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Measuring 101 – Dry versus Wet


If you’re not someone who frequently bakes or cooks, you might find yourself a little confused when it comes to choosing which type of measuring cup you should use.  The information below will hopefully take all of the guesswork out of it for you.  

Let’s talk about the differences between the two…

Dry:  Notice the dry measuring cup on the left in the picture above.  There are no markings on the cup and the top rim of the cup serves as the 1 cup marker.  Dry measuring cups are filled with dry ingredients, such as flour or sugar, and usually leveled off with the edge of a sharp utensil such as a knife.  Sure you could fill this cup with water, but that wouldn’t be wise.  It most probably wouldn’t be accurate, because the surface tension of water allows it to rise slightly higher than the rim of the measuring cup, and you would probably spill some of it before making it to the mixing bowl.  We’ll talk more about wet measurements in a minute… 


Dry measuring cups usually come in a nested set, 1/4,1/2, 3/4, and 1 cup.  Some sets will have a 1/3 and 2/3 cup.  They are specifically made in different sizes, so they can be leveled off with a knife-edge for exact measurement.  Again, you could fill one of these measuring cups with water, but you would probably spill some of it before making it to the mixing bowl… 


Back in the old days, some dry measuring cups were made into one single cup with measurement lines marked on the cup.  However, there was no way to be accurate with the less than one cup measurements, because they could not be leveled off with a knife…

Tips for dry measurements:

Of course the most accurate measurement for dry ingredients is a kitchen digital food scale.  In the absence of a food scale, there are other options and not all dry ingredients are measured alike.

For example, 

Most recipes call for brown sugar to be packed.  Therefore you’ll fill the measuring cup to the top, pack it down with a spoon or your fingers, fill it more if necessary, before leveling it off with a knife-edge.

On the other hand, white sugar is usually just scooped and leveled off with a knife-edge.

Now we’ll talk about flour.  When measuring flour, it’s important to not compact the flour.  There are two commonly used ways to measure flour.  The spoon and sweep method calls for spooning the flour into the measuring cup and sweeping off the top with a sharp utensil edge, such as a knife.  The dip and sweep method calls for dipping the measuring cup into the flour and sweeping off the top with a sharp utensil edge, such as a knife.

Sifting dry ingredients such as flour, powdered sugar or cocoa.  Some recipes call for sifting a dry ingredient.  If a recipe calls for sifting and measuring a dry ingredient, you should sift the ingredient first, then measure it into your measuring cup with a spoon, returning any excess back to its container. If a recipe calls for measuring and sifting a dry ingredient, you should measure the ingredient first, then sift it. For recipes that call for measuring and sifting, a whisk can be used to add in other dry ingredients.  Also, if you do not have a sifter, a wire mesh strainer will work.  This works well for sifting clumpy dry ingredients such as cocoa or powdered sugar to remove the clumps.

Sifting and adding additional dry ingredients:  If a recipe calls for sifting and measuring flour, you should always sift the flour, add the other dry ingredients, such as baking powder, soda or salt and either resift or whisk to combine the ingredients.  If a recipe calls for measuring and sifting, you should measure the flour and add the other dry ingredients to it, then sift all of the ingredients together.   

Other dry ingredients, such as nuts or chocolate chips don’t have to be so exact.  They can be measured by dipping and gently shaking or tapping the measuring cup to make the ingredients settle.  These ingredients will not cause a detrimental change to your recipe if the measurement is off just a little.


Wet:  Notice the cup for wet or liquid ingredients on the left above.  There are lines marking the measuring increments, 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, 3/4 and 1 cup.  The one cup line if far below the top rim of the cup.  This way you can measuring the liquid and not have to worry about spilling some of it before making it to the mixing bowl.  If you try to measure flour or sugar in the wet measuring cup, you have no way of leveling off the measurement for accuracy, therefore, you shouldn’t measure dry ingredients in a wet measuring cup.  Wet means wet!  A wet measuring cup is not meant for just liquids such as water, oil or milk.  Any wet ingredient such as applesauce, sour cream, ketchup…should be measured in a wet measuring cup. 

Tips for wet measuring:  Always place the measuring cup on a level surface before filling it.  Bend down until you are eye level with the cup before adding the wet ingredient.  Fill to the marked line on the measuring cup.

When measuring sticky liquids such as corn syrup or honey, spray the inside of the measuring cup with non stick spray before filling it.  This makes for easy removal of all of the ingredient, thus ensuring a more accurate measurement.

Now that you know that dry means dry and wet means wet, go have some fun in the kitchen!

Cindy @ My Country Table


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