food

Kitchen essentials explained: 7 measuring tools to perfect your recipes

Last Updated: June 7, 2021

Written by Wani

You can call me out as someone who takes ingredient measurement with a pinch of salt—literally. When it comes to cooking, a measurement sounds to me like a suggestion rather than a directive, but I know better than anyone, that a lackadaisical attitude will not fly when it comes to baking. Since baking is slightly more science than ‘feels’, it goes a long way for one to stick to the ‘2 cup’ instruction if you want the best chance of your bakes turning out perfect. Here, I’ll break down seven different measuring tools that are essential to have your kitchen—even if you possess unwavering confidence in eye-balling the temperature of that roast beef in the oven.

1. Measuring spoon

What it is:

Just like a teaspoon or tablespoon, a measuring spoon is used to measure powders and liquids. They usually come in a set, but there’s no industry standard of how many varying spoon measurements come in one set.

What makes it unique:

These measuring spoons can come in different materials like plastic, silicone, and stainless steel, and as mentioned are commonly bought in a bundle—although you may also purchase them individually.

What it’s used for:

They are typically used to measure smaller amounts that vary between half a teaspoon to odd in-between measurements like 1¾ tablespoon. They can also go up to one cup’s worth, so anything larger than that would require a measuring cup.

You can purchase a measuring spoon set here.

2. Instant-read thermometer

What it is:

As its name suggests, the instant-read thermometer provides a live reading of the temperature of your meat. You can certainly eye-ball the doneness but that takes years to master—IMHO—and ain’t nobody got time for that. You also might not want to cut into the meat (to keep it intact for presentation), so an instant-read thermometer will do the trick.

What makes it unique:

When you’re using the oven at home, it’s important to reach a safe core temperature in your meat, fish, or poultry dishes. Not only do you want to ensure an accurate cook, but you also want to make sure you’re killing off any potentially harmful germs to protect you and your family from food-borne illnesses (like E. coli). For quick reference, here are the minimum safe internal temperatures for various foods:

  • Beef, veal, and lamb: 57.2°C for medium-rare, 62.7°C for medium-well
  • Pork: 62.7°C
  • Chicken and other poultry: 73.8°C
  • Fish: 71.1°C

What it’s used for:

Apart from checking the temperature of your protein, an instant-read thermometer also helps to check the temperature of oil before deep-frying—because who wants soggy fries? When it comes to meat, it can be used during roasting, pan-roasting, grilling, sous vide, poaching, and yes, definitely baking.

You can purchase an instant-read thermometer here.

3. Digital kitchen scale

What it is:

Now, not all cooking measurements are in tablespoons or millilitres, and that’s where a digital kitchen scale comes in handy. It depends on whether you like to read your scales digitally or via analogue—for that authentic ‘old school’ feel—but either is useful when it comes to measuring stuff like flour for baking or meal portioning for consumption or storage.

What makes it unique:

Digital scales work with the use of a strain gauge load cell. Whereas analogue scales use springs to indicate the weight of an object, digital scales convert the force of weight into an electric signal. They are said to be more accurate than analogue ones and certainly more popular, mainly due to their compact shape and reported accuracy in measuring, even with minuscule amounts.

What it’s used for:

Use this machine to weigh powders/flours, to portion food for storage, and to keep to your desired food portion. If you’re planning to keep one for personal use, a maximum weightage of up to five kilograms or less should suffice.

You can purchase a digital kitchen scale here.

4. Liquid measuring cup

What it is:

Liquid measuring cups are usually glass or plastic with a handle. They allow you to pour a liquid into the cup and evenly to a measurement line without spilling.

What makes it unique:

When measuring liquids, you want the meniscus (the bottom of the curved surface line of the liquid) to touch the measurement mark. Liquid measuring cups and dry measuring cups aren’t necessarily interchangeable, especially if your goal is to be as accurate as possible. A group of people measures a cup of water in both wet and dry measuring cups, which resulted in the dry cups’ final measurements varying by 23%, and the liquid cups’ measurements varying by only 10%.

It proved to be much easier to gauge the volume of water in the liquid measuring cup, as its transparency allowed measurers to see when the meniscus—the bottom of the curved surface line of the liquid—had touched the one-cup line. There was a greater variance when measuring water in a dry cup because it was so easy to overfill, as the surface tension of water allows it to sit slightly higher in this type of vessel.

What it’s used for:

Best used for all liquids, even oil.

You can buy a wet measuring cup here.

5. Dry measuring cup

What it is:

In contrast to wet measuring cups as explained above, dry measuring cups hold the exact amount of an ingredient and should be levelled off with a flat edge.

What makes it unique:

If you’re wondering if you can measure say, flour, in a wet measuring cup, you sure can, but there will be quite a discrepancy in your measurement. Participants were tasked to measure a cup of all-purpose flour in both dry and wet measuring cups and with the dry measuring cup, the measurements were off by as much as 13%, while the measurements in the wet measuring cups doubled to an error of up to 26%. This is because measuring flour in a liquid measuring cup, where it’s impossible to level off any excess, is likely to have contributed to the error.

What it’s used for:

Best used for all powders and flours, especially if you want to be known as a perfectionist in the kitchen, as exemplified above.

You can buy a dry measuring cup here.

6. Spaghetti measure

What it is:

I know plenty of people eye-ball measuring pasta serving sizes—mainly because I’m extremely guilty of doing it, too. Most days I get it right for two people, but there are times my assumptions are super-inflated. A spaghetti measure is one of the tools you didn’t think you’d need, and it takes the guesswork right out. There’s really no reason for anyone to not have it stashed in their kitchen drawer.

What makes it unique:

There are a few types of spaghetti measure; some are stainless steel plates with different-sized holes, while there are those circular adjustable gadgets whose inner circumference widens or narrows according to how many people you’re measuring for.

What it’s used for:

This one’s a no-brainer—of course, it’s used to measure pasta portions (particularly long-strand pasta types like spaghetti, fettuccine, tagliatelle, angel hair, etc.)

You can buy a spaghetti measure here.

7. Kitchen timer

What it is:

Sure, you can always rely on our trust phone to perform a countdown for us, but I actually like the idea of having a separate kitchen timer just for the kitchen to ding when it’s time to remove my cake from the oven.

What makes it unique:

Having a tangible timer isn’t something novel, but it sure gets me into the mindset of accountability when I’m physically turning the knob to 15 minutes and hearing the ticker count down to zero. It also carries a sense of nostalgia of when the buzz of the timer reminds me of a time when it signals cookie taste-test time when I was little.

What it’s used for:

Use it to help keep an eye on that boiling pot of pasta, when you need a reminder of when to flip those grilled vegetables, or when enough time has passed for that dough to rise.

You can buy a kitchen timer here.

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