Buying Guide

The Best Measuring Cups and Spoons for Your Cooking Tasks

Dry Measuring Cups vs. Liquid
an assortment of measuring cups and spoons

First a quick primer on the function of dry measuring cups vs. liquid. The volume these tools measure is the same since a liquid cup is equal to a dry cup, but you cannot get by with a single set to cover all of your measuring needs.


Liquid measuring cups are constructed to avoid spills, help you pour effectively and take advantage of viscous substances’ ability to level themselves. Dry measuring cups, on the other hand, are meant for scooping and getting you an even fill with a surface scrape. But to ensure you snag the best measuring cups, you’ll need to understand a bit more about the tools’ intricacies. 

Measuring Weight and Volume

Measuring cups are historically flawed. Weight is actually a more accurate way to assess portion and constructing a precise volume measurement tool is a tricky feat. Advanced bakers often use a scale to measure precise grams when executing a recipe. The weight of an ingredient will give you the same ratio-perfecting results.


Measuring volume is slightly less reliable because it does not take density into account. For example, when measuring a cup of flour, you can fill your tool with amounts that vary by ounces depending on how tightly you pack it, whether you’ve swept the top or sifted the flour, and even based on how you’ve filled the cup. Variation in ounces may seem like splitting hairs, but in baking, these deviations can really make a difference. 


However, not everyone is ready to allow counter space for an electric or analog kitchen scale, and if you are mostly following American recipes, you’ll see instructions that list measurements in cups more often than grams. Compared to a scale, the best measuring cups are a reliable option, but only if they are sized appropriately, so understanding their functionality and using them in a consistent manner is important. 

Liquid Measuring Cups
A person pouring melted butter into a liquid measuring cup.

When reaching for a liquid measuring cup, you should identify one that will give you clear visibility and reliability. Clear measuring cups are a natural go-to. Transparent glass or plastic is essential, as it will allow you to observe the level to which you fill the glass – don’t be shy about getting your face down to the cup’s level to make sure you’re reading accurately. Markings need to be clear and long-lasting, something that is aided by etching. Liquid measuring cups will have markings that end well below the top of the cup to avoid spilling and a resulting inaccurate measurement. 


Material:

The material should also be sturdy. Flimsy or BPA-ridden plastics should not find their way into your kitchen. You should also keep in mind that plastic, which is porous, can stain and absorb flavors, so this variety does not take well to acidic things like tomato sauce. With plastic measuring cups, you run the risk of warping and melting if tasking your cup with handling hot liquids, so they can’t go into the microwave to melt butter and take on other such jobs. 


Glass is more often than not our favorite option for liquid measuring cups. Though glass is breakable, the best liquid glass measuring cups will be sturdy and you don’t have to worry about the material’s weight since these tools aren’t as large as some of your other cookware – mixing bowls, for example. Though clear silicone measuring cups are sturdier than other plastic options and can stand up to heat, wear and tear, they can be a bit trickier to clean than glass. 


Sizes:

Liquid measuring cups come in an array of sizes and you should stock your kitchen with a good set. Generally, liquid measuring cup sets come with the following sizes: 1 cup, 2 cups, 4 cups and 8 cups. Having this variety will allow you to finish tasks with more accuracy and less heavy lifting. In addition to a breakdown of cup portion (1/8, 1/4, 1/3, 1/2), these vessels should display markings denoting ounces and milliliters, which will allow you to follow both American and international recipes. The best liquid measuring cups will have bold markings that are clear to read even when viewed through liquid. 


Shape & Handles: 

Other features to consider are glass shape and characteristics that help you handle the cup with greater ease. Look for a set that has bent handles, which will stack better than looped ones and offer greater security with lifting. And of course, getting a solid hold is made all the easier when a pair has a grippy silicone handle. The best liquid measuring cups will have spouted lips that pour without spilling, and another shape factor to consider is width. A wider measuring cup will give you more steadiness and greater area into which to pour.


Dry Measuring Cups
A person measuring flour in a dry measuring cup

Dry measuring cups, on the other hand, do not need the pouring ability and transparency of liquid measuring cups. 


Material:

Instead, look for wide, sturdy stainless steel or silicone measuring cups. You don’t have to worry as much about plastic’s porous quality when dealing with dry ingredients. However, the best stainless steel measuring cups are your most durable option, which makes them ideal for scooping and longevity. 


The best stainless steel measuring cups will be weighty, leaving you confident that they will not tip over when you’re pouring into them. In fact, a great test when selecting a set of dry measuring cups is to simply stand them on their own and see if they teeter. This is especially important with smaller measuring cups, which will have less surface contact and therefore less assured steadiness. Silicone measuring cups also tend to be lighter and should be tested for balance. 


Sizes:

A standard set includes 1/4 cup, 1/3 cup, 1/2 cup and 1 cup. Having a complete set that includes smaller sizes is very important because the proper way to use a dry measuring cup is to fill it to the brim and level off. This will ensure you are getting an exact measurement. Using a large dry measuring cup for all your needs is a flawed approach. 


As is the case with liquid measuring cups, you should get a set that has etched measurement marks you’ll be able to read for years to come without worrying about fading. And again, look for a set that notes milliliters to avoid having to make those metric conversions. 


Handles:

Another important factor when approaching scooping is strength of handle – stainless steel handles are typically mightier than plastic ones. Other handle features to think about are length and any gripping aids. We like shorter handles, which will give you greater control over the attached cup and don’t bend as easily as long handles. 


Grip aids like silicone covering and padding are also excellent features that help you maintain a firm hold on your measuring cup. Another good handle feature available these days is an embedded magnet or snap to keep handles sticking to one another when you store them. Given that plastic measuring cups often fall prey to being stuck in a utensil drawer unceremoniously, we love this addition.


Measuring Spoons

In addition to your measuring cups, you need to keep a reliable set of measuring spoons on hand. Measuring spoons need to be accurate and easy to read. We think of measuring spoons as being similar in function to a dry measuring cup. While measuring spoons are often used with liquids (getting that exact amount of vanilla extract, for example), they are meant to be filled to the top and are often used to scoop and are then leveled off. Because of this, many of the rules we’ve outlined above for the best dry measuring cups apply to measuring spoons. 


Grippy handles and etched measurements are ideal for these, too. Stainless steel is your most durable material option. We love when both U.S. and metric measurements are noted on measuring spoons, but this is slightly less common than with measuring cups. A set ought to include 1/4-teaspoon, 1/2-teaspoon, 1 teaspoon and 1 tablespoon. Inclusion of a 1/2-tablespoon is nice, but not a requirement in our estimation. Helpful snaps or elements that keep storage in check are a must. 

Cleaning and Maintenance

A quick word on cleaning and care. Almost all of the best measuring cups will be dishwasher safe. Just remember that the dishwasher will fade markings more quickly than hand washing. Plastics are a bit trickier to clean sticky substances like honey out of, but a hack that helps combat this is coating a cup with a nonstick spray prior to use. Works like a charm!