Published March 1, 2011. From Cook's Illustrated.
Do you really need a special kitchen ruler, or will any old ruler do just fine?
Cutting and shaping pieces of food into a uniform size ensures even cooking and professional-looking results. We often specify exact measurements in our recipes—and we employ rulers as a guide. Traditionally, we’ve used an ordinary steel ruler to guide us. But do rulers specifically designed for the kitchen have anything more to offer? We picked up two regular 18-inch steel rulers from an office-supply store and compared them with two specialty rulers: the wooden Fox Run Magnetic Kitchen Ruler ($1.49), which doubles as an oven rack push-puller, and the Mercer Two-Sided Culinary Tool ($11.45). We sliced cookie dough and chopped vegetables, using the rulers to achieve precise results.
A good ruler must be accurate and have a straight edge. The Fox Run wooden ruler failed on both counts. The markings on two different copies didn’t line up, making us wonder which of the two was more accurate, and both copies were warped. While we were impressed by the Mercer culinary measuring tool, which is printed with a wealth of information, from common conversions to food storage temperatures, at 5 inches by 12¼ inches it was just too bulky for everyday use. In the end, the basic office-supply-store Empire 18-inch Stainless Steel Ruler ($8.49), without cork backing or large, easy-to-read markings, was the best tool by any measure.