What uses have you found for your food scale?
October 13, 2009 5:18 AM   Subscribe

What uses have you found for your food scale? I'm writing a cooking blog post, and looking for ideas.
posted by markcmyers to Home & Garden (40 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Some knitters use food scales to weigh either whole or partially-used balls of yarn, for purposes of figuring out, "Do I have enough left to finish/make another one?"
posted by muddgirl at 5:25 AM on October 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

I use mine occasionally for calculating approximate postage costs for eBay items.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 5:32 AM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Haha, I came in here to say, "I use mine to weigh yarn" and muddgirl beat me to it. Case in point: when knitting socks with one ball of yarn you divide the weight in half and check after the first sock to make sure you have half the weight still left.

I've always wanted to use it to track the weight of a growing kitty but we're not allowed cats in our current flat.
posted by like_neon at 5:38 AM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

I used mine to count change, once. We'd bagged up a bunch of quarters to do laundry with, and had forgotten to count (there were lots). So we weighed them.

Also, brewing, although I suppose that probably counts as a cooking-related use.
posted by uncleozzy at 5:40 AM on October 13, 2009

Response by poster: Sorry, I meant to ask mainly about cooking-related uses, though I'm interested in uses outside the kitchen as well.
posted by markcmyers at 5:43 AM on October 13, 2009

uncleozzy, I also use mine for measuring hops.

I especially use it to measure how much food I'm eating. It's a fantastic way to stay on a healthy diet, as you can know exactly the weight of the food you're putting in your body instead of having to eyeball it or use inexact measuring cups/spoons.
posted by King Bee at 5:44 AM on October 13, 2009

Weighing food?

Or do you want cooking related uses other than weighing food?

posted by emilyw at 5:45 AM on October 13, 2009 [4 favorites]

I suppose you could use a scale to measure liquid volumes: e.g. 473g of water is a US pint.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 5:51 AM on October 13, 2009

Spoon rest?
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 5:53 AM on October 13, 2009

My sister-in-law used one to track the weight gain of her newborn daughter.
posted by perrce at 5:56 AM on October 13, 2009

You can also use it to measure volume, based on the fact that 1mL of water weighs pretty darn close to 1g (0.998 or so) at room temperature. So for example one time I was interested in seeing what a 150 mL serving of wine looked like in the wine glass that I had, so I put it on the scale, tared it, then poured water until the scale read 150g and made a mark with a sharpie at the water line.

IHMO a requirement for any kitchen scale is that it can measure negative (relative) values. So for example when you want to measure flour, you put the whole bag on the scale, tare it, then start scooping out (with it still on the scale) until the scale reads negative the desired amount. It's a lot easier that way than trying to carefully pour the flour into a container resting on the scale.
posted by Rhomboid at 6:01 AM on October 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

I too am confused about what other food-related things you could do with a food scale, other than weighing ingredients. I use mine mostly for weighing baking ingredients, as weight is a better measure than volume for baking.
posted by cooker girl at 6:03 AM on October 13, 2009

Best answer: Portioning: hamburgers, meatballs, bread rolls, pie crusts, etc.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:05 AM on October 13, 2009

Response by poster: Or do you want cooking related uses other than weighing food? I'm interested in any way at all that you use a food scaleā€”hops, UPS packages, yarn, flour, dieting, babies. One use nobody has mentioned is weighing out pasta portions. I cook for two, and find the scale easier for dividing a 1-pound package of spaghetti into two eight-ounce meals than those pasta portioners.
posted by markcmyers at 6:08 AM on October 13, 2009

I bought a copy of Ratio that I keep meaning to use, but I haven't gotten around to it yet. This book seems like excellent source material for you.
posted by Lieber Frau at 6:10 AM on October 13, 2009

Best answer: Well then, I use my scales for
- weighing the flour that goes into batter
- weighing all the ingredients when I am cooking in larger quantities than usual, which means I'm not comfortable getting the proportions right by eye.
- weighing a portion of pasta
- weighing a portion of rice
- weighing ingredients for anything I make from a recipe.
- weighing the bag of pasta or rice, to check how many portions are left (and therefore whether there are enough portions for dinner).
posted by emilyw at 6:19 AM on October 13, 2009

Measuring pasta is one of the main things I am referring to when I'm talking about the dieting. Definitely a fine use for a scale.

Protein shakes in the morning also. 250g of skim milk and 30g of protein powder makes a perfect shake that fills a pint glass almost like a dream.
posted by King Bee at 6:22 AM on October 13, 2009

Best answer: Ah I realise where the confusion is coming from. Presumably you're in the US; I'm in the UK. Your recipes all come in "cups" (right?). Ours all come in grams or ounces (usually both). None of us own measuring cups or have any idea how many cups of anything is how many grams.

So from the UK point of view, any time we follow a recipe - from a book, from Grandma or from the side of a tin or packet - we automatically get our scales out. Anyone learning to cook from the first time is likely be relying mainly on scales while they learn how to eyeball quantities.

