When I first switched to full-time pastry from culinary, I went from using a scale some of the time, to working with a scale on my station all the time.
You’ve probably heard that scales are important to use while you’re baking because it makes sure you’re getting an accurate measurement. Flour, especially, can be pretty tricky to measure out with just a cup container.
Hopefully you’ve felt badgered enough about getting a scale that you have actually gone out and bought a scale, or stolen your mom’s, or something, – because, it’s true! They are a must-have kitchen tool! I bought my old roommate’s scale because I was using it all the time and was going to miss it too much when I moved out…thanks Sara!!
I have found that scales are actually great beyond just getting an accurate measurement, and can make cooking up a batch of something at home a lot faster, cleaner & “I’ve had three glasses of wine while making dinner”-proof. (Wine & maths have a tricky and tenuous relationship.
NOTE: This is pretty bake-y centric, but I have definitely started using my scale for culinary as well. It’s really great if you’re regularly working with larger cuts of meat, making sausages, and charcuterie. Cheese-making makes a lot of use of scales as well, and I like weighing my produce sometimes, just so I can have a good gauge on how much “1 onion” really is, for example. You’ll find lots of uses for it in a culinary kitchen, and it’s worth having around.
1. YOU CAN ACTUALLY BE WAY MORE STUPID
In case you thought that using a scale in a recipe meant you were really smart, open up your Trash Can of Thoughts and plop that one in there.
Using a scale helps eliminate a lot of mental math, and also helps you cook through a bout of brain fog.
What does the world want when it calls for something outlandish, like, 9 teaspoons?? Or, even, 3 1/2 cups? EVEN 3 1/2 cups? I’m saying it: EVEN 3 1/2 cups? That’s too much counting! Using a scale helps alleviate the burden of counting, and therefore the burden of screwing it up entirely.
It’s the difference between:
Counting out 8 teaspoons of baking powder, worrying that you actually put in NINE teaspoons, having no real way of telling, and just waiting to see if your cornbread explodes out of its container…
Pouring something into a bowl until your scale says 42 grams, and then stopping.
Not only do scales assist with the unwieldy and overly-expecting world of volume measurements (i.e. cups, teaspoons, tablespoons, quarts), they also assist with converting recipes for batch sizes.
Perchance you have a wonderful recipe that makes 10 biscuits, but Terrence and his family are coming over for brunch and they are such pigs, so you should probably just go ahead and make 20 biscuits, you could figure out what 2 times 2.75 cups is, or just see 300 grams and make it 600 grams.
Then try to figuring how much butter Terrence and his greedy mouth needs: Your recipe says you need 2 cups of butter. Ok, doubling it for Terrence, that makes that makes it 4 cups of butter, right? Now, how much butter do you need to buy? Do you really want to shovel cold butter into a cup measure to figure out if it’s a cup? What if the butter package isn’t marked for cups?
Switch your biscuit recipe to pounds (or grams!), and doubling it is super easy. Your recipe calls for 1 pound of butter. You need 2 pounds of butter for Terrence. Bam.
It’s faster math, without a doubt.
Also: grams! The metric system! It’s so wonderful to cook and bake using a gram scale – give it a shot! It’s much MUCH easier to convert recipes using grams. 1000 grams are in a kilo – that’s all you need to know.
Grams are especially nice for measuring tiny amounts, like what baking soda and baking powder. You don’t use much but they’re so important!!
If you don’t want to switch to grams, that’s okay, but just remember:
16 ounces in a pound, and make sure you know if your recipe is talking about fluid ounces (volume) or just ounces (weight.)
2. IT SPEEDS UP RECIPES A LOT
Figure out what ingredients need to go into what bowl, and then dump. That’s all it takes when you have a scale (at least when you’re baking, and many types of cooking. If you’re chopping, then yes, please, also chop the thing, and then dump it into the bowl or pan.)
It speeds up math, which saves you a lot of time, and it saves you puttering around looking for a measuring cup. All you need to do is open up a bag, and dump it into the mixing bowl you have placed on the scale.
You don’t have to take the time to level off your scoop. You don’t have to pack your brown sugar into cup containers anymore. And you don’t have to be the crazy person trying to smoosh hard butter into a cup measurement to figure out what the heck 1 1/4 cups of butter is (Measuring butter with cups is a pet peeve of mine…it just feels so insane.)
No more wondering if you’ve approximated 1/2 of 3/4 cup correctly. Your recipe called for 70 grams and that’s that. Save your brain space for something else.
3. IT CUTS YOUR DISHES IN HALF (IF NOT MORE)
Kiss tablespoons goodbye.
Give your 1 cup measures a tender, good-bye smooch.
Take your worn away 1 quart measure, that you never were quite sure was a quart anyway, give it a firm but meaningful french kiss, then put it in the garbage.
Well done. Unlike a lot of kissing, that was for a good, sober reason. When you start using a scale to measure out your ingredients, your reliance on all the other vessels disappears, and this translates into far less dishes for you to wash.
For many ingredients, you can dump straight from the container into your mixing bowl. Or you might have to sacrifice a scoop, but that’s about all. Save yourself the mess.
The above is a simulation of me making my biscuit recipe. The first picture is how many dishes I need if I’m using volume measurements. The 2nd is how many I need if going by weight – I like to keep that orange cup around to scoop ingredients, but I guess I don’t technically need it.
Need to convert your favorite recipe from volume into weight?
It takes a few minutes, but it’s simple. Here’s the easiest way to do it:
- Buy a scale, preferably a gram scale that also has ounces. Most home bakers and cooks don’t need hefty kilo & pound scales, and most gram scales will be able to measure a few kilos/pounds anyway.
- Place a bowl on your scale, and press the Tare button – this zeroes out the scale, so that the weight of the bowl isn’t incorporated into your ingredient weight.
- Get your trusted recipe, a blank piece of paper, and a pen. Measure out your first ingredient by volume. So – if your recipe calls for 2 cups of flour, grab a cup measure and measure 2 cups of flour. Dump the 2 cups into the bowl.
- Look down at your scale, and write down what it says on your piece of paper.
- Do this for every ingredient. I pretty much always recommend using grams for baking, but ounces is perfectly fine and might suit your recipe better.
- You now have a wonderful, valuable & consistent recipe that will save you loads of time, is easy to convert, and will keep your sink free of extra dishes. Enjoy!
Please reach out if you have any questions about converting your favorite recipe! I love to help, and rather enjoy kitchen math! Other maths not so much.