Could we find a perfect set to sweep the competition?
Published Aug. 1, 2016. Appears in Cook's Country TV Season 10: Smoky Barbecue Favorites
Success in baking starts with careful measuring. And while a good scale is the most accurate tool, dry measuring cups are often more practical for the home cook. Lots of new models have come on the market since we last tested measuring cups eight years ago, so we decided to revisit the category. We rounded up 12 sets, priced from about $5.00 to $45.00 and including our prior winner (from Amco), and headed into the test kitchen to see which ones measured up.
Our preferred measuring method for dry ingredients is the “dip and sweep”: We dip the cup into the container of flour or sugar, scoop out a heaping cupful, and then sweep the top of the measure level with the back of a knife. Models with handles that extend out on the same plane as the top of the cup best accommodate this, so we chose a combination of metal and plastic cups with this basic shape. We also limited our selection to sets that included at least the four essential sizes: 1 cup, 1/2 cup, 1/3 cup, and 1/4 cup.
First we evaluated the cups for their most important quality: accuracy. We carefully filled each cup to its maximum capacity with both water and granulated sugar and weighed it on a calibrated lab-quality scale; then, knowing how much a cup of both water and sugar should weigh, we did the math to determine accuracy and scored the cups accordingly. Three sets were off by as much as 6 percent, sending them tumbling in the rankings. Our top performers were either spot-on or off by just a fraction of a percentage point.
Next we turned to ease of use. We asked a range of test cooks and editors to dip and sweep a cup of flour with the 1-cup measure from each of the 12 sets. Even with our carefully vetted lineup of straight-handled cups, our testers found problems with several models—those with rims slightly higher than the handles created a jarring catch to the sweeping motion that was at best awkward and at worst jostled the cup and required us to start anew. We preferred cups that were perfectly even with the handles for seamless sweeping.
The measurement markings on some cup sets were large and well placed on the handles, where they were easily identifiable. Cups with tiny or hidden markings were irksome, as we had to double-check to see which cup we were using. The downfall for some plastic cups was the impermanence of their measurement markings; those that were printed in ink came off with very little scrubbing. Almost all the stainless-steel sets have markings that are etched on; no amount of scrubbing was going to take those off. One outlying stainless-steel set had markings in ink on plastic handles—markings that came right off.
An additional problem:...
The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing. We stand behind our winners so much that we even put our seal of approval on them.