Put down that 2/3 cup and walk away.
When I was in fifth grade (sometime in the 80s), my class learned that the US would soon be converting from the imperial to the metric system. I think it was supposed to happen around the same time swarms of killer bees were going to invade. Needless to say, neither of those things happened. I do, however, sometimes imagine living in an alternate reality where we all live underground in bunkers, sheltering ourselves from the killer bees while measuring things in grams and liters.
Just because the US hasn’t officially switched (because this is America and we don’t need the government to tell us how to measure things) doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t switch your kitchen to the metric system.
It’s easy to learn, easy to use, and, most importantly, will increase your profits. How? Let me tell you:
- The decimal system is based on tens, so it’s easy to remember how much of one measure is in another. Quick, how many teaspoons are in a cup? 48. Why would you want to remember that? How many milliliters are in a liter? 1000, it’s in the name. How many tablespoons are in a pint? I’m not even going to do the math because it’s a waste of time.
- Are your cooks good at math? When you need to multiply a recipe, are they able to quickly figure out how to measure 5 x 2/3 of a cup? If all of your food comes out of a bag from corporate then maybe you don’t have to worry about measurement error in recipes, so have fun with your tablespoons. But if you are actually doing some cooking in your kitchen, then somebody is going to have to do some math at some point. It gets much worse when you need to figure out what 11 x 13 ounces is or to remember that there are 16 ounces in a pound… or even convert the remainder back into ounces (oh my!). It’s much easier to quickly calculate 11 x 364 and then weigh-out 4004 grams on a scale. Spend your labor dollars on cooks cooking, not on cooks doing math.
- If you’re not already measuring EVERYTHING by weighing it on a scale, then you should make that switch as well. Buy a few inexpensive digital scales and convert all your recipes to weight (using grams, of course). Then throw away your measuring cups and spoons. It’s faster to weigh and you don’t have to hunt for the right measuring device or wash it out in between uses. It’s also more accurate to weigh. Flour is notoriously inaccurate by volume – one cup could be anywhere between 4.5 to 7.5 ounces depending on the type, brand, or how compacted it is. This isn’t as big of a deal when you’re just using one cup of something, but in a restaurant-scale recipe, this small error can be multiplied 20 or 30 times over. This discrepancy leads to inconsistent product (which customers hate) and massive amounts of waste. This is how the metric system saves you money and makes your food better.
- Everybody is doing it. I’m not one to say follow the crowd, but seriously everywhere in the world uses the metric system – except for the USA, Liberia, Myanmar, and sometimes the UK. Why does everybody else use it? Because it makes the most sense. Chefs who travel and train internationally fall in love with the simplicity and accuracy of the metric system and bring it home to their kitchens in the states. In fact, most of the best restaurants in the country use the metric system for the reasons stated above. So why shouldn’t you?
Your biggest challenge will likely be that you still buy ingredients in pounds and gallons. If you are using decent software for recipe costing and inventory – and you should be – let the computer do that math. Your chef, your cooks, even you yourself may struggle with the change at first. Introducing something new always runs the risk of temporarily disrupting the delicate balance of a kitchen. So, convert your recipes, weigh and inventory everything in grams, keep an eye out for killer bees, and watch your kitchen become more efficient, your food become better (or at least more consistent), and your bottom line grow larger.
Matt Green – Director of Culinary Operations, Blue Orbit