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Difference Between Dry and Liquid Measuring Cups

Hi.  Is there any difference between dry and liquid measuring cups?  Do they measure the same amount, and if so, why do I need both?  I had heard once that there is a difference between the volume of dry and liquid measures.


The volume measured by dry and liquid measuring cups typically used in the kitchen is the same.   To be clear, I am using the word "cup" here to mean the container and not necessarily the unit of measure, so the same holds true for measuring a half cup, or quarter cup, using the appropriate sized measure.

The reason for having two sets is because dry ingredients are easiest handled using a "scoop and level" technique where the cup is overfilled and then a knife or other straight edge is scraped across the top to level the amount to the right measure.  This only works if the measuring cup is filled to the brim.  If you try to measure a cup of, say, sugar using a liquid measuring cup you can't scoop and level, and it is harder to get an accurate measure by using the line.  Dry ingredients don't want to make a  nice straight line across their top and if you try to get them to, they settle in the cup causing error, so the cup used for liquid measures is not accurate for dry ingredients.

Conversely, it is difficult to measure  liquid if you need to fill the measuring cup to the very brim, and even if you succeed, you either make a mess or have difficulty getting the entire amount transported to the next step, so dry measuring cups are not easy to work with for liquid ingredients. 

In the U.S., the quantity measured by dry and liquid measured less than a pint are the same.  After that, there is a difference.  A U.S. pint used for liquid measures is 473 milliliters, where as a dry measure pint is 551 milliliters, which means it is 16.5% larger.  A U.S. dry measure quart is 16.4% bigger than its liquid counterpart, at 1101 milliliters vs. 946.


Why in the world would anyone want to measure cooking ingredients in anything other than an accurate metric system?


I agree, but whether imperial or metric, if you are measuring by volume the same physical properties hold and you still need wet and dry measures.


I knew there had to be a difference. It has been too many

years since I studied ingredients of dry & wet volume. Too

tired to read Betty Crocker Cookbook. Much easier to do a Yahoo search. Thank you! -Chris

Thank you, I had a friend using a dry cup for liquid & dry & I always would correct her. Then I started wondering if it made any difference & yes it does. Thanks again for clearing it up for me.

Thank you very much for clearing up the million dollar question of liquid vs dry ingredient measuring. My mom who has baked almost all of her 73 years of life didn't even know the answer. You measure up in my book.

I used to just pick up any measuring cup and measure any thing {liquid or dry} but thanks to that information above I now know the difference. Thanks! ... a lot.

Thanks for solving this issue. I always wanted to find the right answer. I tried to use the liquid cup for dry goods and the recipe went all wrong. So much waste of time too.

A home economic teacher used to tell students there was a difference. I am glad you put that myth to rest. Thanks!

Thanks for the helpful article!

Why then when I use a liquid measuring cup to

measure 1 cup of rice, and then pour that into a dry measuring cup, do I have extra rice left in the wet cup? Neither get shaken or anything to "settle" them...

Isn't it true that an 16oz of dry goods is different that 16oz of liquid measure. If a recipe calls for 8oz of flour, you should measure it using a scale rather than using a cup (which is a liquid measure, no matter what kind of cup you use). I'm a little confused by your post...


See the post at for an answer.

very helpful to me, I've been wondering this for a while. thank you! =]

Interesting article. I always use "dry cups" for both dry and liquid measuring without any issues and have never before heard of not putting liquid in them. I've also used "wet cups" for both without issues. I've never heard of them called by those names, either, until today somebody said something about using dry not wet cups, so I had to Google to see what was what!

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