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Which Measuring Cups to Use for Liquids vs Solids?

Last Thanksgiving I pontificated to my visiting (grown-up) kids that one should always use solid measuring cups for solids and liquid measuring cups for liquids.  Being well brought up, they listened politely and even nodded their heads as if I was speaking the gospel truth.

But Eleanor, bless her “prove it to me” personality and determination, wasn’t satisfied.  When she got back to her own home, she and her friend Abi checked to see if liquid and solid measuring cups yield the same result.  

They are, of course, correct.  For mortals like us, from the perspective of accuracy, it doesn’t matter whether you use measuring cups intended for liquids or solids when cooking or baking.  If you measure accurately, either will give you the right result.

But ...

Can you really move a completely full solid measure cup of water from the counter into your mixing bowl? 

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And can you put a dry ingredient such as flour, or a semi-liquid ingredient such as sour cream, into a liquid cup measure and smooth out the top so you get an accurate measure?

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The bottom line:

  • Liquid measuring cups are better, though not essential for measuring liquids.  Solid measuring cups are not convenient for liquids because if you have to fill them to the brim to measure the liquid accurately and you’re likely to spill a bit in the course of moving the very full liquid measuring cup. 
  • Solid measuring cups are better, though again not essential, for measuring solids and viscous (i.e. gloppy) ingredients.  If you use a liquid measuring cup for those ingredients you’ll find it difficult (close to impossible IMHO) to smooth them out enough to get an accurate measure of the contents of the liquid measuring cup.

Bonus Measuring Tip

When measuring solids or viscous ingredients, use the back of a knife or another straight edge to smooth the ingredient out for an accurate measurement, whether you are measuring with a cup or measuring spoons.

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Happy measuring - and cooking and baking!

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