Skip to content

Dry vs Liquid Measurements—What's the Difference?

Learn why it’s important to have two types of measuring cups.
measuring cups

No matter how many times I Marie Kondo my kitchen, I will never ever get rid of one kitchen tool: my liquid measuring cups. They're bulky and take up a lot more space than nesting measuring cups, but they're essential to precise liquid measurements. That's because dry and liquid ingredients are measured differently—liquids by fluid ounces, which measure volume, and dry ingredients by ounces, which measure weight.

How to measure dry ingredients

In a perfect world, you'd use a scale to measure dry ingredients, but those stacking dry measuring cups with handles that you definitely have in your kitchen will do just fine. You can measure a precise amount by filling the cup (or 1/3 cup, or 1/4 cup, and so on) with the ingredient—like flour—and level it off with a knife or other flat tool.

Flour and white sugar should not be pressed or packed down, but recipes usually call for a "packed cup" of things like brown sugar. This means pushing the sugar down to tightly pack the measuring tool with the ingredient and no air.

More on Cooking Tips

  • Wrap cheese in plastic

    You Should Never Store Cheese Like This

    This simple mistake slashes cheese's lifespan.
  • Paleo granola in a bowl ready to serve with breakfast.

    23 Foods You Should Make—Not Buy!

    These favorites will always taste better homemade.
  • vegetable sushi

    How to Lose Weight While Eating Comfort Food

    Yes, it's possible, according to this expert!
  • central perk

    The Official "Friends" Cookbook is Coming Out This Year

    Could we BE anymore excited?!
  • server holding salad

    7 Food Safety Tips Doctors Want You to Know

    Practice these suggestions to avoid exposure.

There is no way to know exactly how many dry ounces are in a cup, because it varies by weight—use however much fits in the cup measure you're using, or use a kitchen scale to be more precise (advisable for baking).

If you tried to measure flour by volume, you could really mess up a batch of cookies—1 cup of all-purpose flour weighs 4.5 ounces rather than 8 ounces. (There are 8 fluid ounces in 1 cup by volume for liquids.)

How to measure liquid ingredients

Measuring liquid ingredients is really simple: have separate measuring cups with liquid measurements. There are 8 ounces of liquid (fluid ounces) in a cup, so two cups is 16 ounces (aka 1 pint), four cups is 32 oz. (aka 1 quart), and so on. They're measured in liquid measuring cups—made of glass or plastic with a handle—and can be poured easily from its spout.

RELATED: Your ultimate restaurant and supermarket survival guide is here!

She Lost 100 Pounds—And Shows You How!

Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist Ilana Muhlstein lost her weight and kept it off—and in You Can Drop It!, she'll show you how to lose it, too. More than 240,000 clients have chosen her program—and now it’s yours to keep.

Alyse Whitney
Alyse Whitney is a freelance food writer. Read more
Filed Under