R10_0019                                                                                                                                    Photo by Donna
Scale (noun):  A good digital scale is an important kitchen tool because it provides the most accurate way of measuring ingredients, which is especially critical in baking.  A tablespoon of different brands of salt have different weights but an ounce of salt will have the same impact no matter the type or brand.  Flour and other finely powdered ingredients measured by the dry cup can vary in weight as well.  A scale is recommended for any serious kitchen.

Scale (verb): To scale means to weigh—for example, “Scale that dough into 10 ounce portions for small baguettes.”

This scale is one of the most important tools in my kitchen.  It not only ensures constency, it makes putting together ingredients simple.  You know how much easier it is to measure 8 ounces of shortening as compared to one cup?  Here, I’m measuring ingredients for bread dough that I’ve been making a lot of recently.  If I were making cookies, I could put the shortening or butter right in there with the flour.  I was corresponding recently with a cook who weighed a cup of his flour and it was 3 ounces.  A cup of flour can weigh as much as 6 ounces.  If he measured four cups and I measured four cups, I’d have twice as much flour in my bowl.

But I don’t know how much a part a scale is of the home kitchen. Many of the people who read this blog are serious home cooks.  I’m working on a book now that relies a lot on the weight of ingredients, and I’m very curious to know what people who care about cooking think about scales.  Do you own one?  Why or why not.  Do you use it?  If so how?  If not why not?  I suspect a lot of it is because almost all the cookbooks out there use volume measurements so you don’t need one.  Here’s the scale I use.  But there are lots to choose from and start at about $25.  Key attributes are digital, measures in grams and ounces, and can measure at least 5 pounds or so.

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120 Wonderful responses to “Elements of Cooking: Scale, Scaling”

  • Hander

    Hi, thank you for mentioning my website in your interesting article; Don Luis in replies mentioned it in regards of the flour ingredient amount multi converter.

    All the best,
    Rado

    PS I am reading some more in your nice blog.

  • DavidinSF

    Try the KD8000 model of this same brand (MyWeigh) it converts to a % method of weigh for baking which is much preferred.

  • Beth

    I would not consider myself a seriously skilled home chef, but I do own a digital scale, courtesy of my brother-in-law, Vinnie; and yes, he is from Jersey. My son, Ted, is a type-1 diabetic and it comes in handy to precisely measure his portions for carb to insulin ratio calculations. I have found though that I do use it for recipes that are measured in grams – very convenient and easy.

  • kanani

    Luis,
    I remember pre-kid, I’d go to the farmer’s market with a friend and we’d split our purchases. It was part practical, part social. Of course, this often leads to moving in with one another…
    Ah well. Embrace the chaos.

  • luis

    Kanani, you are right about that. It’s fun to shop together and makes economic sense as well. My flour that used to be on sale for a buck a large supermarket bag is now $4 at the Publix. That is a 100% price increase over the normal $1.99 YIKES!!!!!!!!!! time to put fuel in the cars again!
    This is a crisis anymore. The flour is easy, I’ll stop by the Wholesale GFS market or the Costco and buy me 25 lbs sack of the shit.
    As for the sharing, Everything I cook I pretty much give away to fam and neighbors or co-workers.
    Wine is up 40-50% other than the Chilean wines trying to break into the US market. Beers are the same other than for the Australian upstarts which not only are great but still cheap. And so it goes….
    between Rulhman’s digital scale brainstorm and Alton Brown’s you tube bread primer… and my past efforts… I am loaded for bear and my baking program just became a priority.
    OBTW!… A lousy half loave of some type of decent bread at the Publix just retails for nearly $4 dollars now. While I wasn’t looking the cost of grocery rules have changed in my little corner of tha world. Yep!
    Retirement is fading away as I type.

  • Harry

    I have a Salter scale: digital, imperial and metric, and tares out. And I don’t use it for baking at all.

    I don’t bake much but when I do, eyeballs, experience and volume have worked fine for me. I probably could have use it back when I was learning

    I use the scale mostly to get a rough idea of how much this chunk o’ whatever (cheese or meat, usually) weighs, or to split something evenly, or weird conversions like how many full sized marshmallows are the equivalent of 1 c. of minis. OK, I guess I do use it a bit for baking: when I’m making deep dish pie I use it to split the dough 1/3 and 2/3.

    I agree with the principle that weighing is much more accurate. Guess I don’t have much need for accuracy in my cooking.

  • Shaun

    I have several scales which I use for baking; I’ve converted my favorite recipes so that the ingredients are in ounces instead of cups. Here’s what really turned me on to weighing: seeing Rose Levy Beranbaum talk about weighing ingredients on TV years ago; and also eGullet’s Kitchen Scale Manifesto. Not only is using a scale more accurate, it makes cleaning up easier.

