Tools in your kitchen serve a purpose, and the same goes for measuring tools. Believe it or not, there is a difference between a dry measurement and a liquid one. While there are instances when you can use a dry measuring cup for a liquid measuring cup and vice versa, using them in the wrong situation can alter your recipe.
What is a Liquid Measure?
A liquid measure is applied to liquid ingredients, such as water, milk or oil. Liquid measuring cups range in size and typically have a handle and pouring spout. When you fill a liquid measuring cup, you fill your ingredient to the desired line on the cup and pour it into your recipe. Liquid measuring cups come in glass or plastic material with measurements ranging from 1/8 cup up to 3 or 4 cups in a single measuring device.
What is a Dry Measure?
A dry measuring cup has a flat, circular rim and handle. They’re designed for the exact amount only, meaning that if you need 1/2 cup of flour, you fill the entire cup and receive a half cup measurement only. Dry measures are designed to be overfilled and then leveled off with something straight such as a knife. Dry measuring cups typically come in sets that include 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, 3/4 and 1 cup measurements.
The Purpose of Both
Liquid measurements and dry measurements have their purpose. For accurate measurements in recipes, you should use liquid for liquid and dry for dry ingredients. It is difficult to measure a liquid in a dry measuring cup, because to get an accurate measurement you must first fill the dry measuring cup to the brim with your liquid -- which might result in spilling. When attempting to use a liquid measure for a dry ingredient, it is hard to get an even measure. For example, flour must be leveled off perfectly for accurate measuring. Too much flour can ruin a recipe. In a liquid measurement you cannot level off the flour like you can in a dry measuring cup, which means you might add a teaspoon or more than required into a recipe.
Understanding the Weights
While you might think an ounce for an ounce works between dry and liquid measurements, you would be wrong. In the United States, 1 cup in a liquid measuring cup equals 8 ounces, but this only applies to liquid. In dry, for example, 1 cup of sugar or flour does not equal 8 ounces on a scale -- it equals about 4.5 ounces. If a recipe calls for a weight of a dry ingredient, you’ll need to convert that weight to the proper measuring cup size using the ratio of 0.125 cup per 1 ounce measure.
Shailynn Krow began writing professionally in 2002. She has contributed articles on food, weddings, travel, human resources/management and parenting to numerous online and offline publications. Krow holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles and an Associate of Science in pastry arts from the International Culinary Institute of America.