Measuring Cups Buyers' Guide
Providing a consistent dining experience depends on creating a consistent product, and the only way to guarantee that is by following a precise recipe each and every time. Measuring cups are one quintessential tool that gives chefs the ability to replicate their signature dishes from batch to batch, and when it comes to shopping for a new set, you have the choice between several materials, each of which have their own benefits and drawbacks.
Plastic Measuring Cups
If your primary concern is price, plastic ones are the best measuring cups for you. You can get a four-piece set or an individual four-pint cup for under three dollars each. In addition to being economical, plastic cups are among the most rugged. While they are subject to cracking and breaking when they're under extreme stress, everyday rough handling and meetings with the floor usually won't destroy a plastic measuring cup.
The major drawback to plastic is that it can stain and absorb odors, although polycarbonate cups won't. Plastic is also subject to melting if it's exposed to higher temperatures - generally 300 degrees F and higher. Finally, the printed markings on plastic cups will become worn and faded over time, maybe to the point of illegibility, rendering an otherwise perfectly-sound cup useless.
Metal Measuring Cups
Metal measuring cups live up to their constituent material's reputation for being durable. Their downside applies equally to all metal kitchen tools - they're subject to potential scratches that can harbor bacteria and open the door for rust to form. That just means that cooks and operators should be diligent and routinely check for those signs of wear that mean the utensils should be replaced.
A major benefit of metal measuring cups is that their markings are generally etched - not printed. Those markings will never fade and be the cause of your having to replace a set of cups. Metal measuring cups are generally heavier than the alternatives, providing a balanced feel that many cooks appreciate. Their heft also means they can sit up on their own, so ingredients can be poured directly into them. The rigidness of the metal helps their handles resists bending from the weight of dense ingredients like sugar.
If you decide to opt for metal measuring cups, try to find those that are constructed of one piece of metal rather than those with welded, soldered, or riveted handles. Cups constructed from multiple pieces provide nooks and crannies that create a home for bacteria and are hard to clean around. Alternately, cups with their handles mounted on the exterior should be easy to clean.
Glass Measuring Cups
It's obvious, but the major drawback to glass measuring cups is that they can be broken when they're dropped, while their plastic and metal counterparts tend to be more forgiving. Glass is also subject to shattering under the thermal shock caused by rapid temperature changes, so glass generally doesn't make an ideal vessel for measuring hot foods.
The big advantages of glass measuring cups is that they will never absorb color or odor from foods and they'll never rust or scratch. They're very easy to keep clean, since the slick surfaces don’t promote sticking. They also are extremely easy to read, since the markings are typically bold and slow to degrade, and because they retain their clarity with proper cleaning, unlike plastic cups that can cloud. Those benefits may make it the material of choice in kitchens where staff can be trusted to treat their tools like their own.
Aguilera, Ray and Ganda Suthivarakom. The Best Measuring Cups. The Sweethome. Accessed September 1, 2015.