Why You Should Bake With A Scale

It's going to change the *weigh* you cook

Now that you've graduated from boxed cake mix, invested in heavy-duty sheet pans and purchased yourself a KitchenAid (in Ina-approved classic white, of course), there's still one thing you need before you can bill yourself the next Mary Berry: a kitchen scale.  

True, you may have spent time perfecting your scoop-and-scrape method, but when it comes down to the precise science of baking, a scale is the absolute best way to ensure Great British Bake Off-level results every time.

Here are a few reasons why we've abandoned our faded measuring cups and embraced the kitchen scale instead. (The bathroom scale, however, might take us a little more time to embrace.)  

Scales Are More Accurate and Consistent than Measuring Cups

It doesn't matter how meticulous you are at leveling out your scoop—not all cups of flour are created equal, since flour can vary in consistency. As Serious Eats points out, shoving your cup into a newly opened bag of all-purpose will give you a compact, dense measurement that can weigh up to six ounces. Meanwhile, someone who decides to aerate their flour before gently spooning it into their cup will end up with as little as only four ounces. So if you're baking a cake that calls for four cups, there's a half-pound difference that will hugely affect your end slice. (This same dilemma also applies to vexing ingredients like brown sugar. A "lightly packed" cup can end up being vastly different depending on who's packing.)  Using a scale, however, gets rid of all these discrepancies: No matter what, four ounces of flour will always be four ounces of flour.

A Scale Let's You Change Recipe Quantities Easier

Contrary to popular belief, sometimes the full batch of five dozen snickerdoodles isn't the answer. The reason why we find ourselves eating four more cookies than we intended is that baking gets tricky once we're eyeballing halved measurements like three-eighths of a cup of sugar or two-fifths of a tablespoon of cornstarch. On the flip side, anyone who's tried to triple their cinnamon roll recipe come Christmas morning knows measuring 14 cups of flour requires a considerable amount of concentration (as in, "Was that cup 11 or 12 I just dumped in?"). Thankfully, scales need only elementary-level arithmetic to solve this problem: Just keep dumping in your ingredients until you hit the right number.

Scales Are Faster (and Use Less Dishes)

Perhaps the greatest advantage of cooking with scales is that you no longer have to litter your counter with measuring cups, spoons and countless other utensils that would take up precious dishwasher real estate. As Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen eloquently sums up, "The greatest feat the kitchen scale accomplishes is that it turns almost any recipe into a one-bowl recipe." 

Nearly all scales have a function that zeroes out their current reading no matter what's already on them, meaning you can use a single scoop to weigh out how much sugar you need before resetting the scale and adding your next ingredient, whether it's sticky honey that would otherwise render your measuring spoons useless afterward, or powdered sugar, whose boxes are notoriously too narrow for cup-sized measures.

How to Buy the Best Scale

A good scale should be able to measure in both ounces and grams, with a large enough plate so larger bowls don't block the display. And while pricier, Bill Nye-approved models precise enough to spot the difference between an eighth and a sixteenth of a teaspoon of salt are nice, other scales that hover around $50—like this model from OXO—are more than capable of getting the job done. (For ingredients called for in small amounts—such as leavening agents, salt and seasonings—measuring spoons are just fine.)