Taking Multiple Measures

By Cook's Illustrated Published July 2011

Since most people only one set of measuring cups, they often use a small cup multiple times to measure a larger amount (for instance, using a 1/3-cup measure three times to get 1 cup of flour). Is this method inaccurate?

Sticklers for precision, we were also skeptical about this strategy but decided to give it a whirl. We asked 10 volunteers to measure flour using our preferred dip-and-sweep method (dipping the cup into the flour and leveling it off with a straight edge). As they scooped, we recorded the weight of 1 cup of flour measured with a 1-cup dry measure, 1 cup of flour measured by filling a 1/3-cup dry measure three times, and 1 cup of flour measured by filling a ¼-cup dry measure four times. We compared the weight of the flour that the testers measured in the 1-cup dry measure with the weights of their other samples. To our surprise, the discrepancies were not huge. In most cases, the weight difference among the individuals’ samples was less than 3 percent.

Our conclusion: Though weighing ingredients will always give you the most accurate results, “doubling up” with a smaller measure is no less accurate than taking one larger measurement as long as you use the dip-and-sweep technique, which we’ve found is more precise than spooning the dry ingredient into the cup.