Using a kitchen scale is the best way to weigh ingredients, especially for baking. I talked about this in my post about why a kitchen scale is worth it, but then I realized I had so much more to say about weighing ingredients for baking, particularly for anyone feeling confused by the process.
I was intimidated by weighing ingredients for baking at first too, but once you get the hang of it I promise it’s super easy.
Getting started: My preferred digital kitchen scale for beginners is the Escali Primo Precision Digital Scale which is usually less than $30 and comes in a range of fun colors. It can toggle between imperial and metric measurements, and has a max weight of 11 lbs (5 kg) so you can use it for pretty much any recipe that measures by weight.
In this post I'll be sharing my best tips for weighing ingredients for baking using a digital scale, including things like:
- How to measure the weight of half an egg
- The best way to measure long narrow things that want to roll away
- How to you keep things from sticking to your scale
- What to do if you accidentally weigh too much of an ingredient into your bowl
- Why some recipes are in ounces and others in grams
- And more!
Most of what I’m discussing in this post assumes you’re weighing ingredients for baking (as opposed to for cooking or meal prepping), because that’s where kitchen scales really come in handy, but these tips can be helpful when you’re cooking too!
the practical kitchen's best tips for weighing ingredients for baking
1. There are two different weight measuring systems - imperial and metric — and you can use either one!
When you start looking for recipes that use weight measurements, you'll notice recipes use either ounce or gram measurements. Some recipes even provide both! What's the difference between them?
- The Imperial system is used primarily in America. Recipes written with the Imperial measuring system use ounce (oz) and pound (lb) measurements. There are 16 ounces in 1 pound; If a recipe calls for 1.5 lbs of flour, that's 1 pound and 8 ounces of flour.
- The Metric system is used almost everywhere else in the world. Recipes written with the Metric system use gram (g) and kilogram (kg) measurements. There are 1,000 grams in 1 kilogram; If a recipe calls for 1.5 kilograms of flour, that's 1 kilogram and 500 grams of flour.
Most digital kitchen scales have both imperial and metric measurements so you can use either one in your baking! It's really up to you if you have a preference for one over the other.
I prefer the metric system because the math is easier, but I had to use the Imperial system in pastry school so there are certain ingredients (like eggs and bar chocolate) that I'm more used to measuring in ounces.
2. Tare your scale back to zero between adding ingredients to avoid doing extra math
If you have math anxiety about kitchen scales (or in general) you're not alone. One of my biggest fears before switching to a kitchen scale was that I'd have to do a lot more mental math.
When you're weighing ingredients for baking, you can measure everything right into the same bowl without getting out a thousand measuring cups. So I assumed (incorrectly) that I was supposed to be mentally adding the ingredient quantities together as I went.
Basically, I thought that, if I had 345 grams flour and 155 grams water, once I measured the flour to 345 grams, I'd have to do the math to know to pour in water until the scale read 500 grams (345+155). I couldn't have been more wrong.
Kitchen scales have a button (often the same button as the power button) called "TARE" which subtracts the weight of whatever is already on the scale and brings the display back down to zero. No wild mental math necessary — just "tare" the scale to zero before adding your next ingredient.
You'll also "tare" any time you put your bowl or measuring cups down on the scale to subtract the weight of the bowl so you're just measuring your ingredients.
3. Put a plastic bowl cover around the scale if you're weighing something sticky
These elastic plastic bowl covers are great for covering bowls of bread dough. But! They're also great for wrapping around your scale (with the opening underneath the scale) when you're weighing anything sticky or wet but don't want to get another bowl out just to weigh it in.
Yes, you could use a sheet of plastic wrap, but without the elastic as an anchor, the plastic wrap will come up whenever you pick up what you're weighing. The bowl covers keep the kitchen scale protected without putting any weight down on the platform and throwing off your measurements.
For larger masses of dough, I often use the flat lid of my Cambro dough proofing buckets as a tray. The plastic bowl covers are more helpful when dividing up small, sticky things like pretzel dough or raw ingredients like ground beef for burger patties.
