Measuring dry ingredients using a Salter digital kitchen scale

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Precise measurements can be vital to cooking and baking success.  In any recipe, quantities of ingredients may specified by mass or volume.  Liquid ingredients are generally measured by volume, but the confusion lies in measuring the dry bulk ingredients (like sugar, flour, pasta, rice).  A guide for all the volume and weight conversions is an important tool to have in the kitchen.  When halving or doubling a recipe, making the correct conversions can make or break your final results.

Most recipes in North America, Australia, and Sweden measure mostly in volume rather than weight, while recipes in other countries list ingredients in weight measurements such as ounces, pounds, grams, and kilograms.  For example, 110 grams of all-purpose flour is approximately 1 cup of flour.  But if you take a measuring cup and scoop it into the flour, level it off, and then weigh it, you will find that it weighs up to 25% more than 110 grams depending on how much you pack the flour.  To correctly measure flour using volume, use a regular spoon to lightly scoop the flour out of its container into a measuring cup until it is overflowing.  Then use a straight edge to level off the flour with the top edge of the measuring cup.

Measuring flour

I believe that using weight to measure ingredients offers more accuracy, especially with ingredients like flour that may become compact during storage.  A kitchen scale is necessary to measure ingredients by weight.  Simply place a bowl on the scale, use the tare function to deduct the weight of the bowl, and then spoon the flour into the bowl until the desired measure pops up on the display.  Thus you are assured of accuracy in weights when the recipe prefers to use weight.  For example, sometimes you may need to use an amount of flour that is in between 3/4 cup and 1 cup.  Using weight to specify this amount is more precise than saying 3/4 cup plus 2 1/2 tablespoons.

With the vast amount of recipes using the North American preference for volume rather than weight, do I really need a digital kitchen scale?  We must also consider that also sugar and flour are now commonly measured by volume, meats are generally measured by weight worldwide:  one 2-kg chicken, or 3 pounds of ribs.  More and more recipes measure vegetables by weight because of the inherent imprecision of measuring by count given the variability in the size of the vegetables:  1 1/2 pounds of broccoli instead of 1 small head of broccoli.

I chose to buy a digital kitchen scale and it was another one of those good investments to outfit my kitchen.  I have the Salter 1406 glass top nutritional scale with a slim design that I keep tucked between the wall and my toaster oven.

kitchen scale  digital kitchen scale

The important features of the best kitchen scale include its ability to switch between various weight scales like pounds, ounces, fluid ounces, and grams.

best kitchen scale

The Salter digital kitchen scale will allow you to easily switch the weight scale while you are in the process of weighing.  Another important feature is to have a tare function (or zero function) that allows you to deduct the weight of the measuring container and thus show only the net weight of the object that is being measured.  Check to make sure that the scale allows you to press the tare button repeatedly so that you can measure various items and add it to the same bowl on after the other.  I don’t prefer the scales that have built in bowls because those are harder to clean and to store.

My Salter kitchen scale also displays nutritional readings for foods whose food code is provided in the enclosed instructional booklet.  When I’m developing my recipes, having a kitchen scale makes it doubly efficient because I can measure precise amounts of ingredients quickly and calculate nutritional information to make healthier choices.  So for example, 8.5 fluid ounces (about 1 cup) of whole milk (code 085 on my Salter kitchen scale) has about 147 calories, 300 mg of salt, and 8 g of fat.

whole milk nutrition value

The same volume of skim milk (code 088 on my scale) has about 84 calories, a bit more salt, and no fat.

skim milk nutritional value

A raw egg (code 106 on the Salter digital kitchen scale) weighs 56 grams, has 84 calories and about 6 grams of protein.

raw egg nutritional value

This same egg, when hard boiled (code 111 on the Salter kitchen scale), loses 1 gram in weight and has approximately the same nutritional values.

hard boiled egg nutritional value

You can begin to appreciate the value of having a digital kitchen scale for making informed choices when designing a healthier diet or healthier methods of cooking.  Now let’s compare some cooking oil choices.  Canola oil (0.2 fluid ounces, or 6 milliliters, or slightly over 1 teaspoon) has about 62 calories and 7 grams of fat.

Canola oil nutrition

The same volume of peanut oil has 53 calories and 6 grams of fat.

Peanut oil nutrition

The same volume of extra-virgin olive oil has 62 calories and 7 grams of fat.

Extra virgin olive oil nutrition

It may not seem like much of a difference here, but when you add the nutritional information of all your ingredients, then you will see the difference.

What do I do if I don’t have a kitchen scale?  Don’t fret.  I am always willing to help my readers figure out what may have caused a variance in texture, yield, volume, or color in baking.  The art of baking stresses the importance of getting the right proportions of the ingredients that are being used.  It is important for the balancing of acids and bases and could make the difference between a beautiful fluffy cake and a sunken dense cake.  But remember, it’s the right proportion that we want when baking.  If you are using volume to measure your ingredients, be sure that you are consistent in your method of adding the ingredient to the measuring cup that you use.  You can still use volumetric measuring cups and get perfect results!


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