# American 'cup' measurement — for cheese

One recipe states "one cup of cheese, shredded". Now, does this mean you need a "cup" of cheese (i.e. 8oz.) and then grate it (I am English), or do you grate it first and then measure your "cup" of the resultant grated cheese? The volume will be greater once the cheese is grated!

I am anxious to get the right quantity; if it said "one cup of grated cheese" that would be clear.

It seems to me that this system of using 'cup' measurement is all based on volume, rather than weight.

• It's an American recipe at that. Empty three cans of cheese and call it a day. – RegDwigнt Dec 4 '13 at 14:27
• I would not have asked if I had expected a sarcastic and unhelpful answer. – Sylvia Knowles Dec 4 '13 at 14:28
• Duplicate, of a sort: see this question on Seasoned Advice. – Marthaª Dec 4 '13 at 14:29
• It must be one cup of shredded cheese since if the cheese was not shredded it could not fit a cup and would be 5oz of cheese. And we are not sarky. Just having a bit of fun :) Does seem the question could be better asked there though – mplungjan Dec 4 '13 at 14:29
• Oh but I am not being sarcastic. I am actually trying to provide helpful advice, in my capacity as someone who cooks every day. Perhaps I failed at spelling it out, so here's another try. 1. Cooking is not chemistry. 2. Cheese is not nutmeg. 3. If a precise measurement were in order, you'd be provided a precise measurement. "A cup" is as imprecise as it gets to begin with, so really just use your taste/experience/common sense and knock yourself out. 4. Nobody measures solids in cups. Obviously you grate first, then measure. – RegDwigнt Dec 4 '13 at 14:35

Technically, anything after a comma in an ingredients list should happen after measuring. As this answer on the cooking stackexchange says,

"1 cup of chopped nuts" is measured after chopping.

"1 cup of nuts, chopped" is measured before chopping.

Any proper cookbook or professional recipe will follow this convention. However, in this day and age, anybody can post a recipe to a website, and many such people seem to be unaware of the convention. In your example, for instance, you can't really measure cheese by the cup until after it's shredded1.

To descend into cooking advice rather than language advice: shred the cheese, then measure it. What's the worst that can happen? You add too much cheese? You do know that there's no such thing as "too much cheese", don't you? :)

1 Note that shreddedgrated. Any solid cheese can be shredded. Only a very hard cheese can be successfully grated.

• While I approve of this answer, I would also like to add that most cheese packages come with a measure of how many ounces of cheese are in the package, so it would be easy enough (assuming you can find one) to simply use an 8 oz block of cheese. But really, you are right and very few recipes need that much cheese precision. – Zibbobz Dec 4 '13 at 14:51
• @Zibbobz: except a cup doesn't mean 8 oz. It's 8 fluid ounces, which is a different unit of measure altogether. 8 ounces of cheese by weight will likely be about 2 cups by volume after shredding. – Marthaª Dec 4 '13 at 14:58
• Also nuts can fill a cup before they are shredded (grated!?). A block of cheese cannot. Hence the answer at cooking... is not necessarily applicable to this one – mplungjan Dec 4 '13 at 15:33
• @mplungjan: hence the "technically" in the first sentence, and later "you can't really measure cheese by the cup until after it's shredded". – Marthaª Dec 4 '13 at 15:34
• Shredding before measuring gives you more air -- so you might end up with not enough cheese, a potentially lethal situation. – Plutor Dec 4 '13 at 19:21

Other cooks have had your same puzzle. The processed food industry has helpfully placed both measures of weight and volume on many of its packages.

Take a look at this Kraft cheese package.

This is one pound (weight) of cheddar cheese, and the packaging indicates that it yields about 4 cups (volume) of shredded cheese.

To get "one cup of cheese, shredded," you may also weigh a 4 oz. block of cheese and shred it. You probably have a four-sided grater such as this one.

To shred cheese, use the bigger holes (on the right face of the picture). To grate cheese, use the smaller holes (on the left face of the picture). As others have mentioned, only harder cheeses (like Parmesan or Gouda) may be grated.

Or, to follow the "Joy of Cooking" (sorry, citing from memory here), shred a block of cheese and lightly tamp in down, filling an 8 ounce dry measure.

A "cup" is in fact a measure of volume, so when you are looking to make a recipe that calls for 1 cup of shredded cheese, you want to take a dry measuring cup and fill it with shredded cheese. Which seems like a lot to me, but I suppose some recipes could call for it. Recipes that call for shredded cheese are rarely that precise.

Also, try this question: What does "cup" mean in "cup of cheese"?

• A little confusing. But probably accurate. One cup (=8 ounces) of shredded cheese is a measure of volume. But if the block of cheese says "8 ounces" that may be a measure of weight, which is not the same thing... – GEdgar Dec 4 '13 at 14:53
• I wasn't sure about whether a block of cheese with "8 oz" on the label is weight or volume. Certainly milk labeled "8 oz" is volume, and meat labeled "8 oz" is weight ... I have a package of cheese in my refrigerator: it says "NET WT 8 oz (227 g)" so that is definitely weight. – GEdgar Dec 4 '13 at 14:59
• You're right to question that. Answer edited. – Zibbobz Dec 4 '13 at 15:10
• 1 cup of cheese "seems like a lot"? What is this heresy? – Marthaª Dec 4 '13 at 18:07
• @Marthaª Bah, if you use that much cheese in the meal, what will be left to eat?! – Zibbobz Dec 4 '13 at 18:18

North American cookbooks generally prefer volume measurements over mass (one notable exception being meat). It's a trade-off between convenience and precision - for example, a cup of flour is easy to scoop up and be over with, whereas by weighing one would find that this method may give you strikingly different amounts of flour with every "cup".

In other words: to a certain degree, it is virtually impossible to get the correct quantity of any non-liquid ingredient if it is measured by volume. Unless you're working with things like baking powder or baking soda that actually do require precision, being off by a few units will neither make nor break your meal. If not, you can always try again!

I know this is an old thread but I had to comment. The question was a reasonable question and that's what this forum is for. Most of the answers were indeed 'snarky' and the rest were pretty complicated.

The simple answer is "No". One "cup" of shredded cheese is not the same as an 8 oz block of cheese. Roughly 4 oz of shredded cheese equals 1 cup. Shred the cheese and measure in a dry measuring cup to get whatever the recipe call's for.

For what it's worth, if you want to actually follow the directions (1 cup of pre-shredded cheese), 1 cup is around 225ml (or 225cm^3), which is a block about 2.5 inches on each side (or about 14 cubic inches).

To actually get a cup of shredded cheese (4oz by weight), you need less than this - around 60 to 70% of this depending on how finely you shred it.