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It seems like measuring things in the kitchen should be the easiest thing to do and in some ways it is. But there’s more to it than you’d think, particularly when attempting new recipes you haven’t made before!
There are a lot of options when it comes to the best measuring cups, but it wasn’t always like this. Fannie Farmer brought the concept of a standard measuring cup to American home cooks in her well-known "The Boston Cooking School Cookbook" in 1896. This led to a change in how we think of home cooking and ultimately to the creation of a new profession: the home economist.
Now, more than a century later, most successful home cooks have multiple sets of measuring cups to help them out and there's a very good reason for it. "Measuring Cups are one of the most essential parts of a cook's mise en place," says Holly Fann, chef, cooking instructor, and food writer. "Mise en place is the French term we use to describe the well-thought-out organization of items and ingredients needed to create and cook a dish. Invest in just a few well-made wet and dry cups. They will step up your mise en place and overall cooking game."
For today’s tremendously sophisticated home cooks, there are measuring cups that work well for dry ingredients and those that work well for liquid ingredients. How do you know which is which? Liquid measuring cups are usually made of glass or plastic and have a spout, while dry measuring cups are usually metal or plastic and are the kind of set that nests in your kitchen drawer.
"When measuring wet ingredients like water, set that cup down on a countertop or flat surface and let it settle for a second so you can have a chance to quickly eyeball and double-check the amounts," says Fann. Our very own Sara Bir can also give you tips on how to measure correctly.
Best Overall, Wet Ingredients: Pyrex Prepware 3-Piece Glass Measuring Set
What We Love: High-quality glass, affordable, the three measures you'll ever need
What We Don’t Love: Doesn't stack for storage
It’s no surprise Pyrex has been a staple in American kitchens for more than 90 years! Pyrex's tempered glass measuring cups are the sort of item you end up passing down to the next generation because they're that well made. It just so happens that the stay-cool handle, wide pour spouts, and easy-to-read measurements make these the absolute best on the market for wet ingredients.
This set of three measuring cups—1 cup, 2 cups, and 4 cups—are all you will ever need for cooking and baking (well, you might need a few more tools like measuring spoons). The wide opening means pouring into them is a cinch, especially when it's something hot like brown butter. The markings come in both standard and metric and won't ever wear off, even in the dishwasher.
Material: Tempered Glass | Dishwasher Safe: Yes | What’s Included: 1 cup, 2 cup, 4 cup
Best Overall, Dry Ingredients: Sur La Table Stainless Steel Measuring Cups, Set of 8
What We Love: Wide range of measurements, durable, stacks together nicely
What We Don’t Love: Pricey
For dry ingredients, you need different measurement sizes (remember that dry ingredients cannot be measured in a wet-ingredient cup, like Pyrex). These nested measuring cups from Sur La Table offer the advantage of different sizes, including the elusive 2/3 and 3/4 cups, as well as a great shape that angles neither outward nor inward for easy leveling.
"I prefer stainless to plastic and the simpler the design the better," says Fann. Stainless steel means that this will not warp, they'll be easy to clean, and sturdy each and every time you use them. The thickness of the steel is perfect and the measurements etched on the handles are in standard and metric. That handle is longer than average to offer a good grip when you're reaching down into a bag of flour. The last touch is the ring to keep them all together in your kitchen drawer.
Material: Stainless steel | Dishwasher Safe: Yes | What’s Included: 1/4 cup, 1/3 cup, 1/2 cup, 2/3 cup, 3/4 cup, 1 cup, 1.5 cup, 2 cup
Best Budget, Wet Ingredients: Anchor Hocking Glass 2-Cup Measuring Cup
What We Love: Great performance, very affordable, good-sized pouring spout
What We Don’t Love: Temperature tolerance is slightly less than Pyrex
If you're on a budget and/or only want to buy one measuring cup for liquid ingredients, go for a 2-cup measure. So many recipes from tres leches cake to chicken pot pie will need more than a cup of a certain wet ingredient and there's nothing worse than having to stop mid-recipe to remeasure. Luckily, Anchor Hocking is to the rescue.
This thick tempered glass measuring cup has convenient, easy-to-read red markings for measurements in standard and metric, a useful pouring spout, and a tolerance for different temperatures. It's safe in the microwave and dishwasher, and since some people find that Anchor Hocking's glass is less shock-proof than Pyrex, just be safe and allow it to come to temperature slowly.
"When I was filling my first adult kitchen, I ended up buying a set of very affordable Anchor Hocking glass measuring cups. Those measuring cups have stayed with me through the years, never once cracking mid-recipe, and the measurements are still as readable as the day I bought them." — Siobhan Wallace, Commerce Editor
Material: Tempered glass | Dishwasher Safe: Yes | What’s Included: 2 cup
Related: The Best Mixing Bowls
Best Budget, Dry Ingredients: KitchenAid Measuring Cups, Set of 4
What We Love: Good looking, easy to use, great price
What We Don’t Love: Limited in terms of size
The most basic of measuring cup sets are the four measurements of this KitchenAid set. Yes, it gets the job done, but if you need a 2/3 cup of sugar and 3/4 cup of flour, then be prepared to also have to do a full mise en place. (Yes, I know I'm always supposed to measure out ingredients beforehand, but that doesn't always happen.)