    Michael, I think whether you use weight in your new book or not depends upon who you’re writing for; I think you can make an argument for using weight in a book for experienced cooks. (Or dieters who are into portion control, but I doubt that’s who you’re writing for!)

  • kanani

    Well, I don’t think I’m a “serious” cook, but I pretty much cook three squares a day from scratch. I don’t use a scale because usually, I’m cooking on the fly.
    There’s usually a houseful of hungry kids and teens, a long day working, just enough time to get in there and make breakfast/lunch or dinner. You know, the “you take a stick of butter” philosophy of cooking.

    Anyway, someday I’ll get one and learn all about weights and ratios. But I’m just on a different freighter right now.

  • luis

    Kanani, There is still an issue with that you know??
    I can now scale any recipe down to ONE serving or any number thereof… But stop by the Publix Mkt…and guess what?? they still insist in selling a head of cabage and not 1/8 of a head of cabage.
    You can not win, but you can learn a lot about a lot of things you have zilch control over.
    OUT OF THIS TOTAL CHAOS… some order will emerge. We just gotta believe…in tha magic!.
    I can’t help but review a lot of recipes and just because the chef knows lots of ingredients and where to get them is NO FREAKING REASON for anyone else to think they are gospel. To prove myself wrong would cost me a fortune and a lifetime of developing the convoluted palate of degenerate super chefs. Degenerate in the sense of being NOT NORMAL. Not in the worst sense or connotation of the word. Please folks I love you all. And I think everyone is on their own path to the truth and the beauty that is to be had out there. But offal and monkey dicks…. hey that’s for gastronomy kamikazis like Anthony Bourdain.

  • neil

    I’d just like to ask what’s up with Americans and the stick of butter thing? Every time I see a recipe calling for a stick of butter my eyes roll heavenwards, C’mon guys, sticks grow on trees, can’t you weigh it out like the rest of the world?

  • luis

    Michael, do you have any idea..any idea at all how much you have inspired me and guided me and introduced me to this world of fine cooking? Folks when I say Michael has mentored me in a million things I include all of you fine cooks and chefs and posters here.
    Each poster has contributed and amplified on what Michael’s post presented. This is one great blog to read. I am so taken with the trees that I miss the forest. But not for long…not for long at all.

  • Victoria

    I use a scale. I always use it to weigh pasta, 2 oz. per person for side or starter portions; 4 oz. per person for dinner portions. I also use it to bake when a recipe I’m using has weights. Further, I have a lot of metric and British cookbooks (but they are a whole different issue, what with Imperial rather than metric measurements for liquids, so I have British pyrex measuring cups) and need it for that. I use a digital scale, which switches between oz and grams. Delia Smith says balance scales are the best, but I don’t think we can get balance scales for the home cook in this country. At least none that I have seen. http://www.deliaonline.com/cookery-school/equipment/scales-measuring-jugs-and-timers,71,AR.html

  • EdTheRed

    I finally got a scale a couple years ago, and I know don’t know how I got by without one. I use it all the time…my model also switches easily to metric, and I just recently had an epiphany (when baking with a friend who used metric units) how much easier it is to work with metric units – especially when increasing or decreasing the size of a recipe. I can’t believe my 8th grade science teacher was right about something…

  • luis

    The companion of choice for this scale has to be a “kitchen calc” This beauty converts liquid measurements to dry weights among other things. It also scales recipe ingredients from x to y number of servings which is very useful.

  • luis

    KD 7000 is in the barn. Damm it this is a very nice scale. If Michael hadn’t mentioned it I would never have it. Still just like the percolator thing. Following his lead is priceless… Every other post here is a real gem.

  • Katie in Berkeley

    I use my scale as often as I can! I keep common volume-to-weight conversions on hand so when I work from a recipe, I can be consistent every time I bake it.

  • Chennette

    Growing up in Trinidad and Tobago, all the traditional recipes use weights for the dry ingredients, so there’s always a scale in the house. Especially handy for communities that did large scale cooking on a regular basis for weddings, and fundraisers etc. When I wanted to make something like our coconut bake or sweet breads or any of the Indo-Trini sweets etc, Mom would email a recipe that was hard to follow since my student accommodations didn’t have a scale. And now that you have made me think about it, I am ashamed to admit that I am yet to own a scale, even though I am long away from student accommodation…my only excuse is that I cook for one, and I get together with the older sister to make proper batches of traditional items and SHE has a scale!

  • luis

    Cripes! the making of a chef is in the house…..Something to read during my iffy vacation at duck key…hand in hand with the baking scale, is a proper baking stone. I will share bakingstone.com with you bakers out there. YOu need every edge you can get folks.

