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I watched some TV shows showing cooks working in their restaurants. I use measuring cups and spoons when cooking almost everything, but do not see any of the TV cooks measure anything. They mostly just grab things and throw them in.

Do skilled cooks have no need for these tools?

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After seeing the comments and answers below, are you referring to just cups and spoons, or more general measurements of ingredients ? In my mind, the question is about measurements in general (cups, scales, spoons...) –  Max Aug 28 at 13:33
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If a dish needs accurate amounts, they have these amounts prepared. Noone wants to see Gordon Ramsay weigh "250 grammes of fucking* flour" while preparing his marbled cake, they want to see him curse at the other chefs. having to weigh ingredients during the show cuts into that valuable time they have to throw insults at each other.. *expletive included for comedy value and character personality. –  Nate Kerkhofs Aug 28 at 13:40
    
Justin Wilson never needed spoons to measure ... but he'd have 'em just to prove that he could tell by how much he poured into his hand. Alton Brown, and the folks on America's Test Kitchen, however, to measure. (even Rachel Ray breaks out measuring implements if she's baking) –  Joe Aug 28 at 15:41
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Als, please note that certain TV chefs do weigh these ingredients on camera. These are chefs like the British Jamie Oliver and the Belgian Jeroen Meus. The main reason is that these chefs are aimed at the audience that cooks along with the show. They prepare dishes that an amateur chef at home could prepare himself easily, with not much fluff, excessive ingredients or preparation. measuring on-camera is a way of indicating that you can cook those dishes at any skill level on your own. Another type of show where they measure on-camera is timed cooking shows, like Chopped or Iron Chef. –  Nate Kerkhofs Aug 29 at 10:02
    
In many cases, they just have all the ingredients for a dish pre-measured in small bowls and such. –  Gabe Aug 29 at 14:33

3 Answers 3

Much more often, expert chefs will use an accurate digital scale, particularly for baking. Cups are OK for liquids, and most people use spoons for small measurments like salt or yeast, but scales are accurate for everything from flour, to honey, to water, to softened butter.

Plus, since you can generally tare scales, you don't have to wash anything out but the big bowl you're mixing everything in! Trust me on this one, a good digital scale is an awesome way to spend $16 - $25.

If you're not baking, chances are you don't need precision. You rarely need to measure ingredients, except for baking, once you're pretty competent.

EDIT: Just a note, I bake all my own bread and I always do it by weight. I use spoons for the yeast and salt, the scale for everything else. I have a habit of using a Pyrex measuring cup to nuke cold water, I stick a thermometer in it as it cools, and start mixing when it reaches 110F. So at that point, it gets poured from the cup to the mixing bowl. That has given me many opportunities to note the accuracy of the cups (my scale is very, very accurate, I test it all the time). Even standard Pyrex measuring cups, used properly (eye level, on a level surface) will give erroneous results. For 1 cup (237ml), you can do everything right with a measuring cup and still be off by as much as 20ml either way. That's over 8%. So I recommend weighing everything but tiny spoon quantities. Sometimes, I'll even break out my gram scale to weigh salt, but I have to find the recipe pretty intimidating to go that far.

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To pretty much anyone in the UK the idea of measuring flour, sugar etc. in cups for baking is outright bizarre, though that doesn't make us experts. –  Chris H Aug 28 at 14:06
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Not at all, but measuring by weight can help you look like one! Especially to some of the neanderthals over here who don't understand the concept. –  Jolenealaska Aug 28 at 14:36
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To be fair though, when you have to weigh in pounds and ounces, you must want to start looking for alternatives. –  Chris H Aug 28 at 14:38
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Tru 'nuff that too! I'm a big fan of the gram. –  Jolenealaska Aug 28 at 14:48
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For what it's worth, I think it's worth putting emphasis on using measuring spoons for small measurements. There's this "scales are amazing" attitude, and while it's quite deserved for bigger things, it really is easier and more accurate to use a half teaspoon than to try to measure 2.3 grams of baking soda. –  Jefromi Aug 29 at 14:48

Yes they do; mostly for baking and pastries where precision is more important.

For other types of cooking, precision is not that important.

Experience play a role when knowing the quantity needed for a recipe.

Also, most of the time, we see chefs (on TV or in real cuisine) handling small containers of prepared ingredients, and those are measured when they are doing "mise en place" before service begins.

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Where precision is important, any self respecting professional will use weight measures. –  ElendilTheTall Aug 28 at 12:55
    
@ElendilTheTall, yes, you are right about that. –  Max Aug 28 at 12:57
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@ElendilTheTall : Weights are a pain when dealing with really small measures ... I still prefer spoons for measuring out spices, salt, etc. Maybe if I was getting up to commercial sized batches I'd use weights. Or illicit drugs. –  Joe Aug 28 at 13:27
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Teaspoons/tablespoons are more or less universal, yes. But cups? Fuhgeddabahtit. –  ElendilTheTall Aug 28 at 13:33
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@ElendilTheTall A tablespoon in Australia is 20ml, in the UK and US they're around about 15ml (I think a bit under in UK, a bit more in US? Something like that.) Always something to remember when pulling recipes from the internet: with what was it measured? 33% increase is a lot. –  setek Aug 29 at 0:27

In 3 years of working at a restaurant, I think I only saw measuring devices used by the pastry chef, and maybe the head chef when he was attempting a new creation.

After you have seen ingredients measured out hundreds of times, its get pretty easy to eyeball a teaspoon of salt or a cup of water. Measurements are very important for baking, but in most other cooking they are more of a guideline. So unless you need to be precise, an experienced cook is usually safe skipping the measuring device.

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This matches my experience in professional settings too. A big part of chef training and job experience is getting an accurate, intuitive feel for amount and proportion of common ingredients like salt and oil. It's like developing knife skills - just takes practice. The only major exception is in baking and possibly things like prepping spice blends, where proportion is really critical. –  logophobe Aug 29 at 14:52
    
Even for baking, if you've done a recipe a lot of times then you can get by with your eyeballs if you really have to. –  Peter Taylor Aug 29 at 14:55
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In my younger days, I worked in a kitchen for about three years. Early into my marriage, my wife saw me eyeball a cup of water, and said, "You can't do that!" "Why not?" I asked. "It needs to be accurate," she said. "It is," I insisted. Finally, to appease her, I grabbed a measuring cup, and poured the water into the measuring cup. It was exactly on the 1 c. line. She never worried about it after that. P.S. I agree with what you and others have said; for baking, I would use measuring devices, but for marinades and sauces, eyeballing is often sufficient, particularly with experience. –  J.R. Aug 29 at 15:50
    
After all, in a marinade, if it's too thick, you can add a liquid, and you can add salt if it's not salty enough. That's not quite the case with most of bakery. –  tohecz Aug 29 at 16:11

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