The digital kitchen scale is a polarizing accessory to own, but you can get a precise, petite one for $26 nowadays. One home cook who finally made the jump into ownership was surprised by five aspects of owning one that totally rule.
The cult of Big Kitchen is a thing, and owning hulking appliances is part of our cultural currency. (I’m pretty sure that in my state, New York, getting a marriage certificate at City Hall comes with a free stand mixer.)
Kidding. Mostly. I’ve rattled on about my giant appliance phobia before, and one of the reasons I’ve staved off the Becoming A Baker Thing is because I didn’t want to load up on all the accoutrements. New Yorkers learn to travel light. Until my current apartment, I’ve had tiny Brooklyn kitchens, measuring chickens at the grocery store to ensure they could fit in my teeny-tiny two-burner stove. It wasn’t pretty.
But in deciding to become a baker, I figure you need bakers’ tools. You need to know the different types of flour, and maybe invest in a cookie sheet rather than just flipping over your sheet pan, and of course you need whatever looks French and cool on Instagram, especially the nonstick silicone Silpat, the procurement of which I assume will instantly make me a better baker.
I’ve been spending a lot of time on The Sweethome, a site that has become my go-to for kitchen gadget recommendations, and I cross-reference them with Amazon and other reviewer-based sites. I finally bought a $26 scale from Jennings, a little guy measuring 12 by 7.4 by 5 inches. It tucks in right next to my coffee grinder on the window shelf without consuming counter space. And so far I'm impressed by the little things it does. Here are the biggest surprises.
It’s More Precise
The reason most folks love their scales is—of course—precision. Whether you’re measuring out hops for beer, coffee for a pourover, or yeast for bread, this is the way to go. My primary reason for buying it? My no-knead bread varied wildly in saltiness every time, and it annoyed me. I’m a perfectionist, and it was too tempting to not be more exact. My scale is precise down to half a gram, which is exactly how much yeast my bread recipe calls for (although annoyingly, I have to add a gram of weight in order to get the scale to register the 0.5 amount). By and large, though, it is wonderfully precise.
It’s Cleaner and Faster
Think about shaking down a cup of flour, and all the tapping and leveling and spooning you do, and how that flour gets everywhere. Now consider simply scooping flour, devil-may-care, right into a tall container—maybe even a liquid measuring cup—that you’ve weighed. You don’t need to be precise; you can just wait until the number hits the one you need. It’s cleaner and faster and I’m a happier baker.
It Can Handle Weird Ingredients and Their Measurements
Sometimes recipes—especially those from chefs—aren’t all that precise. When a recipe reads “one medium dragonfruit” or “1/2 cup dragonfruit, chopped,” it can be annoying; how do you know what constitutes “medium” in the dragonfruit world? But if you spy that gram measurement next to it—which is likely how the chef herself measures it out—you can nail it the first time using a scale.
Cocktails Are So Much Easier
Don’t have a jigger that measures an ounce, 1.5 ounces, 2 ounces, and ¼ ounce? Me, neither. Here’s an awesome truth: Cocktail aficionados build their drinks right in the shaker on the scale, after they weigh the shaker. Anyone who has ever over-poured a jigger or been irritated while making a margarita that they can’t tell how much of their liquid measuring cup is lime juice how much is agave, welcome to a (slightly dangerous!) new world of faster cocktails.
I’m Instantly More Confident
There’s something about knowing that your scale has your back that I like. The structure of the bread I made after weighing ingredients was superior to any loaf I’d made before. My bourbon sours and margaritas will be more precise. I’ll probably start weighing the coffee for my French press like a proper snob, because every expert I’ve ever interviewed suggests it’s crucial.
Alex Van Buren is a food and travel writer living in Brooklyn, New York whose work has appeared in Gourmet.com, Bon Appétit, Martha Stewart Living, Travel & Leisure, New York Magazine, and Epicurious. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @alexvanburen