TIP OF THE DAY: Measure Ingredients Using The Right Measuring Cups | The Nibble Webzine Of Food Adventures - The Nibble Webzine Of Food Adventures TIP OF THE DAY: Measure Ingredients Using The Right Measuring Cups | The Nibble Webzine Of Food Adventures
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TIP OF THE DAY: Measure Ingredients Using The Right Measuring Cups

If you bake, take note:

Liquid and dry measuring cups are not interchangeable. Precision is especially critical in baking, which is an exact science. Variations can compromise the recipe, especially if it’s a fragile recipe like macarons and angel food cakes.

That’s why so many professional recipes are listed by weight (grams) instead of volume. The challenges of using the wrong type of cup to measure ingredients:

  • Measure a liquid ingredient in a dry measuring cup and you can either spill it or underfill it. While dry ingredients filled to the rim of the cup don’t spill when carried or raised to the bowl, liquids can easily be jostled by the motion and spill over.
  • Measure a dry ingredient in a liquid measuring cup and it will similarly be difficult to get an accurate amount, because you can’t level it.

    The classic liquid measuring cup. Photo courtesy Pyrex.



    Liquid measuring cups are see-through, either glass or plastic. A good liquid measuring cup has extra space between the topmost gradation mark and the rim, so with a full measure (e.g., one cup), the liquid won’t splash out when carried (see the photo above).

    Fill the cup until the top of the liquid meets the correct gradation line when viewed at eye level. Some people keep the cup on the counter and bend down to see the gradation and the meniscus. If you have a steady hand, you can lift the cup to eye level.


    Dry measuring cups. Metal measuring cups are
    preferable to plastic, which can warp in the
    dishwasher. Photo courtesy RSVP.

    Liquids in a container have a tendency to form a meniscus, the Greek word for crescent.* The meniscus is the curve in the upper surface of the liquid, caused by surface tension as it touches the wall of the container.

    When viewed from the side of a clear measuring cup, the meniscus looks like a line of liquid wrapped around the inside of the cup.

    The accurate measure is from the bottom of the meniscus line, not the top. The bottom of the meniscus should be touching the appropriate gradation line on the cup.

    *The Greek menískos,crescent, is diminutive of mene, moon.


    Using a dry measuring cup enables you to fill the ingredients to the rim, then level the ingredients for an accurate amount: Use a knife or metal spatula to scrape off the excess (scrape it onto a piece of wax paper so you can return it to the canister or package).

    If you want absolute precision, weigh dry ingredients. Put the ingredients in the measuring cup, having adjusted the scale to deduct the weight of the empty cup.

    Note that each ingredient has a different weight: One cup of sugar does not weigh the same as one cup of flour.

    Whether dry or liquid, it takes a wee bit more time to measure ingredients precisely; but the results are worth it.

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