Weighing ingredients is more accurate than using volume measurements like cups and pints–plus it’s quick, easy, and makes cleanup a breeze. This easy guide explains why and how. And a scale isn’t just for baking!
➡️ Go straight to Ingredient Weight Chart.
Does this story ring a bell to you? You finally find the perfect cake recipe. You set out to make it – preheating the oven, grabbing your ingredients, measuring cups and spoons, bowls, and pans. You think you follow the recipe to a tee. However, you pull it out of the oven only to realize that it is too dry, too dense, or perhaps it didn’t rise enough?
These are common problems that can occur when ingredients are measured incorrectly–or simply differently than the original recipe. But, how are we to know the exact technique the recipe creator used? Did they fluff the flour before scooping it? How packed was that brown sugar?
I’ve learned a lot through my years of baking, but I think one of the most valuable lessons learned is the value of weighing my ingredients. Baking really is a science, and the proper balance of ingredients will yield the best result.
When it comes to measuring ingredients, weighing is highly accurate and helps us avoid common baking pitfalls. And while a soup recipe might not necessarily fail because you “eyeballed” the amount of ingredients you put in it, baking needs to be more precise.
The scale isn’t just for baking though.
Even though exact measurements may not be as important to that soup, once you begin using a scale, you’ll discover how helpful it is with all your kitchen tasks. Your rice will forever have the proper water-to-rice ratio, vinaigrettes will taste perfectly balanced, and you’ll be able to repeat the smoothie you made and liked so much every single time.
Measuring by volume vs. weight:
If you’ve ever noticed recipes that measure in cups, tablespoons, or teaspoons followed by a measurement in grams or ounces, then you’ve seen the different ways ingredients can be measured. Cups, tablespoons, and teaspoons are all examples of measuring by volume, or the amount of space something takes up. Grams and ounces measure ingredients by their weight, or the actual heaviness of the ingredient.
Why should I measure using weight?
Measuring ingredients incorrectly could mean the difference between a light, airy cake with a tender crumb and one that is decidedly more dense. Why such a big difference? Measuring ingredients by volume (cups, tablespoons, teaspoons, etc.) is affected by several factors:
- The way we scoop or pack an ingredient into a measuring cup or spoon can affect the amount that goes in our recipe. Think of brown sugar. Have you noticed how some recipes call for “packed” brown sugar? Some add the word “lightly” or “firmly.” Packing the brown sugar compresses it, allowing more to fit in the measuring cup, but the firmness of the pack can alter the final measurement significantly.
- Similarly, a good bit of the ingredient can stick to the measuring cup–especially sticky or goopy ones like honey, peanut butter, and mayonnaise.
- Also, using a liquid measure for a dry ingredient can create an inaccurate outcome because it can’t be properly leveled. Not to mention that I have two sets of measuring cups that are not the same. (See photo above.) The cups in one set are roughly 10% bigger than the corresponding cups in the other set. Imagine the impact on a recipe that calls for three cups of flour!
But 100 grams of brown sugar is always going to be 100 grams of brown sugar, no matter how firmly it is packed into a cup.
Here are a few other benefits of measuring by weight:
- Some recipes (such as European recipes) measure by weight as a standard practice and don’t even provide the volume measurement.
- When measuring by weight, it is much easier to scale recipes up or down. No need to figure out a half of 1¾ cups of flour or ⅓ cup of olive oil.
- Since you won’t have to use an assortment of measuring cups and spoons (all you need for measuring by weight is one or two bowls–one for wet ingredients, one for dry), it’ll be less messy and you’ll use less dishes. It’s truly a timesaver!
What is the best kitchen scale?
There are many options available, and you can buy a scale just about anywhere kitchen supplies are sold. They come in a variety of price points too.
The scale that I currently use–and have used daily for well over 10 years–is the Escali Primo Digital Scale. It is small and lightweight yet sturdy and stable, perfect for everyday use. It has an easy-to-read digital display that won’t get covered even when using a mixing bowl for measuring (an issue I have experienced with other scales). Finally, it uses a regular AA battery rather than a button cell battery (like the battery for a watch), which can be more difficult to find. Currently retailing for $24.95, it’s also one of the more affordable options.
Aside from the scale, all you need is a bowl. You can simply place the bowl on your scale and scoop the ingredients right into it!
How do I use a kitchen scale?
Step 1: Set your scale to the desired unit of measurement. There are different units used to measure weight–grams, ounces, pounds–and most scales accommodate all of these. So, make sure you have it set to the same unit that is used in your recipe. Grams is the most common weight measurement used in baking, and it’s the most accurate. (Note that you can typically toggle back and forth among these options while using.)
Step 2: Place your bowl or other chosen container on top of the scale. Your scale will register the weight of this container, but, don’t worry, no math is needed here! Press the button that says “tare” or “zero.” This removes the weight of the container and sets the scale back to zero.
Step 3: Start adding your ingredients one at a time. Add each ingredient in the amount called for by your recipe. Keep adding until the scale display reaches the right number. The beauty of the scale is, it is super easy to correct if you add too much. Simply scoop a little bit back out. No need to start over.*
Step 4: Before adding a new ingredient, you don’t even have to move your bowl.** Just make sure you press the “tare” or “zero” button each time. This will zero out the item you just added so you can add the next ingredient. Repeat until all ingredients are added!
Notes & helpful hints:
* If you’re pouring milk into a bowl with beaten eggs, it’s tough to remove just the extra milk. In this case, you’ll want to watch the numbers very carefully as you approach the desired quantity. You can also use a separate bowl for pouring the new ingredients, and then transfer to the mixing bowl as you go. This is a great way to let kids use a scale without the worry of a sudden overflow right as the target amount is reached.
** Do keep in mind that some recipes may call for the use of more than one bowl, such as when one is needed for dry and one for wet ingredients. Follow the recipe instructions on how and when to combine each ingredient.
Perplexing though it is, you may come across recipes with different weights for the same ingredient. For example, four of the largest resources for recipes–the NY Times, the LA Times, King Arthur Flour Baking, and Cooks Illustrated–all specify a different weight for all-purpose flour. In these cases, the best bet is to follow the weight specified by the source. If the source is reliable, the recipe should have been tested with that amount.
What if my recipe doesn’t show me the weights?
Labels often specify weight per serving, but there’s no need to guess or go hunting when this information isn’t readily available. All of the work has been done for you! This Ingredient Weight Chart lists the many common ingredients used in baking and cooking along with their weight equivalent in grams and ounces.
If your recipe only specifies volume measurements, simply find the necessary ingredients on the chart to determine the weight equivalent. You might even find that you start to memorize some of the more common conversions!