We have also weighed limes.
July 24, 2012 10:47 AM   Subscribe

The lovely Mrs. Haddock and I were given a digital kitchen scale as a wedding gift, but we have no idea what we should be doing with it. What should we be doing with it?

Right now, we're just randomly weighing lemons and then marveling at our newfound knowledge. Surely, the scale must have a higher calling. What do you use your digital (or analog) kitchen scale for?
posted by Admiral Haddock to Food & Drink (41 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
While most people and cookbooks cook by measurement, a lot of chefs cook by weight.

Just a different way of obtaining the same thing.
posted by TinWhistle at 10:49 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Alton Brown used to emphasize measuring ingredients by weight instead of volume. This gizmodo article states much of the same case.
posted by xingcat at 10:49 AM on July 24, 2012

If I am cutting things into equal sized portions, I find in very useful, or when a recipe calls for weight rather than volume.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 10:49 AM on July 24, 2012

Bake!! Things tend to turn out a lot better when you bake by weight. You can easily add too much flour or brown sugar if it's packed too tightly in your little measuring scoop. This problem goes away when you weigh ingredients.
posted by astapasta24 at 10:50 AM on July 24, 2012 [10 favorites]

Mine has been good for two purposes:

1) Weighing food portions for dieting purposes.

2) Discovering the weight of a zucchini I got from a co-worker yesterday (4.75 pounds).

#1 is obviously more beneficial than #2. A kitchen scale is the best way to figure out how much you have of anything that can't be put into a measuring cup or spoon, whether it's a chicken breast or an enormous zucchini.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:51 AM on July 24, 2012

Since it was a wedding gift, the clear intention is to ensure marital equity in ice cream portions when there's only a wee bit left in the carton.

Otherwise, yes, baking. A fun experiment: have each of you measure a cup of flour into an identical vessel, twice. Weigh the results, and marvel at the differences.
posted by charmcityblues at 10:58 AM on July 24, 2012 [9 favorites]

Yeah, dieting. You'd be surprised that you're having 2 or 3 portion sizes worth of cereal each morning. I was.
posted by cashman at 10:58 AM on July 24, 2012

One of my hobbies is homemade soap-making. All the recipes are in weight, not volume (6 ounces olive oil, 12 ounces lye, etc.).
posted by Melismata at 10:59 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I use mine most of the time to weigh the ingredients for no-knead bread.

Other than that, it's usually to weigh fruit and sugar in jam-making.
posted by gyusan at 10:59 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Baking, absolutely. Enjoying recipes from outside the US, where cups are for drinking, not measuring.

Oh, and postage, so you can make sure that letters and cards are under the first-class limit, and print out your own labels at USPS.com and save a little bit on doing it at the counter.
posted by holgate at 11:00 AM on July 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

One of the cool things you can do with a digital scale is use the tare function--that is, you can convert any container in your house into the "zero" weighing basket of the scale. That means that you can use the very mixing bowl you're currently working with, for example, and add just 4oz of whatever to it--without having to use another bowl or do any quick calculations in your head (in other words, you can re-zero after each addition).
posted by yoink at 11:00 AM on July 24, 2012 [13 favorites]

I write weights on recipes, so I don't have to futz with measuring things next time. Like yoink says, the tare button is your friend.

I'm currently rocking the KD 8000, which has a neat percentage function for baking. You weigh one ingredient, activate the percentage function, and it displays all measurements in percentages of that first ingredient.
posted by zamboni at 11:03 AM on July 24, 2012

I use my scale almost daily to weigh: portions of pasta, portions of oatmeal + the milk that goes in it, portions of yogurt + the frozen berries that go in it.

Baking by weight instead of by volume also means you can just put your mixing bowl on top of the scale and then pour stuff in, instead of getting lots of measuring cups messy.
posted by endless_forms at 11:04 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Most if not all recipes designed for a UK audience will use weights rather than volume, so find a cookbook or website from over here (BBC food for example) and go crazy
posted by gregjones at 11:05 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

The cookbook Ratio is widely available, pretty good, and based on weight rather than volume.

The idea is that a dry solid such as flour can take up more or less volume in a measuring cup depending on whether it's been shaken down and on any number of other factors, but 4 oz. of flour by weight is always 4 oz.

