Consult any cookbook written prior to 1945 and you will likely be slightly mystified by the measuring units: a jigger of milk, a teacup of flour, a dessert spoon of sugar and a wine glass of water. While it may not sound terribly accurate, generations of women baked using these 'heirloom' measurements with, presumably, fairly successful results. (For a full heirloom measurement conversion chart, click here.)
The standard measuring-cup units we use in modern cookery today were founded by an American named Fannie Farmer in 1896, although it took decades for this system to be adopted worldwide. That year, Farmer, who was then the director of the Boston Cooking School, authored The Boston Cooking School Cookbook using these new measuring concepts - the first time they were published. Once the new system took hold (by the Mid-20th Century) manufacturers began to make standardized measuring cups and spoons for home cooks in a variety of materials.
Measuring cups today are an essential kitchen staple needed to carefully measure ingredients for baking and cooking. Few kitchens are without sets of measuring cups and measuring spoons. These 'cups' usually come in a set of 4 with different measuring units. The different measurements usually range from 1 cup, 1/2 cup, 1/3 cup to ¼ cup. Odd-measure cups are also available: 2/3, 3/4, and 1.5 cup sizes. They are used for measuring both wet and dry ingredients and come in a variety of shapes and colours.TYPES OF MEASURING CUPS
Stainless Steel Measuring Cups – Stainless steel measuring cups are both durable and easy to clean. They are also dishwasher safe and retain the temperature of the ingredients being measured very well. These are my personal favourite and ones that I personally recommend for all the reasons stated above. They are utilitarian and sturdy. The ones shown above are from the Martha Stewart Collection at Macy's and include the measuring spoons.
Plastic Measuring Cups – Plastic measuring cups are the most popular on the market today. Their low cost and availability make them almost ubiquitous. They are dishwasher safe, easy to clean and durable. They were introduced in sets similar to the ones shown above in the 1940s and often come in exuberant colours - a nice feature when trying to visually distinguish between measurements. Many silicone varieties today are heat resistant.
Ceramic Measuring Cups - Ceramic measuring cups are more decorative, but are still functional. They tend to be novelty pieces, such as the ones shown above from Anthropologie. They are easy to clean and dishwasher safe but are fragile and heat-sensitive - their biggest drawback. They can shatter when dropped or crack when exposed to extreme temperatures. They often come in very pretty, whimsical designs and can make a nice addition to a countertop or an appropriate gift for a collector of kitchen gadgetry.
Wooden Measuring Cups – Like their ceramic sisters, wooden measuring cups are mostly decorative and are not very commonly used. They were introduced in the 1970s but fell out of favour. Frequent use and dampness can cause the wood to crack or become warped with time. They are also more challenging to clean.
These stainless-steel measuring cups by Williams-Sonoma are my personal favourite. They are professional quality and come in every size you might need - both standard and odd measures. I love their wide, curved handles that are comfortable to hold, and they won’t bend as you scoop dry ingredients out of a canister. Flat bottoms allow the measuring cups to rest securely on your countertop for easy filling. Capacities are listed in both U.S. and metric units on the handles and they are all made with 18/10 stainless-steel construction. Click here to see more. Below is my set of stainless-steel measuring cups and measuring spoons from the Martha Stewart Collection, purchased a couple of years ago. These are also very, very nice.