Kitchen Scale: It Really Measures Up

There’s a certain nostalgia that comes with baking — perhaps an image of kneading dough on a rustic wooden block with billows of flour swirling through the air, or of golden rolls cooling on a rack, made fresh by bakers who somehow “just knew” exactly how much baking soda or salt this batch needed.

In reality, baking is a very precise form of cooking, and exact ratios and measurements are the key to a recipe’s success. Aside from an obvious challenge of measuring “a pinch of salt” or a “splash of lemon juice,” even cups, tablespoons and teaspoons — acceptable forms of measurement — can be inaccurate. The most precise method for measuring dry ingredients is by weight. Unlike cups or tablespoons, which measure by volume, kitchen scales allow for an exact measure, regardless of how the ingredient is cut, packed or scooped. Simply put, one ounce always weighs one ounce.

Scales can make anyone a more efficient cook. Instead of having to use (and clean!) multiple measuring cups and spoons, ingredients can be weighed in one bowl. A kitchen scale also can simplify the process of changing a recipe’s yield, in addition to being a safe activity for a child “sous chef” so they may play an active and meaningful role in preparing family meals.

Besides baking and cooking, kitchen scales are a helpful tool in managing certain diets. Someone diagnosed with kidney disease may be instructed to limit protein intake at each meal, but without a scale, this can be a difficult and frustrating task that may result in non-compliance. Scales are also an excellent way to better understand portion sizes and portion control. Weighing pasta, steaks, potatoes and other foods can provide a meaningful number to associate with an image.

Considering a good kitchen scale can cost as little as twenty-five dollars, it can practically pay for itself by preventing multiple recipe attempts caused by inconsistent measurements, thus reducing waste and food costs.

It may be a while before converting ingredients to weight measures becomes standard for magazines, websites and other recipe publishers, and “pinches” and “splashes” will probably remain a part of the cooking and baking vernacular for some time. However, kitchen scales offer home cooks the ability to produce great recipes with the speed and consistency of professional chefs.

3 Kitchen Scale Tips

Chef Tom Beckman, instructor at Le Cordon Bleu Chicago, offers three tips for kitchen scale users:

  • Make sure batteries are fully charged. If the batteries are old, the scale will not give accurate results.
  • Scale ingredients using a clean, dry bowl to achieve the most precise measurements.
  • Tare the scale back to zero each time a new ingredient is weighed. It’s easy to forget when bowls are changed or multiple ingredients need to be weighed.
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Sara Haas
Sara Haas, RDN, LDN, is a Chicago-based dietitian and co-author of the Fertility Foods Cookbook. Read her blog, The Cooking RD, and connect with her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.