Oh and bird roasting recipes are usually "so much time per kilo and add so much", so you have to weigh the bird before roasting it.

Also, I regularly make up a recipe by putting the mixing bowl on the scales, zeroing them, adding the flour, zeroing, adding the butter, and so on.

Anyone counting calories will be weighing everything they eat, as the calorie count is generally written as "per 100g".

I have no idea how much of this is relevant / interesting in the US.
posted by emilyw at 6:39 AM on October 13, 2009

Weighing was the best way to replicate the taste of home for me. My mother cooks without recipes, until recently I had no feel for the balances and ratios in Pakistani food. So when she cooked back home in Lahore, she weighed every ingredient she used and emailed it to me. I could replicate them here in the UK without having to worry how big an onion is asked for.

Cutting or doubling recipes is also much easier with a scale. Even when measurements are given in cups, I sometimes find it easier to simply weigh the total and subtract half.
posted by tavegyl at 6:41 AM on October 13, 2009

Best answer: Dividing pizza dough. My recipe makes four pounds of dough, and each pizza uses one pound. I measure and use/freeze accordingly.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:42 AM on October 13, 2009

Best answer: lately I've weighed. Some Dried lentils for a soup.
A half Lamb leg for roasting to work out times.
A Chicken for working out cooking times. (it was boiled chicken Rice dish)

I never weigh out pasta or Rice. Always cook those by volume.
posted by mary8nne at 6:49 AM on October 13, 2009

Two tablespoons of cream cheese is hard to measure with measuring spoons, but it's easy to see when you've added 30g to your bagel if you use a scale.
posted by smackfu at 6:50 AM on October 13, 2009

Conversely, I don't have a kitchen scale, so I use my postage scale to weigh food.
posted by nax at 7:01 AM on October 13, 2009

Best answer: Baking, if I'm using a mix of different flours/sugars/etc rather than just one type - adding scoops of whatever seems interesting until it hits the appropriate weight in total.

Butter, but only because every now and then I manage to cut off exactly the right amount, and can feel very slightly smug about it.

Microwaving rice - I tend to weigh the rice (say 150 grams), rinse it, put it back on the scales (it'll weigh more now, say 180), then add hot water until the whole thing reaches a total of three times the original weight.

Eggs, if I'm following a recipe but want something to come out richer or less rich than the original - instead of using (say) four eggs, I can put in whatever mixture of yolks and whites I feel like until it hits (in this case) 200 grams.

My housemates always used to be extremely fussy about portioning out champagne, to the point where they'd squat level with the table and make hmm-ing noises to make sure everyone had the same amount; but for some reason they'd never let me just get out the kitchen scales to make it all easier.
posted by severalbees at 7:04 AM on October 13, 2009

Best answer: When I buy gigantic portions at Costco, I usually divide them up in order to freeze them, and the scale comes in handy here. For example, I bought 7 lbs of ground beef, used ~1.5 lbs, and then measured out .75 lb bags for chili and 1 lb bags for meat sauce. That way I will be able to thaw what I need.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 7:07 AM on October 13, 2009

Response by poster: So from the UK point of view, any time we follow a recipe - from a book, from Grandma or from the side of a tin or packet - we automatically get our scales out. Sometimes I suspect here in the U.S. we'd be better off if we hadn't started that unpleasant business back in 1775.
posted by markcmyers at 7:35 AM on October 13, 2009

For home use:
1. portion hamburger (though eyeball and hand does just fine for me)
2. Baking (this is a must)

On the note of baking... bakers weigh everything since most stuff is a ratio of eggs, flour, yeast, salt, sugar and water... that means everything stays consistent in batch sizes up and down... loosely put - bakers weigh water (note: a pint is a pound the world around).

Weigh your dry. Weigh your wet. Mix appropriately.
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:35 AM on October 13, 2009

Well, when I was fostering a pregnant cat and the resulting kittens, I used mine to keep track of their weights (a newborn kitten losing weight it a major sign something very bad is happening.)
posted by cgg at 7:51 AM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Cgg beat me to it! I only use my scale for British recipes (I'm in Canada) and fruit cake, but also for weighing yarn, tracking kitten growth, and weighing ingredients when making bath bombs. I have a neat pic somewhere of my clever boy hopping on the scale for his weekly weigh in.
posted by x46 at 8:06 AM on October 13, 2009

Our neighbor uses his to measure out his weed supply.
posted by stormpooper at 8:16 AM on October 13, 2009

I weight grain for beer. And hops. And malt extract when needed. And any other ingredients, really. For the grain I wouldn't mind a bigger scale as mine tops out too low for the amount of grain I need, but I just measure in parts.

I weigh bread ingredients.

I weight anything else where the recipe calls for a weight rather than a volume.