  • Natalie Sztern

    Couldn’t ‘scale’ also be used vis-a-vis fish as in ‘scale that fish”? Would it be a verb or still a noun? or worse..perhaps an adverb? lol but seriously does one not scale a fish too?

  • FoodPuta

    I have had a digital scale for just a short while, but have been trying to force myself to use it. It’s hard to ween myself from picking up the measuring cup each time.

    Combine that with my most recent purchase of my Professional Vita-Mix blender, and I am out of counter space though.

  • Elaine

    I would consider myself a serious cook but I have never owned a weighing machine or a scale before. I never really had the need to as most of my cooking were based on estimates and using the measuring cups (for baking).

    Also if I encounter a recipe that uses weight instead of volume, I can always get it converted using the GourmetSleuth calculator. It may not be the most accurate but so far the recipes have turned out perfectly alright.

  • Charlotte

    Charcuterie inspired me to buy a scale — when I did the pancetta last fall all the measurements were by weight — the surprise is how much I’ve used it since then. I use it a lot — especially for baking. And it will make next summer’s jam fiesta much easier too — really glad I got one.

  • chadzilla

    It’s baby steps…
    First to get the masses using weights for measure.
    Second to get the masses to use metric.
    Life will be so much easier then.
    It is sometimes difficult to increase or decrease traditional recipes for numbers as simple as 2X or 3X… with metric you can easily convert amounts to complex numbers like 3.28X.
    We need to stop running behind the rest of the world on this one.

  • Lisa

    I need to add that I am the only person I know who has a scale at home. I’ve been to culinary school for pastry, work off and on in the industry and cater occasionally. I haven’t ever met a home cook with a scale.

    BTW is that isomalt being scaled with water? If so, shouldn’t you put the water in first?

  • luis

    White On Rice Couple, thanks for sharing your go to cookbook. This is all a process. I have a rhulman digital recommend scale on order. Not expensive from Amazon.
    I have been waiting for something to snap me out of this baking funk. A decent scale and more exact measurements will in mind at least rule out that aspect of my process. Only thing left is recipe and ingredients. This is a good thing. One out of three out of the way is not bad. Not bad at all.

  • White On Rice Couple

    Add us to the scale-using-bunch. For us we started weighing ingredients about 10 years ago we began making desserts from Bo Friberg’s “The Professional Pastry Chef.” So many desserts are an exact science that you must have a scale for precision. We’ve even written the gram weight of our mixing bowls on the bottom of them in case we forget to tare out or the scale turns off from it’s battery save. It’s a definite necessity for the “AR” (anal retentive) cooks. Many times we’ll translate a recipe into weight, because we like cooking that way better. There is a great appendix in Friberg’s book that helps with that. However most people that we know, don’t use scales at all. Our vote is for recipes based on weight, then have an approximation in volume with a disclaimer.

  • Andrea

    I don’t own a scale, although I feel that as a dedicated cook, I *ought* to, but I really don’t need one. I live with a tiny apartment kitchen, and to be honest, recipes that offer quantities in weight are completely ignored by me because I have been forbidden from collecting ANOTHER piece of kitchen equipment.

    I understand Ruhlman’s desire to weigh everything for baking, but I will say that I make ALL of our bread, by hand, without a bread machine. I hardly even measure at this point…I make bread by feel. And it’s getting better! Every week, I strive to make a better bread, and am quite pleased with the results.

    If you could make your new book with approximate measures in volume, as well as weight, that would be great. Otherwise, I will leave it on the shelf.

  • DPearson

    I started using a scale when I moved to Austria in the 1970s. When I returned to the States in the 80s I continued to use a scale when cooking from US cookbooks. I appreciate when weights rather than volume measurements are given, especially for variable things like flour. I wish more cookbooks used this system.

  • Beth

    I own a scale and use it frequently (I bake quite a bit). I’ve bought many British cookbooks and prefer to bake using the weighted measures. I also use it for other purposes, but not as frequently. I couldn’t imagine my kitchen without a scale, actually – sometimes you just need one.

  • Steph

    I use my scale all the time. I am now to the point that if a recipe doesn’t include scale measurements for the big stuff — flour, sugar, fats — I am annoyed with the authors for not doing so. This is one of the things that annoyed me about Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. A baking book? Without measurements? How 1988.

    There’s a practical reason to love scales beyond the precision: you don’t have to get any measuring cups dirty.

  • MissV

    Forget just bread and baking… I hardly ever do bread or bake but I still use my scale all the time.

