Dry Measuring Cups

From America's Test Kitchen Season 9: Old-Fashioned Snack Cakes

Overview:

After a shopping trip during which we picked up 11 sets of measuring cups, it became apparent that there are substantial differences among brands. Manufacturers disagree on design issues: Are stainless steel or plastic cups preferable? Short or long handles? Regardless of design differences, measuring cups should be accurate, comfortable, easy to use, and durable.

We first downgraded all sets in which the measurement could be read only on the bottoms of the cups. Testers unanimously disliked these sets, finding it nearly impossible to confirm the size of a cup once it was full of any ingredient.

As for design testers preferred stainless steel for heft, balance, and durability (plastic can get scratched, and markings fade in the dishwasher over time), though one seven-piece plastic set fared especially well for accuracy and durability. They also preferred long handles that extend straight out and are level with the brim of the cup; angled or raised handles obstruct our preferred “dip and sweep” measuring method when drawing a… read more

After a shopping trip during which we picked up 11 sets of measuring cups, it became apparent that there are substantial differences among brands. Manufacturers disagree on design issues: Are stainless steel or plastic cups preferable? Short or long handles? Regardless of design differences, measuring cups should be accurate, comfortable, easy to use, and durable.

We first downgraded all sets in which the measurement could be read only on the bottoms of the cups. Testers unanimously disliked these sets, finding it nearly impossible to confirm the size of a cup once it was full of any ingredient.

As for design testers preferred stainless steel for heft, balance, and durability (plastic can get scratched, and markings fade in the dishwasher over time), though one seven-piece plastic set fared especially well for accuracy and durability. They also preferred long handles that extend straight out and are level with the brim of the cup; angled or raised handles obstruct our preferred “dip and sweep” measuring method when drawing a straight edge across the rim, while dropped handles sometimes collect a little extra flour or sugar.

Methodology:

We tested 11 sets of measuring cups and rated them according to following criteria:


Accuracy

While a dry measuring cup will never rival a scale for perfect measuring, we wanted ours to be within 5 percent of its corresponding weight. We knew better than to use flour to test accuracy, but instead filled each cup to the brim with water. (We have found that eyeballing fluid in a cup yields a more precise measurement than filling it with a dry ingredient, where the amount can vary by as much as 10 percent, depending on who is doing the measuring.)


Design

We asked each tester to comment on the legibility of the measurement markings. Because many cooks use measuring cups for mise en place—measuring out flour or sugar and leaving the full cup on the counter until it’s required—we also expected the cups to be evenly weighted and stable (not easily knocked over).


Comfort

Our favored measuring method is the “dip and sweep”: dipping the cup into the bin or sack, scooping out a heaping cupful, then leveling the cup with the straight side of a knife. We asked testers to comment on the comfort of the cup, especially the handle, when measuring 1 cup of flour.


Durability

Ease of cleaning and resistance to scratching were evaluated. We scratched cups with both a knife and rasp grater, and we painted them with yellow curry paste and then attempted to wash out the stain.

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