By JANET K. KEELER
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 26, 2001
explanations from the inside out
Proper measuring can mean the difference between cooking success and culinary catastrophe. Too much flour or too little liquid makes cakes, muffins and biscuits dry. Adding more liquid than called for produces a runny mess in baked goods and dilutes flavor or throws off balances in vinaigrettes, marinades and soups, among other things.
One way to alleviate mishaps is to use the proper measuring cups. Dry, or solid, ingredients should be measured in 1 cup, 1/2 cup, 1/3 cup and 1/4 cup vessels (or measuring spoons), and wet ingredients should be measured in a multicup vessel with a spout and a handle to facilitate pouring. Liquid and dry measuring cups hold the same volume, but for dry ingredients it's important to be able to level off the top for the correct measurement. This can't be done if you are measuring 1 cup of flour in a four-cup container.
It is possible to measure liquids in dry measuring cups but you will likely spill some on the way to the bowl or pot. To read a liquid measuring cup, set it on a level surface and look at it at eye level.
For dry ingredients, sturdy handled cups, plastic or metal, are best. Many recipes call for dry ingredients to be measured by the "dip and sweep" method. This means that the cup is dipped into the flour (or sugar) and then the excess is swept off even with the top of the cup, usually by a knife edge or spatula.
James Lileks, a Minneapolis newspaper columnist, has put together the Regrettable Food Gallery, a place for lovers of pop culture to marvel at some of the cookbooks and food advertisements of the 1940s, '50s and '60s. Oscar Mayer's "Great new sack o' sauce in a can o' meat" which made "quick beef or pork meals with Fresh Cooked Flavor!" is just one of the amusing ads included. He also pokes fun at cookbooks that include unappetizing photos such as a very skinny roasted chicken, in black and white no less, on the cover of 250 Ways to Cook Chicken and Gamebirds. Lileks' book Regrettable Food Gallery (Crown Publishing, $22.95) is out this month.