    Making a chicken salad that includes you roasting your own chicken breasts? Buy them, roast them, then shred them and measure out the amount you need by weight. Two pound bag of IQF shrimp and you want to use half? Easy. Dieting and/or watching portions? You’ll be surprise at what that scale tells you from what you “think” a portion is. The wrapped showing the weight for your chicken is in the trash and you forgot to look at the actual weight? It’ll save the day.

  • Kate in the NW

    snarl, snarl – gnashing of teeth…
    …okay, OKAY, I’ll use the stupid scale.

    Though I have to agree with rockandroller way up there and say that something in me cries out against marching so lockstep with the oppressive jackbooted troops out there writing cookbooks (which I love…) and suppressing culinary creativity in the home (which leadeth me into the valley of the shadow of yuckiness). I very seldom bake for just these reasons – I absolutely resist following a recipe absolutely, and so yes… (tiny whining voice…) my baking sucks. I have spectacular, very original successes as well as pretty dismal failures in the kitchen – but it’s all fun, because it’s creative, and it’s MINE.

    But yes – after listening to you all (holding up fingers in the scout salute…the nice one, not the rude one, I swear…) “I will try using my scale.” Just as soon as I dust it off.

  • Lisa

    I got a scale years ago, originally to accurately measure out vitamin supplements -since they are so much cheaper in bulk. This led to buying food in bulk and repackaging it, in addition to a general upturn in overall quality of my home-baked goods.

    My husband and I also like to measure out some of our non-baked food on the scale to regulate our caloric input. Dry pasta is a good example of this, I buy shaped pasta in 10lb boxes and scoop it out as needed. Weighing it out before cooking helps me keep portion sizes reasonable.

    I also do quite a bit of baking, and I occasionally sell things on Ebay. (need to know how much something weighs to print shipping labels at home) So, when the last scale broke, I got a better one -on Ebay, of course. I consider it a necessity now.

    My current model (electronic) weighs as little as a tenth of a gram up to 5,000g, and displays in grams & ounces, which has been good enough for home use and cost $65.

    I will say that for years I avoided getting a scale, despite warnings from many sources. I guess I thought my home food was turning out ok, even though, in retrospect, I was enduring a lot of random failures due to weight issues.

    I think that more cookbook authors need to start giving weights, and stressing their importance. Rose Levy Beranbaum has been one of the few trying to set the standard and her books are the only pastry books I recommend for home cooks.

    Another issue is the terrible quality of cooking programming on TV, especially the Food Network. They should stop trying to pander to the lowest common denominator and start trying to set examples for people to aspire to. Every tv cooking demonstrator should have a scale in a prominent place on their set, and use it.

    Despite falling ratings, FN is still influencing home cooks. Sadly, I meet people all the time who tell me they watch FN religiously and follow to the letter what Rachel Ray and Sandra Lee tell them to do. All I can do is cringe, because shows like those are reinforcing so many bad practices.

  • Kim

    As I am just getting back to baking again, now that I am not working 70 hrs. a week I treated myself to a scale this week.
    Can’t wait to see the difference it makes.

  • Skawt

    Ruhlman:

    You’ll be happy to know that lux and I discussed it and there are both a digital scale and a Kitchen Aid stand mixer in our near future. :)

  • Michelle Yaiser

    For quick everyday meals I rarely measure anything by volume or weight. But when I have the luxury of time to really cook or bake I weigh everything I can. I started using a scale about a year ago when I bought cookbooks while in England in which all ingredients are listed by weight. I have since bought French cookbooks originally published in France and attended an Essentials Skills boot camp at the CIA. My scale has become one of my most important tools in the kitchen.

    My scale is digital, weighs up to 7 pounds, and can be set to either metric or imperial. And its compact – stores very nicely in my tiny kitchen that has barely enough counter space to roll out a pie crust.

  • DanaMc

    I love my scale and wish that there were more recipes written by weight instead of volume. It’s handy because I’ll do a recipe, whether savory or sweet, multiple times to get it where I want it. Weights allow me to know how much of an ingredient I really used rather than guesstimating with a measuring cup.

    I also hate trying to figure an author measured his cups of flour.

    Besides, a digital scale makes scaling a recipe a breeze – pardon the pun. (Given the recipe can handle it.)
    –DanaMc

  • bloviatrix

    I love my scale. Over the years I’ve converted the recipes I bake most frequently into grams (particularly useful when the original recipe calls for 2/3 cup of butter).

    There are books I have bought solely because they included the measurement by weight in addition to volume – I feel a need to show my support to the author who fought of the inclusion of weights.

  • The Yummy Mummy Cooks Gourmet

    I don’t have one. I try to keep it simple in the kitchen. If I pulled a scale out, my 2 and 3 year old would pile on top of it and I wouldn’t get to weigh anything anyway. It would surely end up in their toy box.

