I get it. Kitchens are small and budgets smaller. It would be easy to say a measuring cup is a measuring cup is a measuring cup. Is it really necessary to have separate equipment for dry and wet ingredients?
Sorry, I’m not going to let you Marie Kondo your way out of this one.
You should have dry measuring cups, and you should have liquid measuring cups.
I knew I had to stage an intervention to enforce this bit of kitchen wisdom after spending years watching my mom doubled over the counter awkwardly trying to reach in and level off flour in a Pyrex liquid measuring cup. I went to the kitchen store and bought her a much nicer set of dry measuring cups than even I owned. It had less-common sizes — ⅔ cup, 1 ½ cups — as well as nonslip handles and numbers that wouldn’t wear off in the dishwasher.
She was elated. She couldn’t believe how she had lived without them. She told me she loved them. She used them!
And then I visited a while later, and there she was, spooning flour into the Pyrex.
This is not uncommon, thinking of measuring cups as interchangeable. Some manufacturers of the dry cups only contribute to the misconception. I have two plastic sets that include spouts on the cups as if you should be pouring liquid out of them.
These are some of the biggest reasons both types of measuring cups should be in your kitchen.
Liquid measuring cups:
- Give you extra room between the highest measurement and the rim of the glass. This, plus an actually functional spout, makes for easy pouring, unlike dry cups that have to be filled up to the top to reach the desired volume, meaning liquids will just slosh out or dribble down the side as you tip them.
- Are microwave-safe, handy for melting butter or heating milk for a single serving of cocoa.
- Come in larger sizes, including 4 and 8 cups. It’s a lot easier for measuring, say, broth for a soup.
- Are clear, so you can see the meniscus (science class flashback — the curved surface of the liquid, the center of which is your reference point) and get the most precise measurement.
Dry measuring cups:
- Get filled to the top so you can smoothly level off your ingredients, such as flour, with a knife.
- Are lightweight and durable, perfect for tapping every last bit out on the edge of your bowl — or for when you accidentally drop them while doing so. (Step away from the cute ceramic ones at the boutique. They won’t last.)
- Come in sets so you don’t have to keep cleaning out the same cup, especially if you’re portioning out various amounts of different ingredients.
- Are shallow enough to let you scrape out such sticky ingredients as honey or corn syrup.
The good news is that both types of cups are relatively compact and cheap. For less than $20, you will make your cooking easier, more accurate and neater.