Among the most hopeful signs in cookbook publishing is Artisan’s agreeing to lead all recipes in the Bouchon Bakery Cookbook, due out next fall, with metric weights (they will include volume measurements second). It’s a baking book after all, and no other culinary craft is more dependent on accuracy of measurement than baking. Another hopeful sign was seeing something similar in The New York Times not too long ago, a recipe for chocolate ganache bars that also lead with grams, not cups or ounces. Scribner published my book Ratio, which which really only works if you have a scale.

So when I was hanging out with Todd and Diane talking about great kitchen tools and stupid kitchen tools, I of course had to address the scale. I have four of them at home, two basic kinds, a scale of measuring large quantities and a scale for measuring small quantities.  Here’s the one I use most for all-purpose measuring, a MyWeigh KD8000; and here’s a nifty little scale, which I sell over at opensky, for recipes in the Bouchon book that ask for, say, 5.5 grams of baking powder. Regardless of brand, only buy digital scales.

It’s not only that scales offer a more accurate and consistent form of measuring, they make the cooking easier and faster. You just pour the ingredients into the same bowl, zeroing it out each time. The KD8000 even has a percentage button so I can measure that way, pour in the flour, and then hit the percent button which makes the flour equal to 100% and I can pour in 60% water for bread. You don’t even need quantities if you have a baker’s percentage.

Can’t be said enough: scales are one of the most important tools in the kitchen. If you watch the video, you can hear the voice of reason herself.

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© 2012 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2012 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved

 

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74 Wonderful responses to “Great Kitchen Tools: Scale”

  • Jim

    Using metric weights seems to mess everything up in the sense of adding a seemingly unnecessary conversion task if you wish to compare a recipe since most recipes would be in ounces. I completely agree with the importance of using weight versus volume in baking and I do have a small gram scale for measuring small quantities where grams are more common and clearly better. However, it just seems to me that using, specifically, metric weights for general baking recipes is somewhat pretentious unless there is some real advantage to it that I am not considering? If the recipes were all derived from European recipes and never converted before actual use in the bakery then, while still debatable, I could understand it.

    • Ryan Silva

      Metric is just easier to use, and I think that’s good enough reason. It’s easier to scale your recipes up or down, and no fractions. If you’re going to weigh, you might as well weigh in metric. The only time I think in pounds is for butter, but the conversion is automatic for me now. 28 grams to an ounce (round up to 30 for easier math), 224 grams to a half pound. (Full disclosure: the g/oz button on my scale is stuck on the g setting and I can’t switch it back anyway)

  • jeff

    i could not agree more. it kills me when i see a recipe calling for 1/2 cup walnuts. depending on how small i chop them, this could be a huge difference. same with grated cheese. i love Keller’s books, but they do not offer weights… last weekend i made the gnocci recipe which calls for 1/4c (or whatever it was) of grated cheese. it is the only thing that holds those books back from being perfect!

    • Ryan Silva

      I can’t be that precise while cooking, it would drive me nuts. And if you’re making pasta, you don’t need to be. That’s what makes cooking so easy once you learn how to do it. Add as many nuts as you want, darn the recipe!

      • v

        I take it you don’t bake much, where, unfortunately, precision is everything…

  • Ed

    Michael, I was hoping that you were using a MyWeight scale. They are incredibly accurate AND cheap. According to reviews I read at the time they revolutionized the scale business. I have a couple of them. One that I use when making sausage has a detachable face. The face can be pulled out, on a coiled wire, from underneath large containers so it can be read as ingredients are added.

  • EB

    As a retired chemist, I am grounded in metric measurements, and much prefer mass over volume. Mass (gravimetric) measurements are inherently more precise than volumetric. As for scales, my workhorse is an Escali Pana (~ $60). It has great capacity (13 lb), good precision (+/- 1 gram/0.1 oz), and a really neat volume feature. It comes with volume equivalent measurements coded and stored internally for ~ 145 common ingredients — load a container, hit the volume key, punch in the 2-digit code (from the accompanying reference card), hit the tare button, pour what you’re measuring and watch the scale move from a tablespoon to fractions and multiples of cups. Re-tare, change the code and keep adding different ingredients, and change between volume and mass display at will. Works really well and very reliable. There’s a decent demo video on YouTube.

  • Mike

    To Filmmaker: It’s 2012. Your use of random jump cuts, out of focus shots, slow rack focusing and similar techniques combined with grating soundtrack are no longer cool. They simply make the film annoying.

  • Jessica

    I love my scale! A very precise one.
    I live in Europe and conversion to cups etc., has always been a pain in the rear. Now I have measuring cups where you measure up any variety of cups, but I will always prefer metric. Some food sites converts cups into metric measurements by the milliliter which is just not helpful. Measuring by the gram is also so much easier when it comes to baking and for (salt) curing.

  • Paul C

    One of the best reasons to measure in metric is that 1ml of water = 1g. This means that you can measure most liquids by weight and you’re automatically getting volume as well. if the recipe calls for 500ml of water you can just pour water into your mixing bowl until the scale reads 500g.

  • twoshoes

    hmmm…I find that in my artistic pursuits that measuring in millimeters/centimeters is far more accurate than silly fractions of an inch. the same principle applies to cooking/baking. and this from a lifelong advocate of the english standard shitstem of measurement.

    I’m all about simplification of nearly everything I do.

  • Joel

    When I bought my little gem scale on Amazon, the site suggested I might also be interested in a “spice grinder” and some ZigZag papers.

  • Janice

    Here’s a great reason to use a scale AND metrics: I recently mucked up David Lebovitz’s brownie recipe by using WAY too much butter in relation to the other ingredients–and realized the error before the batter went into the pan (I wasn’t THAT dim). Thanks to volume measures and some basic algebra, I just increased the amounts of the other ingredients and came out with a perfect, albeit enormous, pan of brownies. Love my scale!

  • Susan

    Flour absorbs moisture from a humid environment that can’t be calculated by a scale, so you still have to make allowances. Altitude is also a factor in baking that a scale doesn’t help you with. I’m not trying to be a nay-sayer on the importance of using a scale, just pointing out that there is more to cooking than the weighing of ingredients.

    • JaySeeDub

      Hrmmm…I wonder if it could be corrected with a scale though. Use the relative humidity in the area to find partial humidity, then use the partial humidity to find absolute humidity (how much water vapor is in the air by mass). And since we know flour can absorb up to 60% of its weight in water in one hour (http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/ie50131a026), use that info to account and correct for humidity in scale readings.

      …I might be over-thinking this. Maybe just stick the flour in a wax paper bag in the refrigerator to keep it cool and dry instead?

  • Ryan Silva

    v
    I take it you don’t bake much, where, unfortunately, precision is everything…

    I bake all the time. I said “cooking”, not “baking”. It was a reply to a comment about pasta.

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