    Sorry Michael, but that’s just the truth.

  • Ann Lagravenese

    Funny you should ask. I only just this evening unearthed my scale to weigh the amounts for feeding my near dead bread starter. I always use a scale for anything having to do with the making of bread, since flour can so widely fluctuate, especially if you have a heavy hand when ‘scooping’. In the meantime, pray my starter makes a comeback.

  • carri

    given the weight of the subject…on a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give the Scale a 10 in the ‘usefulness in the kitchen’ category!

  • Joe

    Can anybody tell me how much butter “one stick” really is? Here it is 250g, but I doubt that this is what the recipe is talking about…

    Oh, and for completeness sake: I own a digital sclae, use it quite often, though I tend to eyeball e.g. butter and sugar. When it comes to serious cooking, baking and chocolate making I use it.

  • Michele

    I have a scale and I can thank Alton Brown that fact. I noticed that when he cooks a lot of it is based on weight.

    I think it’s definitely a more precise way to bake for sure.

    Off hand sitting at my desk I can’t recall the name or brand of mine, I paid about $70 at Bed Bath and Beyond about two years ago for it.

  • bmk

    Yes! Scales are wonderful. Aside from the accuracy benefits, I love being able to switch to grams for non-US cookbooks.

  • Darcie

    I have two scales; the one I use most frequently is a myWeigh 7001, it measures grams/oz to 1 gram resolution and it goes up to 5 kg. It’s so indispensable to my baking that I travel with it, along with a couple of sharp knives and a cutting board. I use the scale less for cooking but sometimes it comes in handy, especially when portioning items. It cost $34.00 including shipping and an AC adapter – a very reasonable investment. It’s small, too, so fits in a drawer when not in use.

    I used to buy used cars at police auctions and several years ago scored a very nice scale that has a resolution of .001 gram (it came in the trunk of a BMW – any guesses as to its use before I got it?) I haven’t used it much but might dig it out again.

  • Ms. Glaze

    I didn’t know scales existed until I started cooking in France. Now, I’d be lost without it especially when it comes to baking and making fancy sauces and vinaigrettes. I prefer the small digital scales that take up less space and fit easily into my work bag.

  • motoko

    Wow, I never realized how important a scale can be, especially in baking. I live at 5000 ft. and have always used volume measurements with mixed results. Now I am considering buying a scale after reading the post and all the comments!

  • Spring

    My scale is one of my most important kitchen tools – I love to make desserts, and my husband has started making bread and croissants. I also like to make recipes from a German cookbook where a lot of ingredients are listed by weight. I would also be more likely to buy a cookbook that was measured by weight. “Charcuterie” is great in that way, since it lists measurements in both weight and volume – that way everyone is happy :).

  • iron stef

    a scale is next on my list of things to get. It was pretty tricky making the bacon from charcuterie without it! lots of math and stuff was involved. luckily I live with an engineer. It was tense, though :)

    I think I’d not be so afraid of baking if I had one, also. It would make it less “Oh no science and math!” and more “Yay! a chemistry set! I love toys!”

  • Anne C.

    I got a scale when I started making a particular Canadian recipe every week. I’m a convert now for all the reasons listed above. I love the consistency of it and whenever a recipe calls for weight, I use it.

    I would be more likely to buy a recipe book that was measured with weight.

  • Andrew

    I didn’t know how much I’d use a scale when I bought it, but now I own two and use them almost every time I cook. It’s gotten to the point where I won’t even attempt some recipes that don’t measure the ingredients by weight.

  • Marni

    So true. Just yesterday I told some friends of mine who are engaged to register for a scale on their wedding registry. They were surprised by that rec at first, but I helped them see the light. I’m going to forward this post to them, too!

  • Ed Gieskes

    I use my scale all the time too–mostly for baking but also for portioning meat (which recipes do use weight for).

    I use it a lot more than I expected to when I bought the thing. And, I really appreciate when cookbooks list both weight and volume too.

  • e. nassar

    I most certainly use my scale, especially for baking. Makes combining ingredients so much easier and less messy. I bake a lot so mine gets used often. I also love it for cooking with eggs , it is great to know that a large egg weighs about 50 gr. of which 30 gr. is white. I also have a lot more respect for cookbooks that offer the weight measure in addition to the volume. When a book says 3 medium shallots, what does that mean? As opposed to 3 medium shallots (70 gr. total). Now we are talking.
    This means I am already looking forward to your new book.

  • John Jezl

    I do own and use a digital scale for a number of things (originally bought to weight grains and hops for brewing), but only recently, thanks to you and a few other excellent bloggers, have starting using it for things such as flour, salt, etc…

    I think it’s one of those “secrets” to consistency that that home cook generally doesn’t know. Most of my friends do not have digital scales, except for the really serious cooks.

