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A 'measuring cup' or 'measuring jug' is a kitchen utensil used primarily to measure the volume of liquid or bulk solid cooking ingredients such as flour and sugar, especially for volumes from about 50 mL (2 fl oz) upwards. The cup will usually have a scale marked in cups and fractions of a cup, and often with fluid measure and weight of a selection of dry foodstuffs. Measuring cups are also used to measure washing powder, liquid detergents or bleach, with a measuring cup not also used for food.
Measuring cups may be made of plastic, glass, or metal. Transparent (or translucent) cups can be read from an external scale; metal ones only from a scale marked on the inside. Smaller measuring spoons lack a scale and are filled and leveled to maximum capacity.
Capacity and scale
Measuring cups usually have capacities from 250 ml (approx. 1 cup (volume) to 1000 ml (approx. 4 cups = 2 pints = 1 quart), though larger sizes are also available for commercial use. They usually have scale markings at different heights: the substance being measured is added to the cup until it reaches the wanted level. Dry measure cups without a scale are sometimes used, in sets typically of 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, and 1 cup. The units may be milliliters or fractions of a liter, or (specially in the United States and Australia) the cup (unit) with its fractions (typically 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, 2/3, and 3/4), pints, and often fluid ounces. Sometimes multiples of teaspoons and tablespoons are included. There may also be scales for the approximate weight for particular substances, such as flour and sugar.
For dry measure
Many dry ingredients, such as granulated sugar, are not very compressible, so volume measures are consistent. Others, notably flour, are more variable. For example, 1 cup of all-purpose flour sifted into a cup and leveled weighs about 100 grams, whereas 1 cup of all-purpose flour scooped from its container and leveled weighs about 140 grams.
Using a measuring cup to measure bulk foods which can be compressed to a variable degree such as chopped vegetables or shredded cheese leads to large measurement uncertainties. It is easier to chop down the units for a better measure.
- Julia Child and Simone Beck, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, vol. 2, p. 544.