This set of four nesting plastic measuring cups though is well-made and practical. The measurements are etched on the handles in standard and metric, and the shape is slightly rounded for easy scooping with handles long enough for a good grip. This would make a great starter or backup set for any kitchen.
Material: Plastic/melamine | Dishwasher Safe: Yes | What’s Included: 1/4 cup, 1/3 cup, 1/2 cup, 1 cup
Related: The Best Kitchen Scales
Best Jumbo: Pyrex Prepware 2-Quart Glass Measuring Cup
What We Love: Large enough to handle whole recipes, lid storing batter overnight
What We Don’t Love: Looks a little clunky
Maybe you need something large enough to mix together wintertime gravy or to handle a whole recipe like cherry frozen yogurt that needs to chill overnight before it can be churned. When those days come, a jumbo-sized measuring cup complete with an airtight lid will make everything easier.
This 8-cup tempered glass measuring cup by Pyrex can do double duty as a mixing bowl or batter bowl, which makes it very useful to have around! The wide bottom gives it a sturdy base when adding or mixing ingredients. Easy to read red measurement markings are in both standard and metric and a great pouring spout means less mess afterward. Both the lid and measuring cup are safe to put in the dishwasher, oven, microwave, and freezer.
Material: Tempered glass | Dishwasher Safe: Yes | What’s Included: 8 cup, lid
Related: The Best Rolling Pins
Best Ceramic: Mint Pantry Yuki 4-Piece Measuring Cup Set
What We Love: Warm, artisan look in different pastels, wide pouring spouts
What We Don’t Love: More prone to breakage than other materials
Sometimes you want some beautiful, picturesque measuring cups for your weekend baking projects like a classic tiramisu. For times like that, there are sets like these.
This set has an old-fashioned country kitchen feel to its good-looking ceramic measuring cups. The set of four in pastel colors ranges in size from 1/4 cup to 1 cup, each has a decent-sized pouring spout and the largest one has a handle. These are easy to store nested in a cupboard, but also perfect to leave on a countertop for display.
Material: Ceramic | Dishwasher Safe: Yes | What’s Included: 1/4 cup, 1/3 cup, 1/2 cup, 1 cup
Related: The Best Baking Pans
Our two best overall choices, the Pyrex Prepware 3-Piece Glass Measuring Set (view at Amazon) for liquids and the Sur La Table Stainless Steel Measuring Cups, Set of 8 (view at Sur la Table) are measure-for-measure your best bet if you want a fully stocked kitchen with measuring cups for any job.
What to Look for When Buying Measuring Cups
Measuring cups are usually made of tempered glass, stainless steel, ceramic, plastic, or silicone. Tempered glass is traditional for liquids since it can withstand different temperatures and not break from shock. Stainless steel is generally used for dry ingredients. While it can handle high temperatures, the handle will most likely warm up as well.
Ceramic, silicone, and plastic vary in whether they can withstand different temperatures, so you will find options for both wet and dry ingredients. Of the three, ceramic is the most prone to breaking so be extra careful in the kitchen.
Measuring cups have different features that you should consider before your final decision. First, measurements should be clear and easy to read on any measuring cup, and the best cups will display both standard and metric. They will also come with or without handles, and the handles can be of different shapes and sizes. Some dry ingredient sets may even have magnets in the handles so you can easily nest them together. Just make sure the handles are long enough for you to get a good grip.
Temperature tolerance varies between different measuring cups, always check to be sure that your measuring cup will tolerate whatever you’ll be using it for in your kitchen. Lastly, though a measuring cup is a fairly basic tool, looks still matter. If you choose a design that pleases your eye, it will be a more pleasant experience to cook with it!
Most measuring cups are dishwasher safe, but always check to be sure. The stainless steel cups often require a pre-cleaning with a brush or scrub sponge on their interior edges where dry ingredients tend to get stuck.
What’s the difference between dry and liquid measuring cups?
Measuring cups for dry ingredients have been designed for scooping, leveling, and pouring (or dumping) flour, sugar, and the like. Measuring cups for wet ingredients have been designed for good temperature tolerance, easy reading of the volume level of liquid, and pouring into other ingredients. It’s best to use the right kind of measuring cup since they’re designed to provide accuracy for the ingredients being used.
Why should you level your measuring cup?
Leveling your measuring cup assures that you’re not adding too much of the ingredient or too little. The leveling process evenly packs dry ingredients in the measuring cup, which prevents air bubbles or excess. The best way is by using the back of a table knife to scrape across the surface.
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
Karen Resta is an NYC-based writer specializing in food culture and history, cooking, pastries, and restaurants. A former executive chef who began her professional journey as a pastry chef, she travels around the globe as a photographer and writer, finding the best authentic food and pastries along the way. She owns a full set of measuring cups for both liquid and dry ingredients because a long time ago she decided to try to use a teacup like they say in Victorian novels and it didn’t work so well. She’s passionate about finding quality ingredients within your given budget and believes that having the right tools and knowing how to use them makes all the difference in the kitchen. She curated this list with that in mind.
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