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Though I believe in the need for spontaneity and creativity in the kitchen there are times specific tools are not only helpful but a necessity. This is especially relevant when baking – which is as much a science as a creative pursuit. These are the Top 7 Measuring Tools Every Kitchen Needs;
1. Liquid Measuring Cups
Liquid and dry ingredients need separate kinds of measuring tools. Liquid measures usually come in 1-cup, 2-cup, 4-cup, and 8-cup sizes. A 2-cup measure, like the Pyrex 2-Cup Measuring Cup, is probably the most used of all. The larger sizes, like the 4 and 8 cup, can double as a mixing bowl as well and therefore also practical to own. Another kind I particularly like is the Dezine Products 2-Cup Mix-N-Measure Glass Measuring Cup that lists grams, ounces, teaspoons, tablespoons, and milliliters. I recommend glass measuring cups instead of plastic.
2. Dry Ingredients Measuring Cups
A basic set for measuring dry ingredients will include 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, and 1 cup measures. I recommend stainless steel instead of plastic – it’s more durable and can withstand the heat of the dishwasher without degrading the material. I don’t recommend cups that have a spout for pouring since this can affect the measurement of your ingredients.
3. Measuring spoons
Measuring spoons will typically come in 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, and 1 teaspoon and 1 tablespoon. Stainless steel is the best option. I like to have two sets of measuring spoons when I’m doing a full day of cooking and baking. I use one for dry ingredients (like spices) and one for liquid so there is no need to keep cleaning between measuring from wet to dry. I also prefer narrow-shaped spoons instead of round that can fit into spice jars.
If you do any baking you need a scale! Measuring by weight is more accurate – volume measurements are not exact. It is the best way to measure flour but I use it all the time for measuring chocolate baking bars. Using a scale eliminates the need for different tools, you can measure your liquids and dry ingredients by weight directly in a bowl.
A digital scale that measures grams, kilograms, ounces, or pounds is the best option. Also look for one that resets to zero to measure your next ingredient. My scale is about 10 years old – I’m sure whatever is available now will be better then mine. Mine shuts off of after one minute. Look for one withat least a 3-minute auto shut-off (I’ve already had to dump out ingredients and re-measure on mine). My next scale will probably be the EatSmart Digital Kitchen Scale – I’ve seen it recommended by Rose Levy Beranbaum and Michael Ruhlman.
5. Instant – Read Thermometer
I use a Thermapen instant- read thermometer that I read about in Cook’s Illustrated years ago. The newer models have many improvements like a faster measuring time (3-5 seconds), a splash proof design, and a temperature range to 572 degrees F. A full range is practical since you will not need a separate candy/deep fry thermometer (for syrups and caramels), breads, and meats. Whichever model you choose, a digital one is best.
For bread making: most breads are ready at 200F to 210F, egg rich breads like challah and brioche at 180F-190F.
6. Oven Thermometer
Using an oven thermometer is the only way to know how accurate your oven is – it’s not uncommon for ovens to run too hot or not hot enough. With an oven thermometer you can compensate for discrepancies. This is vital when following recipes. You will have greater success if you can come as close as possible to the conditions the recipe creator used.
A timer will keep you organized and keep distractions from potentially ruining your food. There are countless options for kitchen timers. I don’t have a separate one, I use the timer on my ovens and haven’t found a need for a more sophisticated tool. But my oven also has a built in probe that will beep once a desired temperature is reached. There are timers available with this function that is practical for roasting turkey and other meats. Another useful option are timers that will count up once the time is up, so if you are late to the kitchen you know how long it’s been since the time went off. It’s always a good idea to set the timer early depending on what you are making to check on browning and other variables.
But I still manage to ruin a few things every now and then … The one tool that doesn’t exist is the one that would have prevented my brownies from over-baking because all my kids and their friends are starving for a snack the same time the phone rings and someone is at the door and I have onions frying in the pan and I was five minutes late to get them out – and over-baked brownies just aren’t the same. (I crumbled them up and made them into ice cream toppings – that’s where the spontaneity and creativity come in).
Canning Jars with Measuring Marks
These canning jars didn’t make my top 7 list of essential measuring tools, but I use them so often that I wanted to share one last tip.
These are Ball wide-mouth canning jars that have cups and milliliter markings on them. They are perfect for storing egg whites, kefir, homemade purees, and reviving sourdough and at the same time showing you how much you have. For homemade salad dressing you can measure, mix, and store all in one container.
Do you use any of these measuring tools? Do you have a favorite kind or tip to share?