Veteran Move #6: Wet Versus Dry Measures

In my kitchen I use a one, two and even a four cup wet measure. I highly recommend it
In my kitchen I use a one, two and even a four cup wet measure. I highly recommend it

Okay, it’s time for me to come clean… for the first 10 or more years that I was chief cook and bottle washer in my kitchen I was not aware there was a difference between wet and dry measures. I may or may not have seen dry measures mentioned in recipes but was blissfully unaware. I learned the difference from a particular hockey mom at a practice for my daughter’s team. She’s a professional food stylist and recipe developer running a test kitchen for publishing companies that produce books for some of the world’s most famous chefs.

To be fair, that fact should tell you all you need to know about how much you should really care. She’s a world class pro and I was and really still am a guy in search of a new favourite meatloaf recipe. But, I will say that since I’ve started using dry for dry and wet for wet, meals come out better and I have more reliable success whenever trying something new.

The science does say there is a significant difference. My gurus at cooksillustrated.com published results from their own tests and declared that measuring flour is best done in a dry measure. If you use a wet measuring cup you can be off the target value by almost 30%! Conversely, using a dry measure to measure water can mean you’ll miss the mark by almost 25%.

This issue is best put into perspective by my good pal Mary, of Mary and Scott, my favourite raconteurs. She’s says ‘cooking is art… baking is chemistry’. So, for purposes of this blog don’t sweat it if so far you’ve been using wet measures only… although that may explain why your cookies are always a little off. The differences mentioned above really are significant. But, if you accept Mary’s argument and you’re cooking not baking, you’ll likely always err on the side of too much anyway. My dad always called it ‘one for the pot’… that little extra drop or two or pinch extra while you’re measuring out ingredients.

Dry measures like those pictured above typically come in sizes from 1/4, 1/3, 1/2 to a full cup.
Dry measures like those pictured above typically come in sizes from 1/4, 1/3, 1/2 to a full cup. My advice is that the sturdier the better when selecting a set.
Measuring spoons are more versatile and come in sizes from 1/8 of a teaspoon to a full teaspoon and a tablespoon
Measuring spoons are more versatile and come in sizes from 1/8 of a teaspoon to a full teaspoon and a tablespoon (equal to 3 teaspoons). I also have a special one and two tablespoon tool (pictured top right) and I also have a cookie scoop which measures out approximately 1.5 tablespoons of dough
Reliably measuring out wet ingredients requires you to bend over to 'read the meniscus'.
Reliably measuring out wet ingredients requires you to bend over to ‘read the meniscus’.
You may have encountered this in Chemistry class in high school. All liquids form either a convex (curved downward) or convex (curved upward)meniscus. In a wet measure you want the line you are reading to line up to the meniscus in the centre of the liquid.
Looking at this image of a teaspoon of yeast. It shows how easy it would be to measure out far too much yeast which could spell disaster for bread, cupcakes, pizza dough etc.
Looking at this image of a teaspoon of yeast. It shows how easy it would be to measure out far too much yeast which could spell disaster for bread, cupcakes, pizza dough etc.
Using any dry measure means drawing a flat edge across the cup...
Using any dry measure means drawing a flat edge across the cup…
...to ensure and accurate scoop.
…to ensure an accurate scoop.
You can do this with measuring spoons too but it’s really fussy
The best way to measure ingredients in the kitchen is to weigh them.
Which leads to the ultimate answer for those who want to be as accurate as possible:
The best way to measure ingredients in the kitchen is to weigh them!
In the image above, the chunk of chocolate had a little piece broken off yet it still weighed in at 1/2 ounce. This could be critical in a soufflé… if you ever feel so inclined

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