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Australian tablespoons

If you’re using an Australian recipe book, watch out for the tablespoon, or your baking will turn out all wrong.

In the United States, a tablespoon is half a fluid ounce, 14.8ml. In Canada and the United Kingdom, the metric tablespoon is a nice even 15ml.  Close enough, I suppose, unless you’re measuring something crucial. But if you’re measuring something crucial, a tablespoon probably isn’t the best thing to use anyway.

Now we come to Australia. For reasons I cannot divine, an Australian tablespoon is 20ml, fully a whole teaspoon more than the US or UK ones. You could follow an Australian recipe slavishly, and it would still turn out terrible.

Doing a bit more digging, it turns out that tablespoon measures are all over the place: see the second link below. In India in 1952, a tablespoon was 25ml. In 1979 South Africa, exactly half that. The confusion may have come from historical confusion between a table-spoon used for eating (usually owned by the diner and brought wherever they were eating) and a tablespoon used for serving food by the host (and so much larger).

[Thanks to Shaun T. for suggesting this topic.]

Categories: Food & agriculture Oceania Places Sciences Weights & measures

The Generalist

I live in Auckland, New Zealand, and am curious about most things.

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