    Frankly, I think you and the rest of the culinary blogosphere have an opportunity to influence and improve the way the average home cook works. No, not everyone will read your blog, but I will, and all these other commenters. Then I, and they, will impart what we have found that is cool and useful and indepsensible to our friends. Some of it will get used and continue to influence other. Perhaps digital scales are one of those things.

  • hollerhither

    I have a small plastic digital scale. I’ve mostly used it for meats, and when I’m dieting and need to calculate super-small portions.

    But I will start using it for baking per your suggestion, as I need all the help I can get in that area — precision is indeed something to strive for.

  • eriq

    I love my digital scale.

    It probably gets the most use for measuring chocolate. You want 2oz of chocolate for that cake? Just add chunks until you’ve got it. Need 15oz for ganache? Easy!

    Whenever a recipe has both volume and weight, I’ll always use the weight measure. Professional Pastry Chef comes to mind here.

    I’m too lazy to convert other recipes that just have volume.

  • sheila

    I use a scale, in conjunction with a yardstick, to portion cookie dough during the Time of the Cookie Madness. I now get consistently sized cookies which look better and are more evenly cooked. And I can predict my yield.

  • CrispyGirl

    I have a scale, and I’m not afraid to use it. Most often it’s a baking tool, and it’s so much easier. I’m a devotee of Rose Levy Beranbaum’s, so her baking recipes give weights and have reference guides for weights of most common baking ingredients, so I’ve converted all my other baking recipes to weights as well. Cook’s Illustrated gives weights for many of their recipes, as well. Love, love, love my scale.

  • ErikaK

    I have a small inexpensive digital scale that I use mainly to measure flour for bread baking, although if a recipe calls for weight I use it if I want to be precise in that ingredient.

  • Connor

    I own a digital Escali scale and use it mostly when baking. I find myself pulling it out most often for weighing chocolate. With a scale, you have more freedom in how you can buy chocolate and don’t have to rely on brands that come in pre-portioned squares.

  • Andy

    Price is my main deterrent. I am on a very minimum budget. Also, most books do use volume, so you are right about that problem too.

  • cate

    i definitely use my scale and would love to use it more but american cookbooks are for the most part, written in volume. measuring by weight is so much easier as well as the key to consistency.

  • Rafael

    I pull out my scale when I’m baking so I know that each time I’m putting in the same amount as last time.

  • Ulla

    I have been wanting to get a scale but my NYC kitchen is a bit crowded. I am also afraid because I will have to store it that it will some how get damaged. I think a scale would do well hanging out on a surface or something. Maybe when I graduate to a bigger kitchen.

  • ntsc

    We have and use two.

    The one that sits on the prep table measures to 10 or 11 lbs in ounces and has an adjustable tare, so I can use different bowls or plates with it.

    We also have an electronic on that measures to 100g in 0.1g increments. It may have an English measure switch, but I’m comfortable in metric. Everybody in college knew 1 ki is 2.2 pounds.

  • Saffoula

    I own a basic scale and rarely use it. In addition to taking up precious space, it is not as convenient as using measuring cups/spoons. If I had more space and time to get serious about baking or more basic recipes were written in terms of weight, I might consider investing in a better one. Also, if I ever decide to really get serious about my “eating plan” aka diet, I might start using a scale then.

  • mike regan

    My scale is right on the counter next to my mixer. .1 gram resolution. I look for recipes and books with weights, but I’ve converted many of my old recipes to weight and they work fine. Keeps everybody in the family conscious of serving size also.

    Mike Regan

  • Badger

    I’m a home cook with a small digital scale. I’m almost embarrassed to tell you how it gets used most often: we have the kids (ages 10 & 12) weigh out their portions of ice cream when they scoop it themselves. That way no one is eating half a pint at a time, and there’s no fighting over who got the bigger portion.

    That being said, I do use it occasionally for cooking as well. As others have mentioned, I would do that a lot more often if I could find more recipes that measured weight vs. volume. It’s great for UK/Australian recipes, which tend to go by weight more often than the American recipes do.

  • The Culinary Sherpas

    Not a big baker, so no scales or measuring cups.
    When I do bake, I bake the old-school way. I’ve got measuring cups and a good eye. Sometimes it works out and others times, not so much. It’s interesting what happen to a muffin with a tad too much baking soda.

  • S. Woody

    I’ve been going through Rosamond Richardson’s “Food from Green Places: Vegetarian Recipes from Garden & Hedgerow” (a freebie I got through Jessica’s Biscuit), and in her veddy British way (hedgerow should have been the giveaway) she’s got most of her dry ingredients listed by weight, and the liquids by volume.

