I love to cook, so when I moved from the US to the UK I immediately set about getting used to the ingredients, measurements, etc. You can find just about everything in the UK as you can in the US although sometimes it has a different name. Measurements are a bit different as well, so it’s vital that you know where your recipes come from and have the right measuring equipment. I have a set of US cups and UK cups and I use whichever is appropriate. When baking especially if you use the wrong measurements things can go seriously wrong, so it’s worth double-checking. The metric system is supposedly the official standard in the UK but many recipes use the old imperial measurements. It’s confusing; road measurements are in miles but you buy fuel by the liter. weird.
everything below is UK first, then US second
measurements: the UK uses imperial measurements and the US US measurements. The thing is they both use ounces, cups, pints, etc but the systems are very different. In the UK a cup is 10 ounces and in the US it’s 8. The ounces are almost the same volume so a british cup is 1.2 times the volume of a US cup. In other words if you use a UK cup to measure for a US recipe or vice-versa it’s not going to work very well. teaspoons and tablespoons are US measurements but are used in the UK as well.
Weights are the same in the UK and US, so a pound is a pound. In the UK large weight measurements are sometimes in stone, a stone is 14 pounds. 10 stone 3 is (14 X 10) + 3, is 143 pounds, which is a pain in the ass. generally in cooking you’ll never use the term however
brown bread flour – whole wheat flour <- brown bread is whole wheat bread... kinda. There are so many varieties in both places
strong flour - bread flour <- these flours have extra gluten added. Don't use them when not called for. The word "strong" is used in conjunction with the type, ie strong brown flour
plain flour - flour <- the white stuff, comes in bleached and unbleached in both places
bicarbonate of soda - baking soda <- they're both exactly the same - sodium bicarbonate
baking powder <- same in both places
caster sugar - superfine sugar
icing sugar - powdered sugar or confectioners sugar <- this is finer than caster sugar
demerra sugar - raw sugar <- less processed, I use this pretty often as it has a slightly syrupy flavor. The only thing is it doesn't dissolve as easily
golden syrup - the closest thing I can think of is brown sugar syrup
dark treacle - dark karo, maybe molasses, there's no direct equivalent
light and dark muscovado - this is just a fancy name for light and dark brown sugar
jam sugar - sugar with added pectin, I'm not sure if there's a US equivalent as most add it separately.
jam - jam, preserves, or jelly <- in the UK jam is a catch-all term
jelly - jello, ie fruit flavored gelatin desserts <- if you ask for jelly with your toast in the UK you will get strange looks.
courgette - zucchini
aubegine - eggplant
coriander - cilantro <- we're talking the leaves here. Coriander seed is the same thing in both places.
You'll see both Centigrade and Fahrenheit on UK recipes, but on almost all ovens there's only C, and in the US the ovens use F, so know how to convert the two. On really old UK ovens you might see Gas marks, like gas mark 1-8. Gas mark 1 is about 275 F and each gas mark number is an increase of 25F, so 2 is 300F. In practice the thermostats in most old ovens in any scale (and many new ones as well) are wildly inaccurate so back it up with an over thermometer.
pans, pots, spoons, blenders, mixers, etc all are pretty much the same makes and go by the same terms. there are some terms that can throw you though
cooker - stove or range <- an integrated, free-standing combination of oven and gas or electric burners. In the UK ovens tend to be almost exclusively electric while in the US you can get either gas or electric.
hob - cooktop
ovens: in he UK most ovens are electric and have a circulating fan and so are called convection ovens. These fans cook things faster and tend to heat more evenly although the fan is not always what you want depending on what you're cooking. Better ovens have different modes where you can
turn the fan off. In the US convection ovens are rare and gas is as prevalent as electric. US ovens tend to be much bigger than in europe and you can get all sorts of nice features like warming drawers.
grill - broiler <- On UK electric ovens the grill tends to be on the top of the oven itself where in US gas ovens the broiler is a separate drawer at the bottom
barbecue - grill <- OK, some people in the US call it a barbecue as well, but I was confused, or more often confused others over here when I talked about buying a grill
baking sheets - cookie sheets
hints and tricks:
google has great tools for conversion. If you type in "100 c in f" it converts 100 centigrade to fahrenheit andd vice-versa. "8 uk oz in us oz" converts uk ounces into us ounces, whereas "8 uk oz in us cups" will convert to cups instead. you can do ounces to liters, cups to liters, weights, etc.
Convection ovens heat more evenly and cook food quicker than non-convection ovens, so when using a recipe keep that in mind. If I'm using a convection oven and the recipe is meant for a non-convection I will generally turn it down by 40-50 C or 90-100F.
things that are hard to find in the UK:
buttermilk - you can sometimes find this in the dairy section but if you can't find it just make your own. Add 1 tbsp of acid (clear vinegar or lemon juice) to a US cup, then add milk up to the 1 cup mark. Stir and leave to sit for 5-10 minutes. There you go
italian sausage - on the east coast of the US in any supermarket you can get packs of italian sausage and I used to use it in many dishes or just fry it up by itself as it has great flavor. Impossible to find except in italian stores
things that are hard to find in the US:
tea: lipton is nasty, weak, and horrible. Tetley is a watered-down version of the UK tetley tea. yech