Since both can measure ingredients from as little as 1/4 cup to 1 cup (or more), many people wonder if they really need both types—especially when they have limited space.
Let’s back up a touch and clarify the two types: liquid measures are glass or plastic with a pour spout and graduated measuring marks on the side. They come in 1-, 2-, 4- and even 8-cup sizes. Dry measures look like straight-sided cups with handles and usually come in a set (typically 1/4-, 1/3-, 1/2- and 1-cup sizes).
In our Test Kitchen, we religiously use liquid and dry measures for their intended purpose, depending on what we’re measuring. Anything completely pourable (e.g., water, broth, milk) is measured in a liquid measure; anything we can scoop and level (e.g., flour, sugar, yogurt, peanut butter) is measured in the dry cups.
It’s easier to measure liquids in a liquid cup because it has some headspace: you can pour in an entire cup of a liquid without it overflowing. Try moving a 1-cup dry measure that’s full of milk and you’ll have a big mess.
Accuracy comes into play when measuring dry ingredients. Put 1 cup of flour in a liquid measure and you can’t tell if you have just 1 cup because it’s hard to level the flour without packing it down. You’ll likely end up with too much flour and dry baked goods.
So, for accuracy with less mess, make room for both types of measuring cups in your kitchen.
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