    Which makes me ask: is butter a solid, dry ingredient, or a liquid? She’s listing butter by weight, but this is a case where calling for a tablespoon would make more sense to me. And does a stick of butter weigh more when it’s fresh from the fridge than it does after softening on the counter, or is that my imagination?

  • luis

    So far I have used the scale mostly for post mortem analysis. ie; What went wrong with the freaking brine?? by weight? by volume?…what went wrong with this or that.
    Also I make bread and pizza dough which is super. But my bread program and baking programs are quiet now. Like I hit a wall and can’t get there from here sort of thing.
    Again is it the ingredients or the measures?
    After hearing the discussion here I think next time I bake I will go by weight and see if it doesn’t take me were I need to be with doughs, cakes and pies. I am tired of rustic. I want sophistication in my baking.

  • Dawn in STL

    I started using my Salter digital scale on a health kick too, to weigh things like cereal, meat, and cheese, but I also use it for baking where I can. The King Arthur Flour baking books list measurements by volume and weight, making me VERY happy! Is it coincidence that the things I make from their recipes always turn out great? Probably not.

  • Heather

    I have and use a scale in fits and spurts; it’s enormously helpful when making crusts, etc and to some extent when making bread (though moisture content variations tends to make me rely more on dough feel). But in most other cooking I prefer volume measurements. Why?

    Sloth. I can eyeball a cups worth of onions, tomatoes, rice, whatever but don’t have the experience to guesstimate 150 grams of anything.

  • rockandroller

    I don’t have a scale, don’t see a need for one because I do not bake. Anything. We don’t eat cookies or bake cakes or anything like that, we just don’t eat dessert and I buy all my bread from local bakers so I really have no need. I mean once or twice a year I might make pizza dough in my bread maker but it comes out fine using non-weighed measurements.

    As to non-baking needs, I don’t find I need one. 98% of the time I am not using a recipe when I cook, and when I do use one, measuring without a scale has worked fine, probably because there aren’t a lot of dry ingredients.

  • Kristi

    I have a scale, and use it a lot when baking. I think it cost around $10, on sale at Target. I have a handful of cookbooks that I love that were written in the UK and give weights (and ingredients like “muscovado”). Mine doesn’t go up very high–it errors out around 6 pounds, but I can usually just weigh individual ingredients in a clean bowl, or break something larger (like fruit for jam) into smaller batches and add.

    I also have found my scale to be extremely useful for sending things like photos and bulky cards in the mail, as I don’t have to drive to the post office to figure out if something needs extra postage.

  • Shannon

    I started using a scale when my son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes to portion out his food since we use a carbohydrate count to figure out how much insulin to give him when he eats.

    We originally used measuring cups to portion his food, but when we realized that at cup of Cheerios didn’t even come close to the weight it was supposed to be we started using the scale solely.

    Since then, I use the scale when baking and cooking, as well. It saves on washing all of those measuring spoons and cups!!

  • Deborah Dowd

    I have a very primitive scale, but this post has really made me think I should upgrade. I think that the home kitchen has a place for a scale, not only for serious cooks to ensure consistency, but for the many of us who are more closely monitoring portion size.

  • Catherine

    As I’m English, I do everything by weight, and as I do some of my own charcuterie when weight is very important, my electronic scales go down to the 1g.

    I find the American system very time consuming compared to simply weighing into a bowl. And sometimes the measurements are ridiculous, particularly when converting European recipes. One particular book on French boulangerie asks you to measure “I stick of butter, plus 2 tbsps, plus 1 tsp.” I have no idea how you can possibly measure butter accurately in this way, and this is paramount when you are baking and precision is more important.

  • Joe W

    Given that (almost) all recepies in Germany are in weight: Of course I own a scale, a nice digital one, accuracy of 1g, I do not have the need for higher resolution. But when it comes to baking bread (well, anything based on yeast dough) I do not use it. Flour comes in nice 1kg packages, so 1/3 of whole wheat and 1/3 of spelt and 1/3 of rhye equal roughly one kg. The amount of water depends on temperature, humidity etc. so it is already variable and fresh yeast is quite forgiving… and it becomes more complicated once I add yoghurt or fresh carrots.
    For cookies or a bisquit dough I go by weight, though (relative to the egg weight). I also use weight when making jam or when employing alcoholic extraction of aromats (at the moment 3.5 kg of small, home-grown oranges with 2kg of rock sugar and 2.8l of vodka).

    Oh, and: sorry for my poor English and thanks for the great articles!

