How to Measure by Parts

How to measure in parts

When you are making lotions, salves or other herbal preparations, you might notice that many "recipes" are more like directions. 

For instance, let's say we want to make a fictional product that calls for two parts of oil and one part of water.

The measurement size is "parts" instead of teaspoons or ounces or cups. How do you know how much to use? How much will this recipe make? How much is one part?

So just what is a "part"?

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How much is a part?

It isn't as hard as it seems, really. In fact, measuring in parts is a very versatile way of making a recipe. 

Actually, every recipe uses "parts" to measure. If you're baking a cake and the instructions call for "1 cup of sugar" and "2 cups of flour," the unit of measure is a cup. 

If you wanted to halve the recipe you'd divide each of those by two, so you'd use 1/2 cup of sugar and 1 cup of flour.

If you wanted to double the recipe you'd multiply by two, and use 2 cups of sugar and 4 cups of flour.

Your cake recipe will probably call for tablespoons and teaspoons too. These are actually a similar and comparable unit of measure as a cup. 

There are 16 tablespoons in a cup, and 48 teaspoons in a cup.

But practically speaking, a recipe won't call for 1/16 cup of vanilla, right?

Your recipe is still using cups as the standard unit of measure, but it has a name for this smaller measurement instead of "1/16 cup of vanilla." It uses the word "teaspoon" instead.

So the "part," the unit of measurement for these ingredients, is a teaspoon instead of a cup. 

It's like using money. We use "parts of a dollar" every day, but we don't call them "1/100th of a dollar." Instead, we use the word "cents." Or, more specifically, pennies, nickels, etc. Teaspoons are similar to dimes.

An example of using "parts" to measure

Let's look at an easy example. We'll use that fictional productabove that called for two parts of oil and one part of water.

If we substitute the word "part" with tablespoon, we'll need two tablespoons of oil and one tablespoon of water, for a total of three tablespoons.

If we wanted to make a larger amount of this same recipe, we could use half-cups as the measure, or even cups. For a smaller total amount, we might use teaspoons. 

As long as you use the same unit of measurement for each ingredient, whether it is tablespoons, teaspoons, cups, ounces or pounds, and then multiply this unit by the number of "parts" in the recipe, you'll be fine!

One part equals one tablespoon, and two parts equals two tablespoons. Or if you're using ounces, one part is one ounce while two parts equals two ounces.

Simply use the same unit of measurement for all of the ingredients in your recipe.

As long as the ratio is the same, your recipe will work out just fine, whether it's a cake, a drink, an herbal product, etc.

More very basic uses of measuring by parts

The Chief and I measure dog food by parts. We use a margarine tub, but we could also use a measuring cup or a canning jar. The dogs get one margarine tub-full of dry dog food per meal.

My grandmother measured flour with a coffee mug when she made biscuits. A coffee mug-full of flour was "one part" in her recipe. She used the same coffee cup to measure all of the ingredients, whether she needed one, two or a half.

Cooking rice

I learned to cook rice using "parts." 

Rice uses a 1:2 ratio. Whatever container I used to measure the dry rice, I then used two container-fulls to measure the water. 

  • One cup of rice and two cups of water. 
  • One coffee mug of rice and two coffee mugs of water. 
  • One-half a cup of rice and one cup of water.

So how do you know what basic measurement you should use? 

When you're deciding which unit of measurement to use in a recipe, there are several things to consider, such as:


  • Is this something that you're making for the first time, so that you only want to make a small amount? 
  • Is it something that might spoil in a short period of time, so that you don't want to make a lot at once?  
  • Perhaps it needs to fit in a certain container, so you need to make a specific amount. 
  • You only have a limited amount of one of the ingredients.
  • Or maybe it's a favorite recipe and you want to make a large amount.

Let's say you want to use a 4-ounce amber glass bottle to hold the product you're making. You know you want to make no more than four ounces. 

If there are three ingredients, and one requires "two parts" while the other two are "one part" each, you can see that the total amount you'd make would be "four parts" because 2 + 1 + 1 = 4.

Since you want to make no more than four ounces, it would be easy to figure out that you could use one ounce as the basic unit of measurement.

The basic recipe of 2 parts + 1 part + 1 part = 4 parts would then be 2 ounces + 1 ounce + 1 ounce = 4 ounces, which will fit perfectly in your 4-ounce amber bottle.

If you wanted to fill an eight-ounce bottle, you could use 2 ounces as your unit of measurement. You'd use 4 ounces + 2 ounces + 2 ounces.

I save these candy tins and fill them with homemade herbal salves. Keep reading to find out how much one tin will hold.

How to figure out how much a container holds

If you don't know how much a container will hold, you can fill it with water and then measure the amount of water inside. 

I like using these recycled candy tins (in the photo above) for herbal salves. I can fill the tin with water, then spoon out the water with a teaspoon or tablespoon to figure out the volume. 

Or I can pour the water from the tin into a glass measuring cup and measure the total. This little beaker set in the photo below works very well for measuring ounces, teaspoons, and tablespoons.

Deciding on the unit of measure according to your ingredients

Perhaps you only have one tablespoon of a certain herb that you want to use in an herbal blend. How much of the other ingredients should you use?

Check your recipe for this particular ingredient. 

If your recipe calls for one part of this particular herb, use tablespoons (because that's how much you have of this ingredient) as your basic unit of measurement. 

In other words, you'll use one tablespoon of this herb - exactly how much you have on hand.

If you need two parts of this herb, you'll have to do a little math. You might use a half-tablespoon as your basic unit of measurement, or you might use teaspoons (3 teaspoons equal 1 tablespoon).

If you have one ounce of this ingredient instead of one tablespoon, use ounces as your unit of measurement.

You can even use drops as your basic measurement, for instance if you are making an essential oil blend.

Ready, set, now go be creative!

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