Weighing and Measuring in Turkish Cuisine

woman bagging vegetables
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Turkey uses the metric system to measure weight and volume. When it comes to cooking, since most recipes are passed down through the family or learned from friends, there is still a lack of true standardized measures. This sometimes makes reproducing and developing recipes difficult. But it also makes you a better intuitive cook as you often have to trust your own judgment.

The Eye Decides

Cooks often rely on what’s called ‘göz kararı’ (GOES’ KAR’-ARE’-uh), which means ‘the eye’s decision,’ when adding ingredients to recipes.

There are ways of measuring, they’re just not precise. Most cooks are taught using familiar items as a measuring reference. For example, a recipe may call for a ‘water glass’ of flour.

The Water Glass as a Measuring Tool

Everyone knows about how much a standard Turkish water glass holds. The problem is, everyone has a slightly different sized water glass! This holds true for nearly everything from cups and spoonfuls to pinches and bunches.

With the increasing popularity of cookbooks, food websites, and recipe sharing, using the metric system has become more popular when talking about recipes. But even professional cooks continue to use the old, familiar system. 

Common Measurements and Turkish Equivalents

Here is a list of the most common ‘measures’ and their Turkish equivalents that are used in the Turkish kitchen.

  • Water glass = ‘Su bardağı’ (SOO’ BAR’-dah-uh): This is about three-quarters of a cup, depending on the size of your water glass
  • Tea glass = ‘Çay Bardağı’ (CHAI’ BAR-dah-uh): This means a small glass Turkish tea glass. Again, there are many sizes of tea glasses.
  • Food Spoon = ‘Yemek kaşığı’ (yeh-MECK’ KAH’-shuh-uh): This is a soup spoon, closest to a tablespoon
  • Dessert Spoon = ‘Tatlı kaşığı’ (tat-LUH’ KAH’-shuh-uh): This is a dessert spoon, closest to a teaspoon
  • Tea spoon = ‘Çay kaşığı’ (CHAI’ KAH’-shuh-uh): Not to be confused with teaspoon, this a tiny spoon used to stir Turkish tea, closest to one-half a teaspoon.
  • Hazelnut-size = ‘Bir fındık kadar’ (BEER’ fuhn-DUHK’ kah-DAR’): This is a piece or dollop about the size of a hazelnut
  • Handful = ‘Bir avuç kadar’ (BEER’ ah-VOOCH’ kah-DAR’): This is used for small things like peas, dry beans, and raisins, the amount that fits in the palm of your hand without spilling over.
  • Bunch = ‘Demet’ (deh-MET’): This is used for parsley, purslane and other vegetables and grasses with stems. It’s also used for fresh flowers.
  • Pinch = ‘Tutam’ (too-TAHM’): This is used for salt, sugar, flour, anything grainy or powdery.

Shopping and Weighing

When you go shopping at any local market or supermarket, all packaged goods have their weight printed in grams. If you know approximately how much you need, you’ll have no problem.

When you shop in the bazaars and greengrocers for vegetables and dry goods like rice, bulgur, flour and olives, most vendors have an old-fashioned scale with weights. They will carefully place your goods inside a brown paper bag and weigh them before you bargain for the price.

The same is true when you buy meat at the butcher shop. You’ll ask for it in grams, and they’ll weigh it out on an old scale for you.