While there are inherent redundancies, we consider 1-, 2-, and 4-cup measuring cups essential. Yes, you can fill a 1-cup measurer four times, but that compromises accuracy, and it's less efficient. Dragging out a 4-cup measure first thing in the morning for eight ounces of pourover-coffee water doesn't make a lot of sense, either.
Maxing out at about eight inches in diameter for the largest cup, when all its cups are nested, a set takes up less cabinet space than a dinner plate. Of course, weight is another issue if you're buying a glass set: A 4-cup glass measure weighs about two and a half pounds, while the same size cup in plastic is just over 10 ounces. Before we get into how we tested for accuracy, the most important criterion, a quick reminder on the proper way to read a liquid measuring cup—which is, of course, an essential part of figuring out its accuracy—is in order.
The curvature formed by a substance in a measuring cup is called a meniscus, and it's created by surface tension on the top of the liquid. To read a measuring cup accurately, place it on a flat, stable surface, like a table or countertop. Add the liquid until it reaches just under the gradation line you're aiming for.
Then get down at eye level with the mark, and you'll notice the liquid isn't straight—it sort of walks up the walls on the edges. Carefully add more liquid until the bottom of the meniscus is level with the gradation on the cup. To gauge accuracy in our tests, we relied on an old standard: water. Because a milliliter of water weighs exactly a gram, we were able to compare the weight of the water in the cups to the markings on the sides and see if they correlated.
We filled each cup with water, creeping up to the gradations with an eyedropper, until the bottom of the concave meniscus was at the measuring line. We tested each cup twice, first at its half volume, then at its maximum volume. To rule out human error, we measured each volume level three times and averaged those readings. After each attempt, we dumped the water onto an accurate scale and noted the weight.
We used a calibrated jeweler's scale with a resolution of 0. Then we compared our averages to the NIST standard to determine the accuracy of each cup. After our trials, we cross-checked our initial measurements by reversing the process: weighing out a known volume first, then pouring that into the measuring cup to ensure that the water lined up with the appropriate gradation. Want to know why some recipes fail even when you follow them closely?
As these tests demonstrated, it's often saboteurs like inaccurate measuring cups. A 4-cup measurer we tested yielded more than 40 milliliters extra when filled to half volume—that's well over an ounce. Putting that much more liquid in a pan sauce you're reducing might add only extra time. But if you're baking or cooking with rice, that kind of inaccuracy can make a real difference. The risk of shattering a glass measuring cup is a concern; if you drop one on the floor, it will likely break.
But short of that, the glass is quite durable, and accidentally chipping it against a pot or pan is improbable. Because the durability of the glass itself isn't worth testing it is breakable, after all , our evaluation focused on the resilience of the markings. All of the gradations on the cups we tested were made with paint applied in some form to the outside of the measuring cup. We fitted a reciprocating saw, which moves back and forth 3, times per minute, with a heavy-duty synthetic scouring pad that is normally used to clean grill grates.
After lubricating the pad with water, we used the saw to scrub the markings for 30 seconds, then checked for wear. The good news is that all the glass and most of the plastic measuring cups survived, though one lost its markings almost entirely, earning a disqualification. Lingering food stains, the evidence of past recipes, aren't just unsightly—they can also make a measuring cup hard to read.
We heated oily and acidic tomato sauce to a simmer, then ladled it into each measuring cup and let the cups sit for 12 hours. The glass cups didn't stain at all, and neither did the plastic ones. But the flexible silicone ones, which we had found to be relatively accurate, did: A hazy pink tint was left on the walls of the cup, making it harder to read the gradations.
While we can see using these for controlled dispensing of hot or thick ingredients, they'd never be our primary measuring cups. We tested how easy it was to warm honey and remove it from the measuring cups. Similar to those of a saucier , the rounded corners on most cups can accommodate a flexible spatula and make scooping out honey simpler. Though our testing conditions were different, we can see this becoming an issue in colder months. The only cups that gave us trouble were the winning OXOs, which have angled gradations that made it harder to scrape the honey out.
We also filled the measuring cups to half volume with water and heated them to a boil in the microwave, in order to determine whether the handles stayed comfortably cool. This test also led to a couple of disqualifications: One innovative glass beaker design had a sliding plastic collar with gradations on it that moved up and down, mimicking a scale's tare function.
But it softened and deformed in the microwave before hardening again. Another measuring cup, about eight and a quarter inches tall, wouldn't even fit in the microwave. After running the measuring cups through all the above tests, and eliminating any that performed poorly, we narrowed down our picks to the following two sets. The 1-cup measure missed the target grams by a scant 1. Other 1-cup measures we tested were slightly less accurate, with one averaging 3.
The 1-, 2-, and 4-cup glass measures have a classic shape for easy nesting, and the largest cup has a narrower footprint and taller walls than other, shallower glass versions, so it takes up less space on cabinet shelves. The red gradations along the side of the cup are prominent, making it easy to read their location in relation to the bottom of the meniscus.
When we poured measured amounts of water back into each of the cups, the meniscus was closer to the gradation than it was in other cups, which proved that the cups were accurate in addition to being easy to read. Browse Paderno.
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