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Feb 27, 2006 09:50 AM

Liquid vs. dry measure

  • k

Here's a question that comes up frequently when my husband (measure everything precisely) and I (throw in a pinch of whatever sounds good) cook together:

When you're making a recipe from a cookbook (or other source), do you use separate dry measure cups for dry ingredients and liquid measure cups for wet ingredients, or do you figure most recipes expect folks to use the dry measure cups for both?

I know there is a difference. I just wonder if it makes a difference. Plus, how would you know if the recipe intends one or the other?

Thanks so much!

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  1. You should assume they intend for you to use different measures for liquid and dry measures unless there are specific instructions to the contrary set forth somewhere.

    1. The answer is deceptively simple. Dry measure for dry stuff and wet measure for wet stuff.

      The writer of the recipe would expect no less.

      What's the diff? The designs of the different class of measuring cups help you get an accurate read on the amount. It's always easier to measure liquid in a wet measuring cup, what with the transparency of glass or plastic, the marking lines, and your ability to read the meniscus.

      Dry measures are a bit more difficult. This is why they tell you to scoop and level off. But that's not terribly accurate either. The dry stuff, say flour, can be compacted more or less in the cup. A better way is to weigh the dry stuff. And many recipes will give you the weights of dry ingredients. (That some recipe don't bother goes to show the next point.)

      Does it matter? Some say it matters more in baking than in cooking. Ultimately cooking is an art, not a science. All the measurements will get you to the general area. Your skill as a cook will determing whether you hit pay dirt.

      "Bring out number, weight and measure in a year of dearth."
      --W. Blake