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What is a Kitchen Scale?

By S. Mithra
Updated May 16, 2024
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A kitchen scale allows you to measure dry, liquid, or chopped ingredients in weight, rather than volume, for very accurate recipes. Different kinds of kitchen scales will range in their capacity, precision, display, size, platform, and units of measurement. They can be convenient and helpful tools for chefs, amateur cooks, and crafters alike. Some people use a kitchen scale to keep track of elements of their diet, such as calculating how much sugar or carbohydrates are in a certain portion of orange slices or pasta.

A few different elements make up a kitchen scale. First, there is the container that will hold the food, from dry goods like flour and beans, to liquids like oil or cream, to moist ingredients like yogurt and fish. Depending on what you most frequently weigh, you may want a large, washable glass bowl, a curved aluminum scale, or a flat, plastic platform. However you hold your ingredients, make sure the container can be easily cleaned. You'll also want to remember to take into account the weight of the bowl or jar when following a recipe or chart.

The second key element of a kitchen scale is the internal device that actually weighs what you set on top. The most accurate type of scale is a counterbalanced system where your selection is compared to that of another weight across a balance beam. This is how the scales at the doctor's office work. However, for most applications, other methods of calculation are accurate enough for a cook's needs.

Finally, the kitchen scale will have a screen or display system to inform you of the final weight. This could be an analog display that resembles a pin rotating around a circle marked in ounces and grams. A digital readout, however, will give you a decimal value, usually accurate to the nearest tenth of a unit. A digital kitchen scale will most likely have other handy features, like a clock and baker's timer. It also can switch between several units of measurement, such as pounds, kilograms, ounces, or grams.

When selecting a kitchen scale, take into account its design. Some have retro colors like mint green or classic finishes like brushed aluminum that will give style and visual interest to your kitchen. Since it will take up space on your counter, make it as versatile as possible. For example, if you want to weigh a roast for a large dinner party, the scale must handle weights up to 16 lbs (7.3 kgs). On the other hand, if you'd like to measure a bunch of herbs, the scale will need to be more sensitive. A kitchen scale even helps crafters who enjoy making soap, paper, or candles to measure their materials such as glycerin, wax, and pulp.

One reason the kitchen scale has gained in popularity is that chefs have realized the profound difference between measuring items by volume and by weight. The volume of something, especially powdery substances like cornstarch, flour, baking soda, and baking powder, varies wildly depending on how much it has been compacted. Yet weighing the same amount of flour will vary hardly at all. Many cookbooks have begun enumerating recipes based on weight, rather than volume, for the same reason.

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Discussion Comments

By LisaLou — On Jul 13, 2011

I recently purchased a digital, stainless steel Salter kitchen scale and have been very pleased with it.

The digital read out is easy to see and the stainless steel is easy to keep clean and sanitized. One of the things I find most convenient about it is that you can easily switch back and forth from dry to liquid ingredients.

It has a very modern, sleek design that I also like the look of.

By golf07 — On Jul 12, 2011

When I was on Weight Watchers having a kitchen scale was very important to my success. I was always weighing out the proper portions of food I was allowed for that day.

Before this, I had never used one, and now find myself using it quite often. A decent electronic kitchen scale isn't very expensive and also doesn't take up much space. I don't like to keep a lot of things out on my counter tops, so found one small enough that could easily fit inside a cupboard.

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