The Best Measuring Spoons

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[Photographs: Vicky Wasik]

Home cooks could be forgiven for not knowing that measuring spoons are coldhearted liars. The US Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) publishes guidelines for how much tea- and tablespoons should hold. Even if you didn't know that the Feds set standards, many manufacturers stamp that amount, in milliliters, onto their spoons, which gives you some confidence that they were made to tight tolerances. But the truth is, almost all measuring spoons are off by at least a little.

We evaluated 14 sets of measuring spoons—both round versions better suited to holding liquids and rectangular ones narrow enough to fit into spice jars—to find the sets that are the most accurate and the easiest to fill, read, and empty.

Our Favorites, at a Glance

Our Favorite Rectangular Measuring Spoon Set: OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Spice Jar Measuring Spoons

The most accurate set tested, the OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Spice Jar Measuring Spoons have narrow heads for access into most sizes of spice jars, while their shovel-like bowls scoop easily into powdery cinnamon and densely packed brown sugar. The five-piece set's handles are covered in comfortable nonslip rubber, and the bowls are a cinch to sweep level after scooping.

Our Favorite 6-Piece Rectangular Measuring Spoon Set: RSVP International Endurance Spice Spoons

While not as accurate as our winning OXOs, the RSVP International 6-Piece Endurance Spice Spoon Set was a close runner-up—its tablespoon was off by 0.3 gram, while OXO's was off by 0.1 gram—and it includes two useful extra sizes: 1/8 teaspoon and 3/4 teaspoon. The bowls align with the sturdy handles, making it even easier to get a level scoop. The Sur La Table Spice Measuring Spoons are also a six-piece set and performed just as well as the RSVP International. (The manufacturers haven't confirmed it, but based on appearances and testing, we suspect they're made by the same company.)

Our Favorite Round Measuring Spoons: Amco Advanced Performance Measuring Spoons

We found the four-piece Amco Advanced Performance Measuring Spoons to be accurate and easy to work with. The handles have little stands on them that help keep the bowls nearly level for accurate filling when the spoon is on the countertop, and the wide, shallow design makes it easy to clean out sticky ingredients, like honey, with a small spatula.

The Details

The Criteria

We knew going into this that the measuring spoons we chose had to be accurate above all, across the whole set—a feature we couldn't confirm without testing. But before we could start on that, we had to pare down our list.

For such a simple tool, there are a dizzying number of options. To choose which sets to test, we considered best-selling items on major retailers like Amazon, and cross-referenced reviews from other reputable brands, like America's Test Kitchen (subscription required) and The Sweethome. This still left us with a huge number of potential sets to test, so we then turned to Serious Eats' resident pastry expert, Stella Parks, who cut to the core of what features, after accuracy, are really important to have in a set of spoons.

The single greatest restriction we applied, born from Stella's years of working in commercial kitchens, was excluding spoons made from heat-sensitive materials like plastic, which can deform after holding hot candy syrup or bumping into scalding sheet pans. Firsthand experience also led us to exclude spoons that use magnets to nest together—a seemingly handy feature that quickly becomes an annoyance in the tool drawer, as the magnets tend to grab onto other metal objects nearby.

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Rectangular measuring spoons are better able to get into small spice jars; round ones make that difficult.

We also took the drastic step of eliminating all double-sided measuring spoons from the test. On the surface, it appears to be a great feature—by putting round measures on one end of each handle and the equivalent rectangular shape on the other, you seem to be getting the best of both worlds. But Stella was adamant that those spoons simply replace one inconvenience with another, since most baking recipes call for both liquid ingredients, like vanilla, corn syrup, and molasses, and dry ones, like baking soda, salt, and ground spices. You'd either have to wash a used spoon every time you needed to switch to the other side, or settle for holding the dirty end in your palm. Instead, we decided it was better to find the best of each kind: a set of round spoons that are easiest to use for measuring liquids, and rectangular ones that can reach into a spice jar.

Beyond that, we excluded any gimmicky sets with unconventional shapes like hearts, sets that used a rainbow of colors for pure aesthetics, and sets that included measures for a "pinch," "dash," or "smidgen"—those three vague amounts have no place on a set of tools designed for accuracy.

While some sets offer 1/8 and 3/4 teaspoon measures, we included any qualifying sets that had the four most common sizes: 1/4 teaspoon, 1/2 teaspoon, 1 teaspoon, and 1 tablespoon. With these four spoons, you can make just about any recipe. We considered the inclusion of 1/8 and 3/4 teaspoon sizes a nice bonus, but not an essential feature.