Get to know the Tare function, which re-zeroes the scale again. This is useful for adding ingredients in succession: bowl on scale -- tare to zero. Flour until it reads 6 oz. -- Tare to zero. Sugar to 3 oz. -- tare to zero. &c. No measuring cups. Less muss, less fuss, and more accurate baking.
posted by gauche at 11:11 AM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Weigh your beans when you make coffee: 24 grams for a good-sized mug. (If you wanna get really anal, you can weigh the water too. See this chart.)
posted by asterix at 11:13 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I use it to make pourover coffee in a chemex. Weigh the beans on the scale, then put the chemex on the scale, tare out, and weigh the total amt of water you're pouring in.
posted by subtle-t at 11:16 AM on July 24, 2012

A transcript from dinner preparation yesterday evening:

Mr. Horn: I don't know if this steak is big enough for us to share. What do you think?

Ms. Horn: How much does it weigh?

[pause while Mr. Horn locates, turns on the scale, places a plate on the scale, tares scale to zero]

Mr. Horn: 14 ounces.

Ms. Horn: It's big enough for the two of us.

To sum up: awesome for baking and dieting, sure, but more commonly used in my household for figuring out how the amount of ingredients will correspond to amount of finished food.
posted by mchorn at 11:17 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

The cookbook Ratio is widely available, pretty good, and based on weight rather than volume.

This! My digital scale and my copy of Ratio might as well have come in a set, because I never use one without the other.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:19 AM on July 24, 2012

completely unrelated to kitchen duties: I use mine to weigh packages in prep for mailing. Also good to know if a letter needs one stamp or two.
posted by royalsong at 11:29 AM on July 24, 2012

I use mine to weigh out ~250g of pasta from a 500g box - I'm bad at estimating by volume, and that way I don't end up with a remaining portion that's too small or too large.

If the recipe calls for 1/3 cup of butter and your remaining butter isn't in a neat shape with a convenient 1/3 marking, just weigh out 76g and you're done.

And the New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe has precise measurements for flour and sugar (to the 1/2 ounce), which is fun with a digital scale.
posted by Gortuk at 11:55 AM on July 24, 2012

I have the same one!! It's awesome. Basically you use it to weigh out ingredients, either for euro-recipes (although it has metric and imperial) and/or for baking. Also it is very compact and stores easily. It's great.
posted by bquarters at 12:25 PM on July 24, 2012

It's really handy for baking. I used my scale for this purpose for the first time recently and it was so much easier. If yours has a tare function (where you can set it to 0 with stuff in the bowl) you can just keep adding ingredients and not dirty up a million spoons and measuring cups. Maybe that's just coveted by those of us with no dishwashers?
posted by Bunglegirl at 12:36 PM on July 24, 2012

I like to make cakes from mixes, but I don't want a big ass cake for just me and Husbunny. So I weigh the package and divide by 3 (usually how many eggs it calls for.) Voila! Now I can break the mix into thirds, keep the rest in the pantry and have a nice, fresh cake for dessert.

Oh yeah. And portion control.

That's about it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:58 PM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

10g of salt for every liter of water when cooking pasta (or boiling anything, really). Pasta should be cooked in at least 3l of water.

Trust me, your taste buds will thank me.
posted by lydhre at 1:19 PM on July 24, 2012

nth-ing the cookbook RATIO and the tare--add--re-tare method of baking.

Crepes are 1 egg/1 liquid/1/2 flour. So, I just pop the bowl on the scale, tare, and break a bunch of eggs in there. 4? 6? 8? doesn't matter - just note the weight, re-tare, and pour milk in from the container until I've hit that weight again. Pinch of salt, dash of vanilla, re-tare, and sprinkle in flour until I hit half the weight of the eggs. Fastest crepes in the Midwest.
posted by Ausamor at 1:25 PM on July 24, 2012 [6 favorites]

I mostly use my scale for portion control and for baking. A lot of the bread or pie recipes I make call for dividing the dough into two equal parts, and I like that the scale helps me do that precisely.
posted by apricot at 1:43 PM on July 24, 2012

As a Weight Watchers member, I use my scale all the time so I know how much I'm eating.
posted by radioamy at 1:48 PM on July 24, 2012

I've got a few recipes where I go by weight instead of volume, but the number one thing I use my scale for is measuring out spaghetti, since I can never estimate it right otherwise.
posted by ckape at 2:07 PM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I use mine for cooking, also soaps, and yarn as well.
posted by woolly pageturner at 2:36 PM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

weighing your drugs
posted by matt_od at 5:08 PM on July 24, 2012

I use mine to see how strong I am... I push down and see how high I can get the numbers to go. If I can get it to say ERR, I'm having a good day!
posted by peppermintfreddo at 5:33 PM on July 24, 2012

I brought mine to measure leftover yarn so I can estimate the yardage. And I agree the tare function is way handy.
posted by bluesapphires at 5:56 PM on July 24, 2012

Portioning pasta, absolutely — weird shape? No problem!

