I'm starting to see more and more answers with numbers in them - the most common being temperature, but the argument can be extended to volume and weight. I'm surprised it hasn't been asked before, with the internet being an international community, but should we be taking measures to standardize the units and measurements on the site, and if so what?

A good example of what I'm talking about is How do you decide what temperature to bake at?. Some answers have both °F and °C, while some have only one or the other. I'm sure I'm not the only one who's grown up with one unit and can't quite wrap their head around the other.

7 Answers 7


This is the perfect application for the wiki aspect of these sites. If the author doesn't take it upon themselves to provide conversions,

cook to 212F (100C)

then someone should edit the post to improve the answer. It's nice to say "standardize it" but it would be even more helpful to make the answer better for everyone.

  • 1
    +1 Even though there isn't anybody yet who can edit other people's posts :-)
    – HenningJ
    Commented Jul 14, 2010 at 19:51
  • 6
    I respectfully disagree with the "someone should edit it" argument. People aren't going to do the conversion in the first place unless they need to (or happen to know the answer offhand). Then it relies on both that person knowing they can and being willing to edit the post to help others and that person having high enough rep to be able to edit in the first place. Combined with the fact that some people will be turned off by "foreign" units or can't be bothered to do the conversion manually, the chance that it will actually get edited are small IMHO. And it doesn't scale either.
    – Lee
    Commented Jul 15, 2010 at 14:20
  • This is the right answer in the long run. But we may want a culture that encourages original authors to provides conversions if only so that the diamond mods don't have much dreary duty in the meantime. Commented Oct 15, 2010 at 3:11
  • @dmckee: Ideally, I totally agree. Although, individual (authors) aren't as likely to know these conventions as the greater, community-wide whole. You need more editors (+2000-rep) so these conventions can be enforced through crowd-sourcing. Not by relying on Moderators. That means vote, vote, VOTE! Commented Oct 15, 2010 at 14:12

I think we should just put the 'native' unit followed by the conversion in brackets. That means authors can use their own preferred units, or possibly the OP's units so that answers match questions, but having both will always be helpful.

Obviously there are other issues though, for instance, volumes and weight are subtlety different in the imperial and United States system. I think that United States units should be assumed, and the poster should say if they are using imperial units.

Why can't everyone just use metric. Sigh

  • 1
    There is no subtly about the variation. One US pint is 0.83 imperial pints. That's a very significant difference. Also "cup" is different (and also rarely used outside US so difference is less well known).
    – Richard
    Commented Jul 18, 2010 at 9:50
  • You guys don't have cups @Richard?
    – Ivo Flipse
    Commented Aug 4, 2010 at 6:10
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    @IvoFlipse: we do (as 250ml) but not commonly used. Most recipes would say "250ml".
    – Richard
    Commented Aug 13, 2010 at 13:01
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    @IvoFlipse: When I see "cup" in a recipe, I immediately think of a coffee cup, before I remember that you guys actually use a cup as a specific measure.
    – awe
    Commented Mar 5, 2012 at 11:00
  • Company headquarters is NY, NY. Whois (WWW registration) shows NY, NY for both administrative and technical contact.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 15:00
  • I clarified what "native" means, since this question has come up periodically over the years, and yours is the top answer saying something about the "right" choice of units.
    – Cascabel Mod
    Commented Mar 18, 2017 at 2:26

This isn't an answer but a suggestion: Would it be possible/desirable to add a metric/English weight converter?

I just posted a question using 5lbs in it, which I edited to add the metric value. It is easy enough to find conversion sites on the internet, but it would be convenient to have it incorporated. I am not sure it would do much to heighten the awareness that users are international and many (if not most) use metric, but maybe more folks would include conversions if we set an example, and make it easier.

This is just a thought. I won't debate it either way.


I just had a discussion about this topic. I just report thoughts and facts on the argument

  • stack exchange sites is an international, worldwide community.
  • the point of a worldwide community is to be able to communicate easily among different cultures, countries, and experiences.
  • on some sites, some countries are probably highly represented, most likely USA and Canada
  • in such highly represented countries, non-standard units are used.

Now. when it comes to so-called customary units, such as spoons, or cups, they are non standard but they are, within a reasonable approximation, the same for everyone. They are also easily available in the cooking work environment, namely the kitchen. Things change when we talk about lbs, stones, or Fahrenheit. These are non-standard, non-customary, non-metric units that have sense only within a particular community, which also happens to be highly represented, but not the only one on this site.

