Measuring cups may seem a little boring to start off a regular series with, but when it comes down to it, those little cups are pretty darn important in the kitchen.
There are two different kinds of measuring cups, one kind for measuring wet ingredients and another for dry. It’s important to use the right kind for whatever you are measuring. Will you get close if you use the wrong type? Sure, but be forewarned! If you use cups designed for dry ingredients to measure liquids, you will always short the liquid or end up spilling and if you use those designed to measure liquids for dry ingredients, you will always be over since there isn’t an easy way to level without tamping down the ingredient you are measuring. I’ve found that I use measuring cups most often when I am baking and with baking it is uber important to get your measurements correct. A bread made with too much dry ingredients and not enough liquids isn’t going to turn out right.
Measuring cups for dry ingredients are normally metal or plastic with a rigid rim and a sturdy handle. They usually come in sets of 1/4 cup, 1/3 cup, 1/2 cup and 1 cup and sometimes you can find sets that also include 1/8 cup, 2/3 cup and 3/4 cup like the set I have here from Cooking.com. For a very long time, I used only plastic measuring cups, but after about the fourth set of those in five years, I decided that was enough. I bought a metal set and I’ve never looked back. My plastic ones just didn’t hold up…they would crack or even melt in the dishwasher (despite being labeled as dishwasher safe) and one set even discolored weirdly. My metal ones are awesome. They stack up nicely, clean easily, and have a nice heft to them. When you are measuring dry ingredients, you should never press and compact the ingredient into the cup, except when you are measuring brown sugar which is always packed into the cup. To measure everything else, fill the cup to the brim lightly and then level it off with the flat side of a knife. Packing an ingredient that shouldn’t be, such as flour, will throw off your recipe.
Wet measuring cups are usually glass or clear plastic so you can read the amount through the side at eye level. They have a spout for pouring and usually have a handle as well for easy use. I would advocate going with glass and specifically Pyrex for a couple of reasons. First, they are glass, so repeated trips through the dishwasher won’t make them brittle. Also, the measurement marks on Pyrex are really baked on there, so they won’t scratch off with use. Finally, the handles are attached in such a way that they are stackable so you can have multiple volumes of measuring cups and they won’t take up a ton of space. Now, glass can break (it’s glass!) but I’ve been using my Pyrex measuring cups for almost 15 years and I’ve even dropped them from time to time (not recommending this) but they still look like they’re new.
I’ll be posting regularly on kitchen tools, terms, ingredients, and tricks, so keep an eye out for another useful Kitchen Basics review shortly!