And since I'm married to a guy who thinks there's two of us therefore half the package equals one serving, portion control so we don't waste as much food.

Converting recipes that call for a "small tomato" or "medium potato" so I know exactly how much to use to make a recipe just the way I like it.
posted by Lexica at 7:52 PM on July 24, 2012

Sticky, messy things are SOOOOO much easier to weigh in the mixing bowl using the tare/zero/reset/whatever button on your scale. This includes things like:

Soft butter, lard, shortening, peanut butter, marshmallow creme, corn syrup, honey, molasses.

I make peanut butter pasta sauce a lot, and I always start by putting a small mixing bowl on top of the scale, and hitting zero button, then spooning the peanut butter in until the scale tells me I've got just the right amount. This is so much easier than messing up a measuring cup and inevitably wasting a teaspoon or two of peanut butter because it's so hard to get it all out of the measuring cup. Then I just add in the other ingredients the usual way and stir it all up until well blended.

Conversion chart here.

My current favorite peanut butter pasta sauce recipe here.
posted by marsha56 at 9:48 PM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

I use mine when I make a two-loaf recipe for bread; it keeps me from making a monster loaf and a pee wee loaf (you'd think I could do this by sight, but apparently not). I also use it for recipes that call for a certain number of ounces of pasta, meat, whatever. I tend to buy things in bulk, so I often need help portioning things out.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 9:52 PM on July 24, 2012

Download the Primrose Bakery app and have fun with baked delights! I was just looking at it today and wishing for a scale so I could try things out.
posted by Devika at 11:37 PM on July 24, 2012

I use it for mixing epoxy paints.
posted by Psychnic at 7:23 AM on July 25, 2012

So, one application of portioning that I haven't seen covered is butchering meat. If you own a freezer that has space in it, buying bigger cuts and turning them into smaller cuts is a great way to save money. Plus you're in charge of exactly what sized cuts you get, and I always feel better when I have as much to do with my food becoming food as possible. Also, if you've got a food processor or meat grinder you get MUCH meat if you grind it yourself.

For the actual processing I always go by size for steak and stew meats, and shape for roasts (the more even the shape the more even the cooking), but portioning is done by weight. We freeze stew and ground meat in one pound packages, steaks between 12-16 oz. (four oz. a serving for the two adults, plus the little over a serving the two kids eat, and the rest is lunch the next day), and any roasts get labeled with the weight. If we have company and want steaks, we just thaw out two packages.

Equipment wise, you just need a good sharp knife (I like my 12 inch carving knife, and a smaller parring knife that I use for stew meat) and a cutting board, some butchers paper (or aluminum foil), plastic wrap and freezer space. Cut the portions, blot them dry, put them in the fridge to re-chill them, wrap them TIGHT in plastic wrap then butcher's paper, then label (cut, date, and weight) and stick in the freezer. It's best if you don't stick too much in to freeze at once, and if you do this enough, one of those vacuum sealers comes in handy (If you're getting a food saver brand one, buy the basic model, the fancier one doesn't do quite as well in my experience).

Really though, anything you portion to freeze (we do a lot of fruit, and veggies), you should do by weight.
posted by Gygesringtone at 7:40 AM on July 25, 2012

Cook by mass (go ahead, call it weight, I'll just roll my eyes a tiny), not volume.

Interested in photography? I use mine to mix photo chemicals that come in powdered form.
posted by Brian Puccio at 8:50 AM on July 25, 2012

Nthing Ratio, he even talks about the scale in the video on the Amazon page.

Also if your microwave has a defrost button it will ask for the weight of what you want to defrost. The more accurate the weight is, the more accurately your food will be defrosted.

Use it to measure pet food, too, if you have pets. Pet food is just as hard to measure by volume as human food.
posted by anaelith at 7:34 PM on July 25, 2012

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