If you think a cup holds eight ounces—you’re right. But only partially! It really depends on what you’re measuring. To bake the best cookies of all time, you don’t want to be short on flour or overdo the sugar. That’s why wet ingredients are measured by volume, and dry ingredients are measured by weight.
Measure Wet Ingredients by Volume
Volume is the measure of how much space your ingredient occupies. The most accurate measurement of a liquid ingredient like milk, water or oil is in terms of its volume, which is measured in fluid ounces. The volume of any liquid will take up an equal amount of space as the volume of any other liquid. The markings on liquid measuring cups (like this classic Pyrex glass set) allow you to accurately see how much space any liquid takes up.
How to use a measuring cup for wet ingredients
Pour a liquid (like milk) into your measuring cup. Take a closer look at eye level to make sure that the lowest point of the gentle curve at the top of the milk reaches the appropriate fluid ounce marking. Since all liquids take up the same amount of space, all your wet ingredients can be measured in exactly the same way.
Measure Dry Ingredients by Weight
Weight is the measure of how heavy your ingredient is. The most accurate way to measure a dry ingredient like flour, sugar or chocolate chips is in terms of its weight, which is measured in regular ounces. Not all dry ingredients weigh the same, though! For example, flour weighs considerably less than an equal volume of cocoa. For that reason, the most accurate way to measure dry ingredients is with a digital scale. (Here’s a guide that will help you find the weight of common baking ingredients.)
But dry measuring cups (like this stainless steel set) are the next best thing because they’re designed to approximate the weight of dry ingredients—provided you know how to use them!
How to use a measuring cup for dry ingredients
This handy guide for how to measure ingredients demonstrates how to most accurately measure various dry ingredients using a dry measuring cup. For example, flour should be spooned lightly into a measuring cup and then gently leveled off, whereas brown sugar should be packed into the measuring cup before leveling it off.
If you were to measure flour by packing it into a measuring cup or brown sugar without packing it, your baked goods would not turn out the way you expect.
Test out your measuring skills using Grandma’s best baking recipes!