Tuesday’s Tip: Wet vs. Dry Measuring Cups*

Welcome to a new mini-series called Tuesday’s Tips! Every Tuesday or until I run out of ideas I plan on sharing a fun tip, trick or how-to. I want to share what I have learned over the years and I figured there is no better people to share it with than y’all! :-)

The down and dirty:

 

Is there a difference between a Wet/Dry Measuring Cup? Yes!

Do I actually need to use the right measuring cup for the ingredient? Yes, especially when baking a sensitive recipe. It doesn’t always matter when cooking…but with baking being such a science, it can mean the difference between a successful cake and a flat cake.

Which one is a dry measuring cup? The green one.  They are flat on top so the dry ingredient can be leveled off with something like a butter knife. They also usually come in multiples like 1 cup, 1/2 cup, 1/3rd cup, 1/4 cup & 1/8 cup.

Which one is a wet measuring cup? The pink one. They are usually clear for a more accurate reading and are often made of glass with a spout for pouring. They also have numbering on the sides, in both cups and ounces.

 

 

The more extended answers:

 

Above I have 1 cup of flour, in a DRY measuring cup, that I scooped out of a flour bag and leveled off with a butter knife. I then poured it into the WET measuring cup (on the right). You can see in the photo that the reading on the WET measuring cup shows 1 1/4 cup flour.

Why does it read differently? Because when you use a DRY measuring cup, you are scooping and leveling the top off for the most accurate reading. But when I poured the flour into the WET measuring cup, the flour became less compacted. I was also unable to level off the top…which lead to a much less accurate reading. You could tap the bottom of the WET measuring cup to settle the ingredients…but then you are running a risk of compacting the flour too much. Also, it is very hard to level the top of the flour in a WET measuring cup since you can not scrape across the top.

So is the DRY measuring cup accurate? Not exactly. It is definitely more accurate over the WET measuring cup. But the only true way to get an accurate reading on dry ingredients is by weight (using a kitchen scale). Americans are one of the few to actually still be using cups as a measurement in baking…the rest of the world is using grams or ounces to measure out their dry ingredients.

 

Above I have measured out 1 cup of milk in a DRY measuring cup and then poured it into a WET measuring cup. Both measuring cups show exactly 1 cup of milk.

Why is it the same for the milk and not for the flour? Because the milk is by volume. The only true reason to use a WET measuring cup for liquids…it’s easier. Filling a DRY measuring cup to the very top can make a giant mess…which is why on WET measuring cups you will see space between the top line and the actual top of the glass.

 

 

Long story short:

 

Can you use a DRY measuring cup for WET ingredients? Yes, but it can be a pain.

Can you use a WET measuring cup for DRY ingredients? No, not if you want an accurate reading.

 

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41 Responses to “Tuesday’s Tip: Wet vs. Dry Measuring Cups”

  1. 1

    Mimi — January 3, 2012 @ 1:46 am

    Love the idea and love this week’s tip! My mother actually has a kitchen scale from way back when. I used it once to measure out flour for tart crusts and I had impeccable results! There really is a huge difference :)

  2. 2

    Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga — January 3, 2012 @ 1:47 am

    GREAT POST!!

    I may be the only person who likes measuring cups rather than a kitchen scale. I find them faster and easier and perhaps less accurate but since I am not studying at the CIA and am only baking things for my family, if I am off by 1 oz or 1/4 c or whatever, the world will still go on.

    But this post is awesome. And I love your measuring cups!

  3. 3

    Heather of Kitchen Concoctions — January 3, 2012 @ 2:10 am

    Oh what a fun new feature! Great tips! Can’t wait to see what other tips you will be sharing!

  4. 4

    Jenn — January 3, 2012 @ 2:10 am

    Ha, this just convinces me more and more to just go by weight and use a scale, lol!

  5. 5

    Kathryn — January 3, 2012 @ 3:59 am

    I never really thought about there being a difference between wet and dry cups but then again I hardly ever use cups unless I’m being super lazy about converting to grams. And, er, my cup measures are Russian dolls from Anthropologie so are probably good for neither wet nor dry ingredients…

  6. 6

    Bev Weidner — January 3, 2012 @ 7:42 am

    Love this! I always forget and pour wine into the dry cup. And then into my mouth so I guess I’m off the hook.

    xo!

  7. 7

    JulieD — January 3, 2012 @ 8:19 am

    I’m guilty of using wet ingredients in dry measuring cups. Did you know that you don’t want to scoop flour using your measuring cup? You don’t want to pack flour so you’re supposed to scoop it into your measuring cup and then level off. I just learned that recently. Great new series, I’m looking forward to more!