The point I want to make is that, for the sake of interoperability, community wellness and growth, most of the people on SE sites are already respecting a de-facto standard, which is the English language, instead of their own native language. So, for us non-native, an effort is already made to use a de-facto standard. It would be kind that those people using non-standard units also provide a small effort as well, by providing the information (as an addition) in a worldwide adopted standard, the metric system, when describing procedures, temperatures and quantities. It would scale well, demonstrate an effort, and allow US/Cad/UK people to learn the metric system easily.

  • 1
    This is definitely the better place to have that discussion. And I agree that members should make an effort, whenever possible, to provide both units, as common courtesy for a worldwide audience; however, it should not be a "rule", because a standard is only a "standard" if everybody or at least the majority of people use it - not necessarily the case here. As Robert suggests, those with the ability should edit posts to include conversions if missing; those without could leave a polite comment requesting a conversion or, better yet, giving one.
    – Aaronut
    Commented Aug 14, 2010 at 13:47
  • 3
    I would hate to have a real professional like Darin come to the site and have their first experience be to get blasted for posting a great answer that happened to be using Farenheit or Ounces. If we're lucky, their reaction would be "don't care"; if we're not, they'd take their ball and go home. So while we should encourage people whenever possible to mind their audience, we also all need to be cosmopolitan as readers and not get caught up in the minutiae.
    – Aaronut
    Commented Aug 14, 2010 at 13:53
  • (And this is exactly the case in Canada, BTW; we don't actually use "non-standard" units, most of us know the standard and imperial units, and those of us who don't, have learned to expect to see both in the wild and quietly do the conversions on Google. I have no idea what a stone is either, but given the potentially vastly diverse audience and all the difference in measurement, not to mention terminology, I think the entire community would be much happier if everybody were tolerant of localization issues.)
    – Aaronut
    Commented Aug 14, 2010 at 13:59
  • I agree that we should make an effort to provide our own conversions. I do, at least with temperature. It has actually made me more familiar with centigrade. I don't think having any kind of expectation in place is a good idea though. It's not hard for someone to come along and edit posts that don't include a conversion.
    – hobodave
    Commented Aug 14, 2010 at 14:05
  • Given that a large portion of the users of this site so far seem to be from North America, I think it's a losing battle to request temp in C. People just won't do it. Chiding them is more likely to send them away than change their behavior. I think it would be a best practice for all users to list both C and F, which I've been doing (even though C means nothing at all to me). This is quite common practice in highly scientific cooking books (On Food and Cooking or any discussion of Sous Vide for instance).
    – yossarian
    Commented Aug 14, 2010 at 15:05
  • Also, your English is very good, and I think it's great that you are participating so much in a site that's not in your native tongue. That said, I also think English is the most appropriate language for this site. Behind Mandarin Chinese, English has the largest worldwide penetration and is by far the most common 2nd language to learn. Worldwide English speakers out number Italian by almost a factor of 10.
    – yossarian
    Commented Aug 14, 2010 at 15:10
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    I don't think he was complaining about using English @yossarian
    – hobodave
    Commented Aug 14, 2010 at 23:38
  • @hobodave, I was poking a little fun @stefano. Even his blog is largely in English. ;o)
    – yossarian
    Commented Aug 15, 2010 at 2:35

Automatic conversion via a tooltip would be nice.

We will get either "add approximately 1 lb (454g)" (convert with full precision, round to whole number) or "add precisely 1 lb (0.4 kg)" (keep significant figures). I suggest the former, as its just silly, but won't cause recipe failure.

It'll be funny when we get people talking about "pound (453g) cakes".

Temperature conversion is difficult "increase 10°F (-12.2°C)" is just plain wrong. I suggest that both conversions (delta and absolute) should be given in the tooltip.

This strikes me as something that could be done with Greasemonkey, entirely in JavaScript, and if it works well, maybe could be integrated.


Of course, we should all use the metric system :P

I think your other suggestion would be better, though. It makes the least amount of people need to do extra work.

The Fahrenheit-people will think "Screw you" if they need to post in Celsius and probably a) leave the site or b) write temperatures in Fahrenheit anyways. The same would happen if the situation was reversed.

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    And of course I will then want the temperature in gas mark...
    – Richard
    Commented Jul 18, 2010 at 9:50

It would be very useful to have the the values converted 'on the fly' so to speak, not only for temperatures but for Imperial to metric and vice versa.


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