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What are Different Types of Measuring Cups?

Measuring cups come in various forms, each tailored for precision in the kitchen. Dry cups ensure accurate leveling of ingredients like flour, while liquid cups feature spouts for spill-free pouring. Adjustable cups offer versatility for all your measuring needs. Discover how choosing the right type can elevate your cooking precision—what will you measure first?
A Kaminsky
A Kaminsky

One of the indispensable tools of cooking is the measuring cup. It enables a cook to add precise amounts of ingredients to ensure a successful outcome. Measuring cups come come in two varieties: those used for liquids and those used for dry ingredients. Within these categories are a variety of utensils.

Wet and dry ingredients have different volume measurements, so they require different measuring cups for accuracy. Using a liquid measure for dry ingredients and vice versa may alter the outcome of a dish, especially in something like a cake or cookies, where ingredients mix in a precise chemical reaction to produce a predictable result.

Liquid measuring cups are usually clear and have spouts.
Liquid measuring cups are usually clear and have spouts.

Liquid measuring cups are most commonly available in one, two and four-cup measures. They are almost always made of a clear material, such as glass or clear plastic, so the cook can see the level of the liquid rise as he pours. Most also have pouring spouts, distinguishing them from dry measures.

Most cooks should own one each of one and two-cup liquid measuring cups, and having them in a microwaveable material is always a plus. A new liquid measuring cup on the market has an oval ring inside, slanted against the side of the cup. This enables a cook to see the liquid level from the top of the cup, without having to lean down and look at the liquid at eye level on a countertop to get an accurate measure.

Many liquid measuring cups are made of glass.
Many liquid measuring cups are made of glass.

Dry measuring cups usually come in sets, with individual measures for 1/4, 1/3, 1/2 and 1 cup. They may be made of clear or opaque plastic, glass, metal or even wood. Most have handles and are flat on the top and bottom to ensure accuracy in measuring. The lip of these cups is even, also, so a cook can level off ingredients at the top of the measure.

Another innovation in measuring cups is one that can be used for liquid or dry measures and is marked for each use on opposite sides. These often have a plunger so the cook doesn't have to scrape out sticky ingredients from the side of the measure — the plunger does that job. Obviously, ingredients like water, milk and broth are measured in liquid cups, but so are syrup, honey and in general, anything that can be poured out of one container into another. Common sense says that flour and sugar are measured with dry cups, but so are mayonnaise, sour cream, cheese, cream cheese, nuts and vegetables.

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Discussion Comments


I've always used just the dry measuring cup (even when measuring liquids) for my baked goods and never had a problem.


The best way to measure shortening is with a liquid measuring cup. If you want 1/3 cup shortening, add 1 2/3 cups water to a liquid measuring cup and then add enough shortening to bring the water level to 2 cups. Easier to use and easier to clean up.


The difference between dry and liquid measuring cups is negligible and only relevant in some baking applications, mostly pastries and delicate baked goods.

The design of wet and dry measuring cups is what makes them the most useful. Dry measuring cups are often used for ingredients that are scooped and leveled with the lip of the cup. It can be hard to measure things like a third cup of shortening with a 2-cup liquid measuring cup.

The inverse is true for liquid measurements. Measuring a cup of water with a one-cup dry measuring cup can be tricky. You will either end up spilling your water walking to the mixing bowl, or walk so slow it will take forever to mix all of the ingredients.

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    • Liquid measuring cups are usually clear and have spouts.
      By: Winai Tepsuttinun
      Liquid measuring cups are usually clear and have spouts.
    • Many liquid measuring cups are made of glass.
      By: Pavlo Sachek
      Many liquid measuring cups are made of glass.