    • Jessica replied: — January 3rd, 2012 @ 12:35 pm

      Really? Hmph…Alton Brown must have lied to me! I saw on his show years ago that you should scoop and then level the top!

  8. 8

    Tara @ Chip Chip Hooray — January 3, 2012 @ 8:49 am

    Definitely a great new feature! And psh, I guess my boyfriend has been right all along in badgering me to get a wet measuring cup. But my dry ones are so cute! ;)

    • Jessica replied: — January 3rd, 2012 @ 12:37 pm

      I take it ALL back! Everything you read above is incorrect!

      …Boyfriends should NEVER be right. Don’t tell him, it will only give him a big ego. :-P

  9. 9

    Paula — January 3, 2012 @ 9:21 am

    Enjoying this new mini-series of yours :)

  10. 10

    Gina @ Running to the Kitchen — January 3, 2012 @ 9:34 am

    Love this new “series”! I knew which was which, but I didn’t realize it mattered that much! Good thing I usually stick to the appropriate cups. It’s way easier to stick a dry cup into a bag of flour than the wet one anyways ;)

  11. 11

    raquel from Florida — January 3, 2012 @ 9:55 am

    I’m a polymer engineer and I consider my kitchen as my lab, so I really use the different cups to measure different ingredients. I also use a scale and convert from grams to ounces and ounces to grams depending on the book I’m using that day (If the book is from europe or south america I use the metric system). My daughters says I’m obsessed with my kitchen-lab thing heheeheh! If I could I would have a better scale and beakers, test tubes and all the lab paraphernalia in my kitchen!

    • Jessica replied: — January 3rd, 2012 @ 12:36 pm

      I want to come watch you work in your kitchen! I am NEVER that exact! haha!

  12. 12

    Rachel @ Baked by Rachel — January 3, 2012 @ 10:18 am

    I can’t imagine ever using a ‘dry’ measuring cup for liquids- that’d be a mess waiting to happen. I do use either or for items such as cranberries etc though. Usually it’s just whatever I grab at the time and like you said – not a sensitive item like flour and other dry goods.

    • Jessica replied: — January 3rd, 2012 @ 12:36 pm

      Me too! Things like dried nuts or cranberries… it doesn’t matter which one you use. At least, not to me. :-D

  13. 13

    Rachael — January 3, 2012 @ 11:48 am

    Wow …the question I’ve pondered yet have been too lazy to actually figure out. Thanks for covering a topic deemed too trivial to address..but its not! :D

  14. 14

    Maria — January 3, 2012 @ 12:36 pm

    Fun post! I can’t wait to hear all of your tips!

  15. 15

    Ashley @ Kitchen Meets Girl — January 3, 2012 @ 12:56 pm

    Love the post! I’ll probably always be too lazy not to measure by weight, but I do know when to use a wet vs. dry measuring cup. I had to bite my tongue the other morning when hubby used a dry cup for milk–I didn’t want to criticize since he was making ME breakfast. Hmmm…maybe I should forward this post to him?!? Can’t wait to see next Tuesday’s tips!

  16. 16

    Kim (Feed Me, Seymour) — January 3, 2012 @ 1:09 pm

    I’m feeling so conflicted on this post… On the one hand, it was so informative, interesting to read and great. On the other hand, it means I need to admit that my husband is right. Either way, I refuse to relinquish control of my kitchen! Can’t wait for the next tip!!!

  17. 17

    Emilie @ Emilie's Enjoyables — January 3, 2012 @ 1:23 pm

    Great idea to post this info! I know it took me a while to understand the difference and when to use each one.

  18. 18

    Cassie — January 3, 2012 @ 5:35 pm

    Great explanations. Love the photos too. Looking forward to this series! :)

  19. 19

    Lauren — January 3, 2012 @ 6:10 pm

    Some great info! And, those are some cute measuring cups!

  20. 20

    Joanne — January 3, 2012 @ 8:47 pm

    I’m a measure by weight kinda gal for all my dry ingredients but I definitely would have appreciated this before I bought a kitchen scale!

  21. 21

    Bee (Quarter Life Crisis Cuisine) — January 3, 2012 @ 8:54 pm

    THANK YOU! I never knew the exact science behind it, and in a pinch have used both. But this makes SO much sense :)

  22. 22

    Madonna — January 4, 2012 @ 4:20 pm

    I love tips of any kind. Please keep them coming. However, when it is all said and done please get a scale. I cannot stress enough how much better my baking improved once I broke down and bought a scale. If you are going to bake it is a cheap investment. Rose Levy Beranbaum, author of The Cake Bible is even converting from ounces to grams an even more exact measurement. With mise en place it is actually gratifying to weigh out everything before I start to mix. I am less likely to leave out an ingredient as I have been known to do.

