Anyone who cooks regularly will say they know exactly how much is in a pinch or dash. They will most likely hold up their hand, putting their index finger and thumb together at some seemingly indiscriminate distance, of which only those directly in front of them will be able to tell how much they actually mean. I, however, can openly admit I did not know how much was in a pinch or dash, or even that they are technically different measurements. Although they aren’t recognized by NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) as accurate measurements here in the U.S., they are widely accepted by chefs as having an exact volume to them.
A pinch is smaller than a dash, and there is a unit smaller than a pinch even: a smidgen. They follow the rule that most of the U.S. measurements follow, which is typically called binary submultiples, among other names. That just means that each unit is just one half the size of the unit larger than it, and that unit is one half the size of the next largest unit, and so forth. So as one would surmise, two smidgens make a pinch, two pinches make a dash, and two dashes make what is called a saltspoon, and two saltspoons make a coffeespoon, and then two coffeespoons make a teaspoon, and so forth. That is the size ranking of each of those units, but I am sure you might be curious as to what the exact volumes of each measurement is. And if you aren’t, I am going to tell you anyway, because I was curious about it, and I want to share my curiosity with you. A smidgen is 1/32 tsp, or 0.115522 mL; a pinch is 1/16 tsp, or 0.231043 mL; and lastly, a dash is 1/8 tsp, or 0.462086 mL. I decided to include their metric volumes just in case someone is reading this from any country that isn’t the United States, United Kingdom, Liberia, or Burma.
I would like to think I am a reasonable person, who doesn’t always need to be exact, but I would be lying if I said I am not going to attempt to accurately measure out the respective volume for each unit next time a recipe calls for a “pinch” or “dash” of something. Now whether you do or not is totally up to you, but at least now you have this useful little factoid to bring up next time you need a clever ice breaker, or just really want to have a response when you hear someone say “Tell me something I don’t know.”