Back to Basics: Measuring

Back to Basics: Measuring
The different kinds of measuring instruments for cooking.


I’m not afraid to admit that I watch quite a few cooking shows. To be honest I didn’t use to watch so many of them until recently. There was a time when I would be regularly watching things like Bones, Castle, or Supernatural. Why the change? Well, now that my little man is getting older, and is very interested in the Television when I turn it on, I became much more aware of the dead bodies and scary monsters on those shows. And while I still love to watch those shows when he is napping or in bed for the night, when he is awake I tend to watch things that won’t potentially give him nightmares. That’s where all the cooking shows come in.
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One show that I stumbled upon recently is Worst Cooks in America. At first I thought “Why would I want to watch a cooking show when the people don’t know how to cook?” But to be honest it reminded me of when I first started to cook things, and how far I’d come from when I was 13 and didn’t grease the waffle iron before I put the batter in (Oops. Sorry Mom and Dad). At the end of each show I’d feel pretty good about my cooking ability, unlike when I watch a show like Chopped and am completed baffled at what the people come up with because I’ve never heard of half the ingredients. Or at least that’s how I felt until I watched an episode and one of the professional chefs said to a contestant “Why are you using a wet measuring cup to measure your dry ingredients?”
Wait. What?
In all the cookbooks I have and all the different food blogs I’ve visited, I don’t think I’d ever heard anyone talk about wet measuring cups and dry measuring cups. I figured that must be something they covered in culinary school and since I never went to culinary school I was blissfully ignorant about measuring cups. Nevertheless, it piqued my curiosity.
So I googled it. I was surprised how many websites came up. So I picked one and was scanning through it and discovered that I already had both wet and dry measuring cups. Hurray for me. I also discovered that I was not using them correctly. Oops. I made a mental note to try to use them correctly in the future and then quickly forgot about it.
Or at least I forgot about it until I was thinking about starting a blog. Since I had decided that I was going to talk about cooking as one of my subjects, I felt like I should buy a book that would teach me more about why different recipes worked so I could create my own recipes and then share them. So I cruised around on Amazon for a bit and found The Science of Good Cooking (Cook’s Illustrated Cookbooks). I checked out the book description, which said “Master 50 simple concepts to ensure success in the kitchen.” That’s exactly what I wanted, something that would teach me the basics of cooking, so I decided to buy it.
When I first got the book I flipped through the pages like I usually do when I get a new cookbook. But this cookbook wasn’t like any cookbook I’d ever had before. It wasn’t full of colorful pictures of what the recipe would look like when finished. It was mostly text, with a picture here or there. So I figured I should start at the beginning and flipped to the front. I looked at the first page and chuckled at the title “The Science of Measuring.” So here is a summary of what I learned.
Back to Basics: Measuring
Dry Measuring Cups

The dry measuring cup is usually made of metal or plastic and is probably what comes to mind first when you think of measuring cups. To use, you simply dip the cup into the item you are measuring, such as flour or sugar, and then sweep off the excess with a butter knife or a spatula. This is commonly called the “dip and sweep” method. Liquid shouldn’t be measured with these cups as it will result in too little liquid being added to the recipe, because either you won’t fill it up all the way, or you’ll end up spilling it.

Back to Basics: Measuring
Wet Measuring Cup

Wet measuring cups are made of either clear glass or plastic. The markings of the side help you to see when the liquid is at the desire amount. For best results, place the cup flat on the counter and bend down so it is at eye level to read it, and then add the liquid until the meniscus is level with the desired measuring mark. Dry ingredients shouldn’t be measured with these cups because there is no way to sweep off any excess and you will end up with too much dry ingredients being added to the recipe.

Measuring spoons can be used for either wet or dry ingredients.


Back to Basics: Measuring
Measuring Spoons

Measuring by weight is the most accurate and, because of this, is preferred by most professionals. To use, you simply put what you want to weight on the food scale until you have the desired amount.

Back to Basics: Measuring
Food Scale

I recently bought a food scale from Amazon, but I haven’t tried measuring by weight yet. And I didn’t buy it because this book said it was the most accurate. I bought it because I found a recipe for eclairs that I really wanted to make and the measurements were by weight. Of course I didn’t notice it until I was getting ready to make the recipe and I tried converting it from weight to volume. I crashed and burned. It was horrible. It was like when I put the batter in the waffle iron all over again. And after reading about measuring volume versus weight I think I know why.

Do you prefer to measure by weight or volume?

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