There are three main methods for measuring ingredients for cooking and baking, and conveniently they use three corresponding tool sets. The methods are: 1) measuring dry ingredients, 2) measuring wet ingredients, and 3) measuring dry or wet ingredients. In this lesson, we go over these tasks and cover when to use each.
Measuring Wet Ingredients
One of the most classic tools in the kitchen, a measuring cup helps you quantify wet ingredients, things like water, olive oil, milk, cream, yogurt and more. We have a small clear glass Pyrex measuring cup, but they come in all sizes, even giant ones. Let’s measure out 1 cup of water:
Stand near you kitchen sink and hold the cup firmly by the handle. Turn the faucet on, starting the water at pretty good clip at first. It might be a good idea to let it run for 2-3 seconds. Move the measuring cup under the stream and hold it there until the water gets to about the 1-cup line marker on the side of the cup. If you’re feeling lucky you can try to get it dead on the line the first try. Wherever the water line lands after you turn the water off, place the cup on a counter or convenient level surface. Position your eye at an even level with the cup and look at the water’s relative position to the marker on the side of the cup. That’s the important part–you want to make sure that you’re taking the reading of the measurement from a still cup on a level surface. Now, in some recipes, a difference of a few milliliters (mls) won’t make much of a difference, but this move is important for getting it right when you need to. If the water line is above the 1-cup mark at the center of the reading line, take the cup back to the sink and carefully pour some water out, reading the line with the cup back on the level surface. If the water line is below the 1-cup line, take the cup back to the sink and carefully add some with the faucet until you’ve got enough. Sweet, we did it! Now let’s do flour.
Measuring Dry Ingredients
Dry ingredients use a set of contraptions that are also called measuring cups(!), wicked confusing I know. Not sure who named these the same thing…anyway, they help measure things like flour, sugar, diced onions, walnuts and more. Usually they come in sets of four sizes, 1/4 cup, 1/3 cup, 1/2 cup, and 1 full cup. We just measured a cup of water; let’s now measure 1/2 cup of flour.
Start by putting the 1/2 cup measure in one hand, and a large spoon in the other. Pull flour from your source of flour with the large spoon. I’m using these large ingredient storage jars where we keep our flour. If you don’t have those, no worries, you can pull the flour right out of the bag. Pay no attention to how the flour gets into the spoon, but rather how it falls as your pour it into the 1/2 measuring cup. You want to coat it as evenly as possible scoop after scoop, but make sure you don’t pack it in. When the measuring cup is filled to its top, add a little more. That’s right, go on, you deserve it. Add more until the flour sits slightly above the top of the cup, spilling over a little bit. Now take the spoon and flip it in your hand so you can use the back of it, or some other device, as a straight edge with which to scrape the excess flour from the top of the 1/2 measuring cup. Make sure to do this scraping while positioning the cup over the source (in my case the jar) bag of flour to catch the excess. This technique will ensure an accurate amount that is easy to read; if the flour is even with the top of the 1/2 measuring cup, then you’ve got a 1/2 cup of flour!
Measuring (small amounts of) Wet and Dry Ingredients
Sometimes you’ll need to measure small amounts of ingredients, both dry and wet, all within the same recipe. That calls for measuring spoons. They’re much like the cups, but measure smaller amounts of water, sugar, olive oil, flour, yogurt, baking power and more. Typically they are in 1/2 teaspoon, 1 teaspoon, 1/2 tablespoon, and 1 tablespoon sizes. Let’s get ourselves a 1/2 tablespoon of sugar:
Take the 1/2 tablespoon in your hand and reach it into your source of sugar. Because of the smaller measurement size, it’s safe to dip the measuring spoon into the sugar, as long as it’s clean and dry. Get enough in the spoon that it spills just over the top. Now you can take one of the other measuring spoons (or straight-edge equivalent), and use the non-business end to scrape the sugar clear of the top edge of the 1/2 tablespoon. Again, this technique will give you an accurate measurement because we’re using the tool to mark the amount for us.
Measuring cups (the large, liquid-measure ones) are great for calculating a large amount of wet ingredients; just be sure to take your reading while the cup is resting on the counter so that the liquid is still, to ensure an accurate reading.
Measuring cups (the dry-measure set) are used for solids, and are fun and give accurate measures if the scraping technique is used.
You’ll probably want to use the wet/dry measuring spoons when you’re in need of smaller amounts of both liquid and solid ingredients, like when you’re baking.