Essential Tools

Julia Turshen Gives the Humble 1/4-Cup Measure Its Due

August 31, 2016

There are two "me"s in my kitchen. There’s "regular me" who measures nothing, cooks intuitively, adds a splash of this or a pinch of that, and doesn’t set a timer. This me cooks barefoot, puts whatever is leftover from last night into today’s pot. She listens to music with lyrics she knows and sings (badly). She writes down nothing.

Then there is "work me." This me writes, develops, and tests recipes. She wears sturdy sneakers to support long days of careful work. She keeps a stack of red pens in the utensil drawer to mark changes on typed-out notes. She sets timers and listens only to instrumental music, so as not to be distracted. She notices everything and measures it all.

Photo by James Ransom

"Work me" relies on lots of tools. One in particular is my OXO Mini Angled Measuring Cup—or rather, my cups. Plural. I love them so much that I own a few, so that I can always have a clean one available during "recipe days," when my home kitchen turns into my office. I love them so much that when I travel for work, for example to work with a chef on her recipes, I always have at least one Mini Angled Measuring Cup in my bag.

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I love these measuring cups because they make my work accurate and my job easier. They’re designed very simply and very smartly: They have no willy-nilly handles or any other extra bells or whistles. At first glance, each one appears to be just a small plastic cup with a pouring spout (that actually works).

Measurements inside eliminate the need for bending over or crouching to check the amount. Photo by Mark Weinberg

But the cup is more than that. It also has an angled surface marked with measurements on the inside that let you see how much of an ingredient you’re adding while you’re adding it. This might not seem like much, but it counts (no pun intended) for a lot. Most liquid measuring jugs are straight-sided things with measurements marked around the exterior, and these are fine. But to get an accurate measurement, your eye must be level with the thing you’re measuring to see if it is actually on the line where you want it to be. I have poured out so many little bits of water or soy sauce or this or that to get the liquid just where I want it, only to have to add a tiny bit back into the bottle. (And have you tried pouring something back into its bottle? It rarely goes where it’s supposed to.)

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Top Comment:
“I have glass 1/4 and 1/2 cup measuring cups similar to the one above other than having the numbers on the side rather than seeing them from above. My mom gave them to me years ago and I always thought they were silly. Well, I started using them a few years ago and now I find I use them more than my larger measuring cups. ”
— ktr

The angle of the Mini Angled Measuring Cups means I just put one on my kitchen counter and pour slowly and stop when the liquid reaches where I want it to reach. There is no bending down to get my eye in line with the cup, no lifting it to have the liquid slosh this way and that. This is a small detail, a very small detail, but I think it has saved me so much time over the years, not to mention saving so many liquids from ending up down the drain. (I love these measuring cups for this reason alone.)

The angled spout means that this oil will *actually* make it back into the cruet. Photo by Mark Weinberg

But there are more reasons: I love all of the measurement units they offer, especially since these days I write all my recipes with both imperial and also metric measurements. I love that they’re just the right size for measuring small amounts of things like oils, vinegars, and fish sauce. They’re not expensive. Love that. I love that they’re small enough that washing them doesn’t feel like a chore; at the end of a recipe-testing day, each one takes up almost no room in the dishwasher. It’s like it was never there.

I also love that each Mini Angled Measuring Cup is the exact amount of food Turk, my wife’s cat that is now also my cat, eats, so we keep one right in his food container. We know that he gets just as much food as he is supposed to eat each time he eats. If that isn’t reassuring, I don’t know what is.

Most of all, I love that I can fill one to capacity with an ingredient and add the ingredient little by little as I cook—and once I have added enough, I can see how much is left in the cup. This shows me exactly how much I used and also how much I didn’t use, which lets me be so accurate in my recipe writing. This small gesture lets me cook both intuitively (“Oh, this could use a little more hot chile oil!”) while also remaining totally and supremely precise. The OXO Mini Angled Measuring Cups, in other words, let me be both "me"s at the same time.

Photo by Chronicle Books

Julia Turshen is the author of the forthcoming Small Victories, out in September 2016. You can preorder her book here.

We originally ran this piece May 11, 2016—but we're bringing it back today because we couldn't be more excited for Julia's book, which hits shelves next week, on September 6th!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • 24hgriffin
  • mcs3000
  • Michelle
  • L Kaylor
    L Kaylor
  • Risottogirl


24hgriffin April 20, 2022
Do you like to use colorful measuring cups or do you just use normal ones
mcs3000 September 1, 2016
Recently broke one of my measuring cups. Will replace w/this. Thx, Julia!
Julia T. September 4, 2016
Michelle May 22, 2016
I love that so many people are as passionate about this perfect little tool as I am! I have three, and I just started keeping one in the bathroom for measuring the perfect amount of Dr. Bronner's soap into my foaming soap dispensers.
L K. May 15, 2016
Great for asian cooking, recipes usually have a lot of small abounts of ingredients, like stir fry sauce.
Risottogirl May 13, 2016
I LOVE them too. I have four. Love that they stack/nest. I measure my wine...2 oz while cooking, 4 oz with dinner. Prevents portion creep ;)
ArtoriusRex May 12, 2016
I use mine for a cocktail measuring "jigger". It's awesome.
Meghan May 12, 2016
This was such a compelling piece that I just ordered one!
Julia T. May 12, 2016
ktr May 11, 2016
I have glass 1/4 and 1/2 cup measuring cups similar to the one above other than having the numbers on the side rather than seeing them from above. My mom gave them to me years ago and I always thought they were silly. Well, I started using them a few years ago and now I find I use them more than my larger measuring cups.
Julia T. May 12, 2016
agree agree!
Megan May 11, 2016
I have 2 and use both every day. Never really thought about how much I love them though until I read this! Also very useful for mixing cocktails...
Julia T. May 12, 2016
yes very true!!
AntoniaJames May 11, 2016
Indispensable for recipes calling for small quantities stated in metric units, as more and more of the recipes I'm using these days do (most from the UK, not to mention those of my own that I've been converting to metric).
I too have more than one; have had them for years. Haven't thought to give them as gifts. What an excellent suggestion! ;o)
Sonia May 11, 2016
I've had my eye on this measuring cup for awhile. I always talk myself out of it thinking that I don't need another measuring up. And then I regret it each time because I find myself wanting a small measuring cup all the time! Thanks for writing this- I'm going to order one today.
Julia T. May 11, 2016
i'm all for minimalism, but some things are best in bulk!
sbsantafe May 11, 2016
I love these little measures as well! I have given them to everyone I know but never heard back to find out if they shared my appreciation for these workhorses. I feel like I use them every time I cook.
Julia T. May 11, 2016
best gift!!! the appreciation is definitely shared!
sbsantafe May 11, 2016
And yet I only have one for myself. What's up with that, right? I know what I'm picking up today!
Julia T. May 11, 2016
fiveandspice May 11, 2016
YES!!!!!! I have three of them! One of my most used kitchen tools.
Julia T. May 11, 2016
so fun to know other people love them as much as i do!!
LaraRamsey May 11, 2016
I so love this ode to the Oxo 1/4 cup--it really is a perfect kitchen tool! I use mine nearly every time I cook. You've convinced me that I need a few more in my kitchen...
Julia T. May 11, 2016
can never have enough as far as I'm concerned....
LouLou May 11, 2016
So heartedly agree!! Makes me want to go out and buy a few more for my household!
Julia T. May 11, 2016