6 Reasons You Should Be Using A Kitchen Scale

Hint: You'll make better baked goods.

Food scale with flour
Photo: Dotdash Meredith

While digital kitchen scales are a staple in professional and European kitchens, stateside home bakers (for the most part) stick to measuring cups. If you measure correctly, the cups get the job done, but too often bakers' are packing ingredients into them and yielding less than delicious results.

Measuring ingredients with a scale is not only more accurate, but much easier. Digital kitchen scales are a fairly affordable kitchen gadget, too, and they take up very little space in a kitchen drawer or cupboard. Sure, it might take some getting used to, but once you're familiar with working with a kitchen scale, you won't go back to those clumsy measuring cups again.

How To Use A Digital Kitchen Scale

It's just two simple steps.

Step 1: Press the zero or 'tare' button

With a digital kitchen scale, you measure ingredients directly into a mixing bowl. So the first thing you need to do is remove the weight of the bowl on the scale.

To do this, place a bowl on the scale, and press the zero or 'tare' button before adding any ingredients. After pressing the button, the scale should clear and read zero with the bowl still on it. If you remove the bowl from the scale, it should now read a negative number; this is the weight of the bowl.

Step 2: Add your first ingredient

You'll want to do this slowly or you'll have to spend time scooping out any excess. Once you reach the weight needed, zero out the scale again so you can add the second ingredient and so on.

It becomes super important as you add more ingredients to the bowl to go slow, as excess will become harder to remove.

When measuring both salt and sugar into the same bowl, place them on opposite sides of the bowl in distinct piles, so you can tell which is which. Never measure salt and yeast out together in the same bowl, as they shouldn't sit in direct contact with each other until you are ready to begin mixing.

Pro Tip: When measuring ingredients like flour or sugar, use a spoon to add the last bit of weight to the bowl. This can increase your accuracy and prevent accidentally adding too much.

food scale with sliced steak
Dotdash Meredith

The Dos And Don'ts Of Kitchen Scales

Do: Work in only one unit.

A lot of bakers prefer the metric system, i.e. grams, but a lot of American recipes will be listed in pounds and ounces. If a recipe lists both, pick one unit and stick to it to avoid confusion.

Do: Use a scale on a flat surface.

If the scale is angled, it can throw off the sensors and give you an inaccurate reading.

Do: Know your scale's maximum capacity.

All scales are built differently, and all of them go up to different weights. Know your scale's limits so if you're approaching that number you can break out another bowl. Otherwise you might be in the middle of measuring when the scale turns off or gives you an error sign and you have no idea how much of the ingredient was already measured out. Then you'll have to start all over.

Don't: Store your scale with items stacked on it.

Avoid stacking items on top of your scale when it's not in use. If you overload it, the weight sensors can be damaged, and this will cause inaccurate measurements.

Don't: Buy a completely flat scale.

These scales look sleek, but scales with a raised platform are more practical as the bowl won't block the display screen.

How To Check If A Scale Is Calibrated

The folks at King Arthur Baking have a clever and easy hack for making sure your scale is properly calibrated, and all it requires is a nickel. Grab a 5-cent piece, and place it on a scale. It should measure five grams.

If your scale isn't great with small increments, King Arthur suggests stacking six nickels. If it registers close to 30 grams then your scale is calibrated and ready for baking. If not, consult the scale's manual for directions on how to calibrate it.

Reasons To Use A Digital Kitchen Scale

Ever had really dry dough? Odds are you measured incorrectly. A food scale can stop that. Plus, it's good for all these reasons:

1. Less cleanup

With a scale you can measure everything into the same bowl using only one piece of equipment instead of multiple measuring cups. It will save you time and dishes.

2. Accuracy

Measuring cups may be what grandma used, but they aren't the most accurate kitchen tool, especially if you are scooping directly out of a container. This packs the ingredient into the cup, and you might be adding nearly double the amount without realizing it. This is particularly a problem with flour—and it leads to crumbly, dry doughs.

With a digital scale, you have the ability to measure ingredients to a fraction of an ounce or gram, so you'll be able to add the exact amount you need and no more.

3. You can effortlessly divide batter Or dough

Use a scale to evenly divide cake batter among multiple pans. Simply zero the scale with the cake pan on top, and add batter. Repeat with each pan, adding the same amount until all the batter is used. Now you'll have perfectly even cake layers that will stack neater too.

A digital scale can also help you divide dough into equal portions for perfectly identical dinner rolls or bread loaves.

4. No more fractions

With a digital scale and weight measurements, it's easy to cut down or scale up recipes without awkward fractions. We've all had to cut a measurement like 3/4 cup by half, only to wonder how you're supposed to measure 3/8 cup of something, and end up googling the tablespoon conversion.

Plus, if you've ever needed to convert between pounds and grams, it's a just a press of the unit button on a scale, no math required.

5. You don't need different measuring tools for liquids and dry ingredients

While liquid measuring cups are far more accurate than their dry ingredient counterparts, it's still a pain to wash two sets of measuring tools. With a scale, you can measure both, and the only cleanup is to wipe off the scale if necessary when done.

6. Easier to measure wonky ingredients

It's not easy to measure a cup of knobby walnuts. What about herbs? Is it a cup packed in or loosely shoved into the measuring cup? Or what about peanut butter, honey, or other sticky ingredients that once measured are a pain to get entirely out of the cup? All these ingredients are hard to neatly and consistently scoop into cup measurements, and are much easier to accurately measure by weight into a bowl.

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