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Kitchen Scales

Sunday, 1 February 2009 | Tags: ,

For many at-home chefs, a kitchen scale is a necessary tool when accuracy is key to the success of your recipe. We test out a selection of scales for accuracy and ease of use.

The Basics

  • Scales are a good way to get consistent results in your cooking every time. For example, the volume of a cup of flour can vary depending on temperature, humidity, and whether it was sifted, packed, scooped, or spooned into the cup. But the weight of a cup of flour is always the same = 125 grams.

  • Scales also eliminate the need for other tools like measuring cups and spoons.

  • The “tare” (or “zero”) function on a scale allows you to reset the measurement to zero as often as you like, so that you can directly add and weigh as many ingredients in the same bowl as your recipe will allow.

  • Kitchen scales are in popular use in Britain and Europe, so if you’re buying cookbooks from overseas, using a scale saves you from having to do conversions, since many European chefs prefer to list ingredients by weight.

  • There are two main types of scales:

    • Digital scales:

      • Usually battery-operated, though some come with a plug too or instead.

      • Are better at measuring small amounts (e.g. teaspoons and tablespoon sized weights)

      • Usually quite compact, so they’re easy to store or leave on the counter.

      • Look for a display with large numbers that are easy to read.

      • A back light feature is handy if your bowl is big enough to throw shadows on the display.

      • An indicator light that shows when you’re reaching maximum capacity is a helpful to warn so you don’t overload your scale.

      • It should switch easily between metric and imperial measurements using an easy-to-reach button. (If it’s on the bottom of the scale, skip it.)

      • Seek out models with extremely precise measurements. In metric, it should measure in 1-gram increments. In imperial, it should measure either in fractional increments (down to 1/8th ounce) or in decimal increments (down to one decimal place).

      • Some digital scales can measure the volume of liquids, in both millilitres and fluid ounces

      • Nearly all digital scales have a Zero/Tare button. (Don’t buy one without it!)

      • Automatic shut-off is a handy energy-saving feature.

    • Analog (or mechanical, or manual) scales

      • Don’t require batteries

      • The spring inside can wear out over time.

      • Are not very sensitive to weighing small amounts.

      • Generally larger than digital scales so will take up more space on the counter.

      • Look for a large face with easy-to-read numbers

      • Most analog scales have both metric and imperial measurements on the display face. Good analog scales should measure in 25-gram or 1-ounce increments.

      • Some analog scales have a handy zero out button. Others must be adjusted manually.

  • Look for scales with as few cracks and ridges as possible to reduce the collection food and other debris in the crevices.

  • Buy a scale with at least a 10-pound capacity.

  • If your scale comes with a bowl, it should be removable for easy washing (and ideally, dishwasher-safe). Make sure you can also calibrate the scale for use with your own containers too.

Other Considerations

  • Wipe the scale down with a damp cloth and non-abrasive cleaning solution as necessary.

  • Removable bowls or other accessories can be hand-washed or put in the dishwasher, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Be Aware

  • Don’t exceed the capacity of your scale. Measurements may be inaccurate and you may permanently damage the scale.

  • Do not allow any electronic or mechanical parts of the scale to become wet.

  • Though digital scales are more accurate than analog, remember to factor in the more expensive price, and the inconvenience of batteries.

TEST CRITERIA

We took our test scales to our neighbourhood butcher shop to get some help from a professional who works with scales a lot.

  • OXO Good Grips Food Scale (digital): $74.99
. . Amazon.ca Amazon.com
  • Starfrit Stainless Steel Electronic Kitchen Scale with Bowl (digital): $39.99
. . Amazon.ca Amazon.com
  • Escali Primo Scale (digital): $49.99
. . Sears.ca Amazon.com
  • Salter Add & Weigh Baking Mechanical Kitchen Scale (analog): $29.99
. . Amazon.ca Amazon.com

(Note: prices listed above are approximate and in Canadian dollars)

Weighing Test

We weighed a variety of meats on our test scales and compared the results to a professional grade butcher scale.

  • The analog Salter scale turned out to be difficult to read. It was hard to see where the pointer was exactly, so we weren’t happy with its accuracy. It just didn’t compare at all to the digital scales.

  • The Escali Primo scale was the most consistent in accuracy. It was also nice and compact, and easy to use. We do wish it had a larger plate.

  • The OXO scale was really nice to use, but it fluctuated all over the place so was really hard to get a precise measurement from.

  • The Starfrit came with its own bowl and was also easy to use.

OUR TOP PICK

The Escali Primo Scale is our top pick in this test. We liked how easy it was to use, and it was the most accurate. 

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