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Why you should cook by weight, not by volume

If you've ever watched an episode of The Great British Bake-Off, or cooked a recipe of your own that you found in a European cookbook, you've probably noticed that many ingredients overseas are measured in grams and ounces, rather than cups, tablespoons, pinches, and dashes.

While most forms of cooking don't require that much precision, a small mistake in baking--a little too much flour, not quite enough sugar--can render the results borderline inedible. So next time you set out to make a cake or a sheet of cookies, consider ditching the measuring cups and pulling out a kitchen scale.

Baking Precision

Why are weights more precise than volumes when measuring dry ingredients? Because a gram is always a gram and an ounce is always an ounce. But the amount of flour in a "cup" can vary quite a bit in weight based on how much the flour has settled, how carefully you leveled off the top of the cup, and even how humid the air is in your kitchen. Maybe an extra pinch of flour packed into a measuring cup won't make a huge difference in your end product, but the accumulation of those small variations across a variety of ingredients can really add up by the time you pop your creation into the oven.

True, converting volumes to weights for your favorite recipes can take some time, and may require a few tries to dial in just the right proportions. But once you've nailed the recipe, you'll be able to replicate it perfectly every time.

Fewer Dishes

But whether you're baking or cooking a regular dinner, a kitchen scale can streamline your process and leave you with fewer dirty dishes at the end of the night. Rather than pre-measuring all of your ingredients and storing them in separate bowls or ramekins around your counter, you can add all of the ones that will cook together in the same bowl, and even measure them without any measuring spoons or cups.

Say your recipe calls for 200 grams of diced onions, 400 grams of cubed chicken, 50 grams of minced garlic, 10 grams of salt, 10 grams of pepper, and 20 grams of paprika. Rather than measuring all of those things individually, you could set a single bowl on your scale, pour in onions until you get to 200 grams, then hit the "tare" button to set it back to zero. Then you could repeat the process with your chicken, and hit tare once more. Then you could sprinkle in your spices and tare until you reach the required amounts for each, no measuring spoons required.

While your quantities don't necessarily need to be very precise for this sort of meal, measuring this way would save you the hassle of washing your teaspoon between measuring your garlic and your salt, or using multiple bowls to hold all of your ingredients before combining them.

Counting Calories

It can be notoriously difficult to estimate the nutrition facts of home-cooked meals, and cooking by volume rather than by weight only muddles things further. If you weigh all of your ingredients down to the gram, figuring out your caloric intake is a simple matter of looking up the nutrition facts for that amount of weight for that amount of food. For example, a 100 gram chicken breast is always going to be about 165 calories. But a chicken breast you grab out of a package without weighing? It's anyone's guess.

Which Scale to Buy?

The great thing about kitchen scales is that they're incredibly cheap, and most are small enough to slide into a drawer. This one from Ozeri only costs $10, is one of the most popular models on Amazon, and carries a Wirecutter recommendation. For serious bakers, this ~$50 option from My Weigh has a larger capacity, a backlit display, and a "Baker's Math" mode that displays ingredient weight as a proportion of your main ingredient (usually flour), which can be useful when making large quantities of baked goods.


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