Testing

Accuracy

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The first test is the most important: accuracy. NIST publishes standards for household weights and measures, which call for a teaspoon to hold 5 milliliters and a tablespoon 15 milliliters.

Because 1 milliliter of water weighs exactly 1 gram, we were able to determine accuracy by weighing the amount of water each could hold. For each set's four main spoons (1/4 teaspoon, 1/2 teaspoon, 1 teaspoon, and 1 tablespoon), we used an eyedropper to fill them with water so that the convex meniscus aligned with the bowl's rim. Then we weighed the amount on a calibrated jeweler's scale with a resolution of a hundredth of a gram. To rule out human error, we repeated the test four more times for each spoon, then averaged the readings to determine how accurate each spoon was against the NIST standard and, cumulatively, how accurate each set was.

This test proved the harsh truth of how cooking projects can go awry even when you follow the recipe to the letter. Some sets had a spoon that turned out to be off by 1 gram or more after we averaged their trials out. One tablespoon was light by nearly 4 grams—almost a teaspoon's worth! We disqualified three out of the 14 sets we tested due to such inaccuracies. A gram might not sound like a lot, but it's about 80% of a 1/4 teaspoon's capacity; with some potent substances, like baking powder, that's enough to make a real difference.

Of the remaining sets, we cut six more after calculating their cumulative averages. We ruled out any sets that were cumulatively off by 1 gram or more. While no set perfectly nailed the NIST standards, our winners all fell within 1 gram of the target, with no individual spoon more than 0.6 gram off.

Spice Jar Access

Just about any spoon will scoop up granulated sugar from a bag, but when you need to get a half teaspoon of cinnamon from a narrow jar, getting it in there is the first hurdle. You could hold a jar over a spoon and coax the cinnamon out, but inevitably the avalanche of spice tumbles out, sending powder everywhere. We think a set of task-specific spoons is a better approach, and this is where the rectangular spoons excel.

All of the tablespoons in the rectangular sets fit through the opening of a standard McCormick spice bottle, while even a round teaspoon measure couldn't get in there. We tested all the spoons on a variety of jars with openings of as small as an inch, noting how well the spoons fit and how much room they had inside to move around.

Dip-and-Sweep Test for Dry Ingredients

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For dry ingredients, we've found the dip-and-sweep method to be the most precise way to measure with spoons: Gather a spoonful of your ingredient, then drag a straight edge, like the back of a butter knife, across the rim of the spoon to sweep off the excess. We tested each spoon using this method to judge whether its design facilitated or hindered this. Some had designs that made it surprisingly difficult to do this evenly. The spot where the bowl and handle meet is critical—in some cases, the bowl sits below the handle, or there's a sizable hump at the juncture, making it harder to sweep and at times causing dips and divots in the surface of fine and powdery ingredients.

Measuring Wet and Sticky Liquids

It's always frustrating when a spoon is difficult to empty completely, especially when it's filled with viscous ingredients, like molasses or corn syrup. To test how easy it was to dump a spoon's payload, we weighed each tablespoon, then filled it with 15 grams of water, turned the spoons over to empty them, and put the spoons back on the scale to see how much water was left behind. We repeated the test with honey.

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The shape of the spoon didn't seem to have much bearing on how well it could be emptied. Water slipped out of both rectangular and round ones with ease, leaving behind, at most, 0.1 gram. Honey was more stubborn, though this problem was shared by all the spoons—they each retained close to a whopping 4.5 grams after being inverted for three seconds. The real difference, not surprisingly, came down to which shape of spoon was easiest to scrape clean with a small flexible spatula. On that front, shallow round ones won out.

Durability Test

It's not uncommon to stress a measuring spoon until the handle bends. To test durability, we pitted each tablespoon against brown sugar, an ingredient that can become rock-hard over time. We filled standard loaf pans with 32 ounces of brown sugar, packing it down well, and set them out in the kitchen overnight to dry until firm. Then we scooped up brown sugar to evaluate how much the handles flexed under stress.

We also examined the markings on the spoons, taking note of which were stamped into the material and which were printed or painted on. Generally, stamped markings are preferable, since they aren't prone to rubbing off over time the way printed ones can.

How We Chose Our Winner(s)

After running the spoons through all the above tests, and eliminating any that performed poorly in any of the tests, we were able to narrow down our picks to the following three sets.

