A scale in general is an instrument for gaining metrics on weight of an object. Food scales in the kitchen are a necessity if you are planning on doing any baking or using more advanced cooking techniques. Weighing an item for a recipe is much more precise than using measuring spoons and cups. For instance sifted flour contains more air than flour just poured out of the bag so a cup of sifted flour will be lighter than a cup pour straight out of the old’ flour bag. While you can get away with measuring for general recipes if you want to bake you will have to use food scales to weigh.
Historically food scales have been around for thousands of years. Archeologists have discovered stones to use on balance scales that date back to around 2400 BC. Although no scales have been found from this era the stones, made of different minerals while still being similar weights. These stones, carved square, were all mathematically sound based on their weight
Balance food scales were probably the first scale type shown by this evidence of the weighing stones. The balance scale is designed with two sides balanced on a center point. The item to be measured is on one side while weights of known sizes are placed on the opposite side and when balanced the weight is read from the known weights. Balance food scales are used in food service to precisely measure items for baking which uses formulas instead of recipes to produce a consistent product. A balance scale can be very precise and is usually used in scientific laboratories. In classic bread baking you will be following formulas instead of recipes where precise measurement is essential in cooking food.
Next there is the spring food scale or mechanical scale which uses a spring compressed to read weight. The compression of the spring is proportional to the amount of force being applied. Most mechanical scales springs will lose the ability of resistance over time. Small weights are hard to measure on a spring scale. A cheap spring scale is less useful than using measuring spoons.
Finally with technology all around us there is the digital scale. Digital food scales are run on electricity usually by a battery. A digital readout is on scale and should be large enough to be read easily. The measuring of the weight is almost instantaneous so as you are pouring an item you can pour slowly and not over pour with this feature.
What to Look for When Buying Food Scales
The things you should look for on scales that you are using in the kitchen are as follows. Tare is probably one of the most useful and necessary functions you can get on a set of scales. Tare allows you to put a container on the scale, and then reset the scale to zero so you can get the true weight of what it is you are measuring. This saves you from having to write down the weight of the container and subtracting it from the total measurement of the container and the material you are weighing. You need to use seamless bowls to hold items or else you can get materials in the seams which can carry weight over to the next item you weigh producing an incorrect measurement. Get a scale that can handle five pounds or more as some bowls are very heavy and may take up all the weight the scale is capable of handling.
Following a recipe to cook food is flexible, following a formula for baking is not. You can create or change the recipe to suite your tastes or the tastes of whomever you are cooking for. However if you want to deliver a consistent product the best way to measure for cooking is by weighing your ingredients. If you are baking a lot a food scale is essential. Expect to pay around 50 US dollars for a decent scale that will give you accurate readings and consistent products.