How To Measure A Pinch, A Dash And A Smidgen

How To Measure A Pinch, A Dash And A Smidgen

Measurements are all about precision, but the terms “dash”, “pinch” and “smidgen” have always been a little vague. They do, however, have somewhat precise definitions, which can be helpful to know if you’re scaling up a recipe. Here are the actual measurements.

Traditionally, a ‘pinch’ simply meant the amount you could literally pinch between your forefinger and thumb, which usually falls somewhere between 1/16 and 1/8 of a teaspoon. A ‘smidgen’ is half a pinch (1/32 of a teaspoon) and a ‘dash’ is a liquid measurement that translates to approximately 1/8 of a teaspoon.

These terms are handy to know, but don’t fret if you have tiny measuring spoons; these units are most commonly used for seasoning, so it’s very unlikely you’ll ruin anything by playing a little fast and loose with these amounts.

This story has been updated since its original publication.


  • Nothing more annoying than getting a recipe from an American.

    “1 cup, half a cup, four cups”
    Seems fine right? Just convert a measured cup to ml, but then you read what comes next:

    ‘1 cup chopped butter’
    ‘Half a cup peel, large slices”
    “Four cups chopped apple”

    ? Weights guys, use weights. Get the scales out of the cupboard and stop trying to measure irregularly size solids by the volume of the container you chose to stack them in. Use ounces, we can convert. Seriously though wtf is a cup of chopped butter? Isn’t “150g butter, cut into 2cm cubes” significantly more reliable when making pastry?

    • The worst US measurement is the stick of butter, which isn’t the 250g you’d expect in Australia, but the ever-so-convenient 125 mL, which is about 113g depending on the type of butter you use.

  • In an antique shop I found a gavel mounted on a plaque,
    The engraving read
    Awarded to Chief Petty Officer (I forget)
    Senior Smidgen Adjuster.

  • 1/32? 1/16? 1/8…? How much are these primitive and outdated 17th century measurements in modern quantities that everyone understands?

    Next you’ll be quoting temperatures for Christmas Day at Uluru in Fahrenheit, or telling us there are 17 pecks in a bushel per furlong….

    • telling us there are 17 pecks in a bushel per furlong

      They shouldn’t – there are four pecks to a bushel, no matter how far you’re travelling.

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