Our Favorite Rectangular Measuring Spoons for Spices: OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Spice Jar Measuring Spoons

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The OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Spice Jar Measuring Spoons were the most accurate spoons tested. The 1/2 teaspoon was the most erroneous of the bunch, averaging a scant 0.2 gram off the 2.5-gram (i.e., milliliter) mark. Off, but certainly accurate enough for just about any recipe.

The bowls have a unique shovel-like shape that is not as boxy as other rectangular spoons, which makes them excellent diggers. The relatively thin steel (almost a millimeter thick) forms a tiny lip on the front edge of the spoons, which cuts into ingredients in a clean scoop. We coaxed packed brown sugar and settled cinnamon into the spoons with no problem, while other rectangular shapes required more twisting and turning to get the job done.

The width of the tablespoon's head, at just over an inch, is narrow enough to slip into nearly all of the jars we tested, including basics like supermarket cinnamon. The handles on the tablespoon and the full teaspoon have a gentle arch that, when combined with the flat bottom of the spoon, helps them sit steady on the countertop. On the smaller spoons, the bottom of the bowl is nearly perfectly aligned with the thick rubber end of the handle, so they sit almost level on the countertop.

While our testing was focused on the four key spoons, this set includes a 1/8 teaspoon as well, and all of them are joined on a wide plastic ring that makes it easy to pull off the one you need. The trade-off is that these spoons don't nest together, so they take up more drawer space.

If there's one true downside, it's that these spoons have their measurings printed on them, not stamped or molded. We didn't notice any signs of those markings beginning to wear off after repeated washings (both by hand and in the dishwasher), or after handling and rubbing, but that doesn't mean it couldn't happen given enough time and abuse. The OXOs also don't list their volumes in milliliters, which we generally prefer measuring spoons to include.

Our Favorite 6-Piece Rectangular Measuring Spoon Set: RSVP International Endurance Spice Spoons

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Some cooks want a set that covers nearly all of the sizes a recipe could call for, including the nonstandard 1/8 and 3/4 teaspoons. The RSVP International 6-Piece Endurance Spice Spoon Set's four spoons were off by 0.9 gram in total, with the tablespoon the most egregious at 0.3 gram. The hefty two-millimeter-thick metal handles have stamped measurements, including milliliters, and the bowls are very easy to sweep level.

While the spoons tip back toward the handle when placed on the countertop, they do nest together neatly, taking up little space in the drawer. Our biggest gripe: The included ball chain used to link the spoons is cumbersome to open and close, making it difficult to separate one spoon from the bunch. It's not a reason to rule out this set, but we'd seriously consider finding a different ring, with an easier, quick-release mechanism, and tossing the chain in the trash.

Nearly identical in build and performance are the Sur La Table Spice Measuring Spoons. Though we were unable to confirm it with either company, we suspect that the spoons are made by the same manufacturer and simply sport different brand names.

Our Favorite Round Measuring Spoons for Liquids: Amco Advanced Performance Measuring Spoons

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With a combined four-spoon inaccuracy of less than a gram, the Amco Advanced Performance Measuring Spoons set was among the most accurate in our testing and features an easy-to-use design with a nice heft.

These spoons are nearly twice as heavy as our winning OXO rectangular set, with handles that are thicker than a nickel. Heavy, sure, but their build won't deform easily—in a pinch, you could get away with using these to portion cookie dough.

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Amco's spoons have a short leg at the end of each handle, allowing them to sit close to level on a flat surface.

There are a few design considerations that make the Amcos easy to work with. First, most of the spoons in the set have gently flattened bowl bottoms, making them look almost like mini skillets. This helps keep the spoons still when they're sitting flat, making it easier to pour in liquids. Second, the handle ends angle down like legs, which keeps the bowls almost perfectly level when they're sitting flat. And third, the wide handles have depressions in them for your thumb, ensuring a steadier grip.

The bowls themselves are wide and shallow. That's a slight disadvantage when you're measuring thin liquids, like water or vanilla extract, since it's easier to spill them. But it's a shape that makes scraping out thick and stubborn fluids, like honey and corn syrup, as easy as can be, which we think is worth it.

The head on the tablespoon is 1 7/8 inches wide, making it too big to fit into most spice jars. But once dry ingredients are in the bowl, the design is easy to sweep level, meaning it can work for ground and powdery ingredients, too. The spoons are connected with a hinged ring that opens easily, a design we favor over the all-too-common and incredibly fussy key ring style.