Two basic types of measuring cups -- liquid and dry measures -- are essential in the kitchen. The main difference between the two is that a liquid measure filled to capacity leaves room to move the cup without spilling the liquid. A dry measure is designed to be filled and then leveled to get a precise reading. Leveling with a knife blade works best. A trip up the housewares aisle of major department stores or specialty kitchen shops is an easy way to buy measuring tools. The sturdy glass or plastic liquid measures you'll find there are hard beat. While most liquid measures require that you check the amount at eye level, a new cup design changes all that. The plastic cup has a special angled surface that lets you read measurement markings by looking straight down into the cup. For dry ingredients, pick a set of 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, and 1-cup measures. If they nest, you'll save on storage space. With measuring spoons, you'll want to have more than one set (in 1/8 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon increments) so you don't have to wash spoons in mid-recipe. Leave spoons attached to the ring they come on. This way, they won't get lost in action.
1. Pack solid vegetable shortening or butter into dry measures to eliminate air spaces. Level the top with a knife blade.
2. Measuring spoons should be dry when used. Scoop your ingredient to overflowing, then level with a table knife. Narrow spoons that fit easily into spice jars are a wise choice.
3. Measure flour by gently spooning it into your cup. Don't pack down the flour. Slide a knife blade over the rim to level, letting excess fall back into the bag.
4. Place the liquid measuring cup on a level surface; bend down to read at eye level while pouring to the correct mark. Select glass cups for easier reading; a 2-cup measure is standard, and a 4-cup measure is helpful to have on hand.