Kitchen scales: They're tidier and more accurate than cups and teaspoons.

What to eat. What not to eat.
May 11 2011 7:19 AM

Weighing In

Kitchen scales are tidier, simpler, and more accurate than cups or teaspoons.

(Continued from Page 1)

Furthermore, there are some cooks who purposely avoid precision in their recipes. If Ruhlman and Myhrvold find freedom in digital exactitude, there are others who want to remind their readers that cooking is not about accuracy, but about feel. Take Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, one of the kings of the British pastoral cooking movement. In the American edition of his new book, River Cottage Every Day, he makes a point of using approachable, folksy measurements—"a little brown sugar," "a good pinch of cayenne," "a fat clove of garlic," along with measurements in standardized cups. This casual style is meant to encourage improvisation, and Fearnley Whittingstall's recipes—long, slow braised meats; custardy, unstructured desserts; pretty jumbled salads—can handle a little bit of variance.

While looseness works well for people who already feel comfortable in the kitchen, it's less successful for cooks who need more guidance. With the help of my scale, I'm trying to push the recipes I write toward more precision, and I'm grateful to those most scrupulous contemporary cookbook authors (more and more of them these days) who include multiple measurements: calling for, say ½ cup/4 fl. oz./115 g of turbinado sugar.

Whenever someone asks me which gadgets to purchase, I recommend a basic kitchen scale, like the Escali model I have—and love. Oddly enough, I'm most grateful for my scale with old-timey projects. After coming home from a day in the brambles with a few pounds of blackberries, I just wash the berries, place a bowl on my digital scale, press the tare button to zero it out, and then weigh the fruit (in kilograms, no less, to make the multiplication even easier). I press the tare button again, and then, in the same bowl, I pour sugar on top of the fruit until I reach the correct ratio of berries to sugar (I like 1 blackberries/0.8 sugar, as Christine Ferber recommends). Then into the pot they go. Likewise, when making bread, or homemade sausage, or feeding the sourdough starter I keep in my fridge, I find that the measuring process is neater and more accurate if I use a scale.

Advertisement

I'm not ready to pitch my old measuring cups just yet: When it comes to everyday cooking in small quantities, measuring in cups feels neither too onerous nor crushingly inaccurate. It's part of the folk tradition of cooking that's been passed down to me by my mother and countless cookbook authors from the past century. The recipes that got me cooking in the first place were written with cup measurements, and so I have a certain, perhaps sentimental, fondness for the old system. But the bigger the cooking project and the more old-fashioned the recipe, the more I appreciate the tiny circuitry in my digital scale.

Quiz answers:
a) 3 teaspoons are in a tablespoon.
b) 16 tablespoons are in a cup.
c) 8 fluid ounces are in a cup.

TODAY IN SLATE

Justice Ginsburg’s Crucial Dissent in the Texas Voter ID Case

Even When They Go to College, the Poor Sometimes Stay Poor

Here’s Just How Far a Southern Woman May Have to Drive to Get an Abortion

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Marvel’s Civil War Is a Far-Right Paranoid Fantasy

It’s also a mess. Can the movies do better?

Behold

Sprawl, Decadence, and Environmental Ruin in Nevada

Space: The Next Generation

An All-Female Mission to Mars

As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.

Watching Netflix in Bed. Hanging Bananas. Is There Anything These Hooks Can’t Solve?

The Procedural Rule That Could Prevent Gay Marriage From Reaching SCOTUS Again

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 20 2014 3:53 PM Smash and Grab Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?
  Business
Continuously Operating
Oct. 20 2014 3:40 PM Keeping It in the Family Why are so many of the world’s oldest companies in Japan?
  Life
Outward
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 1:10 PM Women Are Still Losing Jobs for Getting Pregnant
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 5:03 PM Marcel the Shell Is Back and as Endearing as Ever
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 20 2014 4:59 PM Canadian Town Cancels Outdoor Halloween Because Polar Bears
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.