Liquid Measuring Cups
Many versions of this simple tool are surprisingly flawed: drippy, hard to read, or inaccurate. Which models are reliable?
How We Tested
We value versatility, but some kitchen equipment can't do double duty. For the utmost precision—and the best results in the kitchen—you need two kinds of measuring cups. For flour, sugar, beans, grains, and other foods that can be scooped up and leveled off, dry measuring cups are best. But using dry measuring cups for liquids won't work. It's difficult to see the liquid inside the cups and easy to overfill them, which makes for both messy and imprecise measuring. For everything from buttermilk to broth, we use liquid measuring cups.
To find the best liquid measuring cup, we focused on models with a 1-cup capacity, the smallest size most companies make, sold individually or in sets. It's essential that 1-cup liquid measuring cups have markings for ¼, ⅓, ½, ⅔, ¾, and 1 cup, so we nixed models that lacked one or more of those increments. We purchased 10 measuring cups priced from about $5 to about $35. About half were traditional glass or plastic cups with handles. Two were made from silicone, which manufacturers claim stays comfortably cool even after microwaving. Two had innovative measurement markings set on an angled ridge inside the cups, designed to be read from above. Another model was a nesting set that looked like lab beakers. It was time to start testing.
Which Liquid Measuring Cups Were Accurate?
Did you know that there's a right way to use a traditional liquid measuring cup? Here's how you should do it: Place the cup on a level surface and slowly pour in the liquid until it reaches the measurement marking, bending briefly to check it at eye level and adjusting as necessary. The surface of the liquid will curve downward slightly (this curve is called a meniscus). The trick for an accurate measurement is to line up the bottom of the curve with the desired marking.
To assess the accuracy of each cup, we used a lab-grade scale to weigh water at six essential measurements—¼, ⅓, ¼, ⅔, ¾, and 1 cup. We then poured the water into the cups and compared the water level to the measurement markings. We repeated this test with the ounce and milliliter markings on each cup. About half the models we tested were either spot-on or off by just a few drops. On the worst models, the 1-cup markings were off by a full tablespoon, enough to negatively affect a recipe.
The two innovative cups each had two sets of measurement markings, one outside, like usual, and another inside, positioned facing upward, so users don't have to crouch to read the markings. One of the innovative cups wasn't reliable; the markings on the outside of the cup were accurate, but the ones inside were not. Fortunately, the other innovative model's two sets of markings were both accurate.
Good Measuring Cups Are Easy to Read
Next, we focused on how easy the measurements on the cups were to read. Clear glass and plastic models were easier to see through to gauge the level of the liquid than slightly opaque silicone models were. The type and style of measurement markings also varied. A few used tiny arrows or dashes, about ⅛ inch long, while others had lines nearly 1¼ inches long. We preferred longer, bolder lines, but any length or style was fine as long as it clearly corresponded to a boldly marked number. If lines were stacked too close on top of each other or weren't labeled, it was hard to know which measurements they were marking. We also really appreciated that we could just look down into the innovative models with markings inside, no bending required.
Pouring In, Pouring Out
With our accuracy and legibility tests complete, we focused on how convenient the cups were to use. Models with broad, round openings were easier to pour into, especially from a wide pan such as a 12-inch skillet. These roomier cups were also tidier to pour from. If the top measurement line was too close to the cup's rim—¼ inch or less—liquid often sloshed or dribbled down the cup's exterior as we poured it from the cup. We were better able to control the flow from cups that offered about 1 inch of clearance between the top measurement and the rim.
But clearance didn't matter at all if the cup's pour spout wasn't well designed. One glass model's pour spout was positioned slightly off-center, so we always made a mess when pouring (our backup copy had the same flaw). Flexible silicone models, which could be pinched to form spouts, were OK, but our favorites had firm, evenly centered spouts that neatly directed the flow of the liquid we were pouring.
When we emptied the cups, we discovered a trade-off to one of the innovative measuring cups with two sets of accurate markings. The secondary set of measurements was located on a ridge inside the cup that made it hard to cleanly scrape out ingredients such as buttermilk or olive oil. Some testers were annoyed by the extra work, but others were willing to trade that slight inconvenience for the ability to read the cup's measurements without crouching.
Finally, we liked models that were comfortable to use. Some had sharp, thin, or small handles. One model without a handle got a little too hot when we filled it with hot water. The two stay-cool silicone cups and models with fairly long, wide handles were easiest to hold and made us feel most secure.
Which Cups Were Durable and Easy to Clean?
As a final test, we filled the cups with hot turmeric-spiked marinara (heating the cups in the microwave if they were microwave-safe) and let them sit for 3 hours. After several spins through the dishwasher and repeated hand-washing, one plastic measuring cup and the two silicone measuring cups were tinted or had light yellow rings.
Some measuring cups suffered more from the washing than the staining. Two plastic models became slightly scuffed, and another cracked. One model really disappointed us: Even though we used a gentle sponge, some of the markings wore away. Several cups emerged from testing looking like new, which bodes well for their long-term durability.
The Best Liquid Measuring Cup: Pyrex
In the end, the Pyrex 1 Cup Measuring Cup was our favorite once again. In addition to being accurate, the measurement markings were bold and easy to read. The cup is spacious, so we didn't worry about sloshing when we poured and we could quickly scrape out any remaining liquid with a spatula. The handle, though shorter than ideal, was comfortably wide and smooth. We also liked that the glass is sturdy, microwave-safe, and easy to clean. But we know that for many home cooks, crouching to view the Pyrex model's measurement markings at eye level is uncomfortable. For that reason, we also recommend the OXO Good Grips 1 Cup Angled Measuring Cup, which has a secondary set of measurement markings inside that can be read from above. It stained slightly and was harder to scrape clean than our winner, but we love its lightweight construction, comfortable handle, and clever design. Whether you prefer a traditional cup that's a cinch to clean or a lightweight model that's convenient to read, our top picks guarantee accuracy in the kitchen.
We tested ten 1-cup liquid measuring cups, sold individually or in sets, priced from about $5 to about $35 and made from glass, silicone, or plastic. We tested the accuracy of each measuring cup at essential cup markings (¼, ⅓, ½, ⅔, ¾, and 1 cup) as well as at ounce and milliliter markings. We also evaluated how easy the measuring cups were to fill, read, pour from, and clean. Information on materials and care was obtained from manufacturers. All models were purchased online. Scores were averaged, and models appear below in order of preference.
Accuracy: We used a lab-grade scale to calculate the weight of water in grams at ¼, ⅓, ½, ⅔, ¾, and 1 cup. We then carefully transferred that amount of water to the cups and compared the water levels to the cups' measurement markings. We repeated this test with the ounce and milliliter markings on each cup. Cups that were off by considerable amounts scored lower.
Legibility: We evaluated how easy it was to read the line markings on each cup. We preferred cups that were clearly marked with long lines and/or had markings that clearly corresponded to a boldly marked number.
Ease of Use: We preferred models with wide openings so we could easily pour liquids into them and scrape them clean. We also liked models with spouts that allowed us to pour neatly. Better models remained cool enough to handle even when filled with hot liquid or heated in the microwave.
Cleanup and Durability: We filled the cups with a mix of marinara sauce and turmeric and then microwaved them until simmering. (Cups that were not microwave-safe were filled with a simmering mix prepared in a different container.) We let the cups sit for 3 hours before emptying them, cleaning them in a dishwasher, and examining them for stains and odors. We then washed the cups an additional 24 times and scrubbed them five times with the mildly abrasive side of an all-purpose sponge. We deducted points from models that warped, cracked, or had markings that became less legible.