But mostly the scale is used for brewing.
posted by bDiddy at 8:16 AM on October 13, 2009

Weighing home-grown fruit (peaches, apples, grapes) for jelly, jam, or fruit-butter making.
Weighing produce yield from our garden (just how heavy *was* that rutabaga?), and from the community garden we tend.
Lending to neighbors for their beer-making escapades.
posted by dbmcd at 8:33 AM on October 13, 2009

I used mine to reverse-engineer a packaged chili recipe-in-a-box, by measuring the individually-sized packets that came with it.
posted by deadmessenger at 9:08 AM on October 13, 2009

[Mine looks like a big iPod touch. I have it sitting around on the counter to look at it.]

But seriously, some goods measure poorly per volume, at least I don't trust it - butter, polenta, rice, for example. Some recipes (which I tend to ignore, but there you are) are extremely picky about proportions. And when I once made brioches after an instruction by Paul Bocuse (which I then stuffed in funny train cake forms, a grand success for a birthday), the advised amount of butter was so ridiculously high that I used the scale down to the milligram in order to fortify my insecure self.
Funny, I also understood the question as asking for alternative uses besides the obvious one. Like in: using a lettuce spinner for drying freshly cut and water-rinsed fries, or a chef's knife for cleaning fingernails.
posted by Namlit at 9:12 AM on October 13, 2009

I weigh out my breakfast cereal in the morning. My boyfriend thinks this is utterly hilarious, and has told all his friends how neurotic I am about cereal,* but I've been monitoring my portions lately for health reasons and for some reason I find cereal portion size really hard to judge by eye.

I also weigh pretty much everything when I'm cooking from a recipe (another Brit here) or even just to judge the right amount of pasta or rice or potatoes for dinner.

*And then asked me how much it's supposed to weigh so he knows how much to give me when he makes me breakfast in bed. Aww!
posted by badmoonrising at 9:22 AM on October 13, 2009

I recently made a recipe (vegan stuffed shells) that called for a specific quantity of cooked broccoli. Broccoli's a little difficult to measure by volume, and the recipe gave a weight for that ingredient. Worked very well.
posted by amtho at 9:23 AM on October 13, 2009

...when I was fostering a pregnant cat and the resulting kittens, I used mine to keep track of their weights (a newborn kitten losing weight it a major sign something very bad is happening.)

Similarly, I weigh my parrots to monitor their health.
posted by torquemaniac at 10:19 AM on October 13, 2009

Serious coffee aficionados use scales for all different parts of the coffee prep process. A few:

- weighing a dose of green coffee beans to prepare for roasting (my home roasting setup is sensitive to differences of 10g or so in the amount of green coffee I use)

- weighing of grounds for espresso. good espresso also depends on precise measurement of the amount of coffee in grams, not volume.

- weighing grounds to get the water/coffee ratio right for drip or french press brewing.
posted by slow graffiti at 11:07 AM on October 13, 2009

I weigh all my climbing and skiing gear with it, to slim down my backpack weight for trips.

And then I weigh my snacks... or, my wife does. It's her favorite part of preparing trips, making sure we each have 150g of Kookaburra licorice per day.
posted by Pantengliopoli at 12:43 PM on October 13, 2009

Yarn. So many reasons to weigh yarn. I'm making a blanket out of leftover sock yarn and I know that each square takes 7-8 grams of yarn, depending on the yarn. So, if my little leftover ball is at least 7 grams, I have a shot. If it has 8, I'm golden. Also, I swap this yarn with other people, and most others making a similar blanket need 5 gram bits of yarn (smaller squares). To make a pair of socks from a 100g hank of yarn, you wind the whole hank into a ball, and then roll half of that ball off, so you have 2 50 gram balls. Hat making also, it takes me about 60-65 grams of yarn to make a hat that fits me. So I can toss my leftover scraps onto the scale to see if I have enough for a striped hat. And the last knitting thing I will mention is, figuring out how many balls of yarn I used for a project. Yarn is sold in standard weights, so if my sweater is 750 grams, I can figure out how many balls that would be.

I have been weighing ingredients for baking for a long time, because I can never remember the rules for scooping a "cup" of flour. Is it supposed to be in there tightly? loosely? How do I scrape the extra off the top? We covered all of this in home-ec class, but frankly, I was more interested in shop. I joined shop club and volunteered to sand and refinish the work benches in 7th grade. I did not stay after school to make cupcakes. (I go with 130 grams, for the record.)

Postage. My scale only goes to 8 pounds, but I don't do much heavy mailing anyway.

When I was a kid we weighed kittens when it was time to give shots. Recorded the weight at injection time, weighed them a few days later. (We also checked their temps with a rectal thermometer. Not a fun thing to do to a kitten. They whimper. I always wanted to just let the vets deal with the shots, but now I'm an adult and I realize the vet's offices are like hospitals, and also they don't have you bring a litter of kittens back in 4 days to check on them. You're just supposed to call if they start puking or get lethargic. Or die.) Also, I weighed the runt's food for mixing into bottles, or for adding to wet food for slightly older kittens. Finally, one time a queen was not being a good mom for some reason, the kittens got bottles while she figured it out.
posted by bilabial at 1:04 PM on October 13, 2009

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