based on the tablespoon being ½ fl oz and the teaspoon being ⅓ of a tablespoon
  • The US Food & Drug Administration defines a metric teaspoon of 5ml and a metric tablespoon of 15ml
  • The US fluid ounce is not the same as the Imperial fluid ounce (Conversion here)
  • Australia is the only country which uses the traditional tablespoon size of 20ml
  • For older British recipes (pre 1939) it would be best to use the Australian measure of 20ml
  • The dessertspoon as a measure is rarely seen in recipes

Tablespoons & Teaspoons in US Fluid Ounces

The table below gives the equivalent in US fluid ounces (US fl oz) for tablespoons, dessertspoons and teaspoons (results are given to 2 decimal places).

Country TeaspoonDessertspoonTablespoon
Australia 0.170.340.68
Canada 0.170.340.51
South Africa 0.170.340.51
UK & Ireland 0.170.340.51
USA 0.17-0.50

Notes:

  • The US tablespoon is equivalent to half a US fluid ounce and the US teaspoon is one sixth of a US fluid ounce.
  • Other countries define their teaspoons and tablespoons in ml and the conversion to US fluid ounces of the millilitre amounts has been used here.

Tablespoons & Teaspoons in Imperial Fluid Ounces

The table below gives the equivalent in Imperial fluid ounces (UK fl oz) for tablespoons, dessertspoons and teaspoons (results are given to 2 decimal places).

Country TeaspoonDessertspoonTablespoon
Australia 0.180.350.70
Canada 0.180.350.53
South Africa 0.180.350.53
UK & Ireland 0.180.350.53
USA 0.17-0.52

Note: See references for background information

 

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