I haven’t had the chance to do much cooking this week, but I’d like to share with some thoughts about one of my favorite kitchen items: my digital scale. A digital scale is not crucial kitchen item (my mom and I lived without one for years), but it takes the guesswork out of cooking and baking projects and rewards you with consistent results—and that’s something I dig.
Top Three Instances Where I’m Grateful for My Digital Scale:
1. Cooking with Ratios
I recently bought Michael Ruhlman’s book Ratio, which simplifies classic recipes into ratios of their most basic ingredients (e.g. “bread dough = 5 parts flour : 3 parts water (plus yeast and salt).” The ratios are designed to be used with weight measurements rather than volume measurements. This makes it easy to double, triple or cut in half recipes when measuring by weight rather than volume. When I experimented with making oat flour crepes last week, I could easily cut the recipe by 3/4 to make a small batch, saving me from wasting ingredients if the recipe had been a flop. Now if I want to make oat flour crepes for a crowd, I can easily increase the recipe by 2 or 3 (or even 10) times.
Another reason Ruhlman measures by weight rather than volume is to ensure consistent results. Ruhlman observes that a cup of flour can weigh between 4 and 6 ounces, depending on how the flour was scooped or the density of the flour (which can vary due to weather). The seemingly slight 2 oz. difference in one cup of flour is actually a noteworthy difference of 50%, which can result in drastically different finished products when several cups of flour are used.
This inconsistency of measuring by volume is the reason many bakers prefer to measure their ingredients by weight. More and more blogs and cookbooks measure ingredients by weight to ensure consistent, perfect results every time. When you measure your ingredients by weight you’ll know you are making the recipe as it was intended. Maybe you’ll discover the famed chocolate cake recipe you’ve used several times without success actually isn’t the problem; you were simply measuring too much flour by accident (a very common problem).
3. Trying New Recipes
I also find the digital scale extremely useful when I try new recipes because I like to follow the directions as closely as I can. Following the directions closely gives me a good idea of how the recipe creator intended their recipe to taste, e.g. understanding (and appreciating) the intended ratio of 12 oz. of broccoli to 8 oz. of chicken in a stir fry. The next time I make a recipe I can adjust it to suite my tastes.
Why should I get a digital scale instead of an old-fashioned spring scale?
A digital scale has the advantage of converting ounces to grams at the switch of a button. With an increasingly globalized food scene and recipes from around the world available online, measuring ingredients in both metric and imperial units is helpful. Some digital scales even have the ability to measure liquid ingredients.
Digital scales are also superior to old-fashioned spring scales because of the “zero” or tare feature. The tare feature allows you to return the scale to zero after you add ingredients to your bowl. Thus, if you’re measuring white flour, wheat flour and yeast for a loaf of bread, you can measure the ingredients one after the other into the same bowl by simply pressing the tare (zero) button between measurements; no need to add the weights in your head to know how much to add. It sounds like a fairly insignificant feature, but it will save you dirty dishes from measuring in one bowl and transferring to another—something anyone who washes dishes can appreciate.