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Dry Measuring Cups

Published August 2016

How we tested

Success in baking starts with careful measuring. And while a good scale is the most accurate tool, dry measuring cups are often more practical for the home cook. Lots of new models have come on the market since we last tested measuring cups eight years ago, so we decided to revisit the category. We rounded up 12 sets, priced from $5.99 to $44.95 and including our prior winner (from Amco), and headed into the test kitchen to see which ones measured up.

Our preferred measuring method for dry ingredients is the “dip and sweep”: We dip the cup into the container of flour or sugar, scoop out a heaping cupful, and then sweep the top of the measure level with the back of a knife. Models with handles that extend out on the same plane as the top of the cup best accommodate this, so we chose a combination of metal and plastic cups with this basic shape. We also limited our selection to sets that included at least the four essential sizes: 1 cup, 1/2 cup, 1/3 cup, and 1/4 cup.

First we evaluated the cups for their most important quality: accuracy. We carefully filled each cup to its maximum capacity with both water and granulated sugar and weighed it on a calibrated lab-quality scale; then, knowing how much a cup of both water and sugar should weigh, we did the math to determine accuracy and scored the cups accordingly. Three sets were off by as much as 6 percent, sending them tumbling in the rankings. Our top performers were either spot-on or off by just a fraction of a percentage point.

Next we turned to ease of use. We asked a range of test cooks and editors to dip and sweep a cup of flour with the 1-cup measure from each of the 12 sets. Even with our carefully vetted lineup of straight-handled cups, our testers found problems with several models—those with rims slightly higher than the handles created a jarring catch to the sweeping motion that was at best awkward and at worst jostled the cup and required us to start anew. We preferred cups that were perfectly even with the handles for seamless sweeping.

The measurement markings on some cup sets were large and well placed on the handles, where they were easily identifiable. Cups with tiny or hidden markings were irksome, as we had to double-check to see which cup we were using. The downfall for some plastic cups was the impermanence of their measurement markings; those that were printed in ink came off with very little scrubbing. Almost all the stainless-steel sets have markings that are etched on; no amount of scrubbing was going to take those off. One outlying stainless-steel set had markings in ink on plastic handles—markings that came right off.

An additional problem: When we filled cups with flour and placed them on the counter, some smaller ones with long handles tipped over and spilled, causing them to lose points.

To test their durability, we used the cups to repeatedly scoop up wet, heavy sand to simulate years of hard use. Most plastic cups flexed with the motion and went right back into place, although a few smaller cups bent permanently. Many of the stainless-steel handles bent when we used great force; others bent immediately, with very gentle scooping. The most durable sets, including the winner, have shorter handles that are part of the cup mold (rather than riveted on) and didn’t bend or flex at all.

Our winning measuring cups, from OXO, are made of sturdy, durable stainless steel and are accurate and easy to use. They have handles perfectly flush with the cup rims for seamless dipping-and-sweeping and laser-etched markings that don’t scrub off; plus, they have the handy bonus feature of magnetic tabs to keep the stacked cups tidy in a drawer or cabinet (their short handles also make them more compact and easy to store). These cups are an intelligent improvement on the classic design.

Methodology

We tested 12 sets of measuring cups priced from $5.99 to $44.95; each set included at least the essential 1-cup, 1/2-cup, 1/3-cup, and 1/4-cup measures. All models were purchased online and appear in order of preference.

Accuracy: We tested the accuracy of each cup by carefully filling each one with both water and sugar, weighing it on our lab-quality scale, and calculating the variance from the accepted weight for each volume of both materials. Less-accurate cups scored lower.

Durability: We used the cups to scoop up heavy wet sand and noted any bending or flexing of their handles; ran all the cups through a home dishwasher 10 times to note warping or measurement-mark wearing; and scrubbed the cups with an abrasive scouring pad to test the permanence of measurement markings.

Ease of Use: A group of male and female test cooks and editors with varying hand sizes dipped the cups in flour and swept off the extra with the back of a butter knife. Those they found easiest to use were ranked highest; those that felt uncomfortable or unwieldy were downgraded. We noted how stable each cup was when placed on the counter both empty and filled with flour; those that tipped over lost points.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.

$248.64*
Recommended

Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.

$141.90*

Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

$67.99*
Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

$49.93*
Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.

$129.95*

Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.

$99.95*

Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.

$24.99*

Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.

$35.88*