  23. 23

    Jessica — January 4, 2012 @ 4:26 pm

    Hey Madonna,

    I do have a kitchen scale and use it on touchy baking recipes, but don’t use it on things like quick breads and most cookies.

    That being said, I know most people don’t use a kitchen scale…so this post will hopefully help them with a little more accuracy in their baking! :-)

  24. 24

    Rachael — January 5, 2012 @ 3:14 am

    I always use a scale if the recipe has weights in it, but so often things are given in cups and various spoon sizes – it’s frustrating! I don’t have a dry measuring cup set, but was planning on getting one today, as it happens! Like you said, if you tap a wet measuring cup to settle flour you compact it. This only occurred to me recently when I realised that weighed flour for cakes or bread is always just right but measured in a cup, the dough is often too dry.

    Great tip! Looking forward to the next installment. :)

  25. 25

    Tina @ mylifeasamrs — January 5, 2012 @ 1:27 pm

    THANK you for posting this… it’s drives me bananas that most people don’t know the difference!!!! :)

  26. 26

    Don — January 6, 2012 @ 7:57 pm

    I got a book for myself called The Art and Soul of Baking. Between that and Alton Brown I am now sworn of measuring ingredents and now will only weigh them.
    The Art and Soul of Baking has a great chart in it that shows how much stuff weighs.
    From what I have made so far, it seems to allow for more consistancy for me.

  27. 27

    Andi — January 9, 2012 @ 12:57 pm

    GREAT post! I’d also heard that about not scooping flour – that you’re supposed to ‘drop’ it into the cup and then level off, in lieu of sifting. I’m an avid baker but still too lazy to sift every time (not too lazy to sift; just to clean up the mess).

    I generally use whatever’s handy as far as measuring cups go – dry/wet/whatever. But I’m going to be more careful now!

  28. 28

    Gemma — January 9, 2012 @ 10:42 pm

    Love the article! Chalk me up as one who uses dry measuring cups all the time for liquids, especially when measuring less than a cup. I have given up entirely on liquid measuring cups and have turned to lab glass beakers. The graduations on them are only within about 5% accurate, but I know that they will be at least that close, unlike the cheap junk you find in the supermarket. The only drawback is, they don’t insulate well and they don’t have handles, so hot things require protection. As for dry ingredients, I am switching more and more to using my kitchen scale, but it depends on the recipe. Some recipes just aren’t that fussy. One thing I *never* do, though, is measure a dry ingredient with a liquid cup. I have also found myself recording my recipes using milliliter measurements rather than cups, using the 240 ml to a cup system, which makes it easy, because some of my friends are in other parts of the world, and when I publish my recipes, weights in grams and volumes in milliliters make for fewer misunderstandings. Now, if I could just find a 1/3 teaspoon stainless measuring spoon!

  29. 29

    Lyn @LovelyPantry — January 11, 2012 @ 12:16 am

    Wow, so I’ve been delaying getting a kitchen scale but now I can really see the importance. I love this post!

  30. 30

    The Novice Chef » Tuesday’s Tip: Wet vs. Dry Measuring Cups | she cooks, he eats — January 17, 2012 @ 6:37 pm

    [...] The Novice Chef » Tuesday’s Tip: Wet vs. Dry Measuring Cups [...]

  31. 31

    Jessica — September 2, 2012 @ 9:49 am

    How do I use a scale? Convert ALL my recipes into scale measurements? Please explain.

  32. 32

    Linda — February 10, 2013 @ 3:46 pm

    I wouldn’t use any of them. Better a kitchen scale with gram

  33. 33

    Lindsay — April 20, 2013 @ 5:33 pm

    Hi there,I love your dry measuring cups. Where did you buy the set?

    • Jessica replied: — April 22nd, 2013 @ 9:56 am

      Those were from Target about 4 years ago!

  34. 34

    Candy — May 15, 2013 @ 11:35 am

    Hi Jessica,

    I am just wondering is USA 1 cup = 240ml or 236ml or 225ml???

    Some American cookbooks say it’s 240ml, some 236ml, and some 225ml!!!

    I’m so confused.

    • Jessica replied: — May 15th, 2013 @ 3:52 pm

      Hi Candy!

      I’m sorry – but I am not the person to ask! I know cups and ozs, but I don’t know MLs.

  35. 35

    Jeff — March 1, 2014 @ 3:30 pm

    Actual Measurement Equivalency:

    1 Dry Unit = 1.1636 Wet Unit

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