  • Michelle

    I don’t own a scale due to limited kitchen space, but have been baking more and more and considering buying one. I’ve noticed the Brit’s using them a lot on TV. Bread baking’s a new hobby of mine. Absolutely the most rewarding thing! I am curious to know your recipes and techniques for bread.

  • Susan

    I bake bread and my scale is my most important tool, next to the oven and possibly the baking stone. If a baking book does not give ingredient weights it is highly unlikely that I will buy it. For other cooking it’s not so important to me, but I’ll definitely use weights if they are given.

  • Rod Schiffman

    I have a scale I use a lot. Rather than blather on about it, I’ll just give the bottom line. I love professional recipes that use weight rather than volume. Anything you can do to support weight rather than volume is a good thing.

  • Melicob

    I use a digital scale pretty regularly, as I’ve been cooking from a Canadian cookbook (Au Pied de Cochon) and it measures metric for me with the push of a button!

  • Aspasia

    I have a scale and always use it. Scaling is so much faster and less messy. While I primarily bake artisan breads, I make it a point to convert any other recipe from volume into weight. BTY, my “cup” of unbleached bread flour weighs 4.5 ounces.

  • w.

    I have three scales at home and I use them as much as I can. I find it a lot easier not just to scale out ingredients, but also to divide portions (my sense of estimation by eye also has led me off before).

    Of the scales I have, I vastly prefer the digital ones, which provide measurements in both grams and ounces, so I don’t need to do the conversions on my own when I’m using recipes that scale in metric vs US measurements, and are also more accurate and can measure smaller degrees of change (0.1g and 0.1oz) than the analog one. All three scales can measure up to 5kg.

    But like everyone else it’s a lot easier to use when I have recipes that use weight or at least show weight as an alternative measurement to volume. Unfortunately, a lot of cookbooks for home use still don’t give that option.

  • Michael Obertone

    We use our scale to weigh out portions of food, such as buffalo burgers or shrimp. Portion control is an absolute necessity if you want to eat well. Baking recipes with weights are so much easier to portion out. My wife can weigh out ingredients in a quarter of the time to measure. We have a flat scale which is easy to keep clean by keeping it in a gallon zip lock back. Americans would all have scales if they had european style cookbooks.

  • Devlyn

    I love love love my scale. It’s rather small, but does a darned good job. I can’t stand baking recipes that deal with anything but weight measurements any longer – I don’t trust them. I can’t imagine baking or cooking without my scale at this point.
    (and it doesn’t take up hardly any room at 6″x9″)

  • Kitt

    A scale is so handy to have, even if most recipes don’t call for ingredients by weight. Those that do, I use the scale. (Donna Hay’s recipes, for example, give you the option.)

    Definitely get one that can weigh larger amounts and can do tares (subtracting the weight of the container). Also, if it has an automatic power-off (which is nice, since I would forget and waste batteries), see if you can get one that lets you set how long before it shuts off (mine turns off too soon for my liking).

  • Zenpup

    I have a Salter digital that I’ve been using for probably 5 years. It gives consistency to the results of my own recipes, so most of the things I create are written by weight ( makes my friends and family crazy). Also allows me to break down bulk purchases, allows meat I cut myself to be accurately labelled, and homegrown produce to be weighed before preserving. Not to mention brines, pickles etc. Baking aside, I use it far more for cooking…and to use my cookbooks written across the pond with ease.

    Every kitchen needs a decent scale.

  • Debbie

    I purchased a scale to use for baking purposes. I always use it when the recipe calls for exact measurement.

  • peter

    I use mine for baking, making 5% salt solutions for fermented pickles, and calculating how much activa or other fancy things to add to whatever. Recipes that call for volume rather than weight annoy me.

  • Kevin

    Whatever you do, pay the money and buy a really good scale. I have probably gone through 5 scales at my bakery, trying to pinch a few pennies here and there by buying discount on eBay.

  • Bruce

    A definite need if doing some really good baking. I can remember m first attempt at a rustic blackberry cobbler for my wife. What a disaster! Baking is not cooking. Cooking is to art as baking is to chemistry. I am so thankful I read Alton Brown’s I’m Just Here for More Food: Food x Mixing + Heat = Baking, and Shirley Corriher’s Cookwise: The Secrets of Cooking Revealed. I was able to understand my flaws and now everything comes out a winner. Now if I could only control that damn humidity. :)

    Buy a scale, get a digital with a tare function and switches between Imperial and Metric. You’ll be glad you did. Mine hides away in the pantry until needed, no need to take up counter space.

  • NoseToTailAtHome.com

    I dearly wish more cookbooks used weight for ingredient amounts instead of volume. I have two digital scales myself, and use them multiple times a week.

  • lux

    Don’t own one. Limited counter & storage space means we have to be very picky about what tools we buy.