4. Use a tall cup to weigh long things like spaghetti noodles or breadsticks
Okay, I'm going to embarrass myself for a moment. While grabbing bowls and small containers to weigh small things has become second nature at this point, for the longest time I was tripped up by weighing long skinny things like dry spaghetti noodles. I'd lay the noodles horizontally on the platform to weigh them. It was a ridiculous process, because inevitably the dry noodles would start rolling and falling off.
The solution is so simple: USE A CUP. Any tall glass or even a tall deli soup container will work. Tare the scale to zero to remove the weight of the cup, then stand the noodles upright inside it to weigh them.
In hindsight, DUH, but since it took me a minute to figure this out, I'm writing it down here for you too.
Okay, fine, this tip isn't really about weighing ingredients for baking — but I mean... a pasta bake is a thing, right? I'm counting it.
5. Weigh your ingredients into different parts of the mixing bowl to keep them separate until you're ready to mix them
When you’re weighing ingredients for baking into one big bowl it’s tempting to sprinkle them evenly across the bowl. DON’T DO THIS. Especially if you're making bread.
If you accidentally put in too much of an ingredient, you want to be able to cleanly remove some of it until you get down to the right amount. If you’ve scattered salt or sugar across the surface of the flour already in the bowl, how are you going to do that? If you put the salt in one spot on the side of the bowl, using a spoon to scoop out a bit of it is easy.
The other reason to keep ingredients separate in the bowl is to prevent ingredients from reacting with one another until you want them to. This is particularly important for bread making. Salt can slow yeast activity, so you definitely want to keep salt and yeast separate until you’re ready to start mixing.
Pro-tip: Weigh the yeast into the bowl first, then put the flour on top of it. When you add salt and sugar, the flour acts as a buffer so they won't start reacting with the yeast until you add liquid and start mixing the dough.
6. Weigh liquid and dry ingredients separately, in case you accidentally overpour
For the same reason you want to put your dry ingredients in separate parts of the mixing bowl, you should always weigh your liquid ingredients separately from your dry ingredients.
If you accidentally add too much liquid to a bowl of dry ingredients, it's pretty much impossible to remove the excess liquid without pulling some of the dry ingredients (and any other liquids) out with it.
It's safer to weigh your liquid ingredients for baking in a separate container and then pour them into your mixing bowl with the dry ingredients. That way you can't accidentally add too much!
7. If you have a recipe that calls for hot water, heat the water first then measure it
That way you don't lose any of your carefully weighed and measured water to evaporation!
8. Weigh your empty mixing bowls and cake pans so you can figure out the weight of your dough or batter after mixing
If you have to divide cake batter evenly into two pans after mixing it you don't want to have to transfer the batter to a clean bowl just to weigh it. When you know the weight of your mixer bowl you can weigh the batter and mixing bowl together and subtract the weight of the bowl to figure out how much your batter weighs. No extra dishes required.
Weighing your empty cake pans can also help you divide the batter evenly, especially if you have a mismatched set of pans that are identical sizes (e.g. 9"x9" square) but not identical weights. Once you know how much your batter weighs, divide it evenly between the cake pans by either "taring" the scale to remove the weight of the pans before adding the batter, or by subtracting the weight of the pans once you pour the batter in and adjusting accordingly. No more uneven cake layers!
9. If your recipe calls for less than a whole egg, whisk it first, then weigh what you need
One of the perks of measuring ingredients by weight is that you can scale recipes up or down in smaller proportions. But what happens when you have a recipe that ends up calling for a portion of an egg?
How do you measure half an egg? Crack the egg into a bowl, whisk it well, and then weigh what you need from that. That way you can be sure you’re getting a mix of both egg yolk and white.
You would do the same thing if you were measuring by volume, but it's much harder to "eyeball" what "half" an egg looks like! Weighing will help you make sure you actually get half an egg.
Pro-tip: A large egg weighs 50 grams (1.8 oz). A large egg white weighs 30 grams (1 oz) and a large egg yolk weighs 20 grams (0.7 oz). So if you end up adjusting a recipe and it needs for less than 50 grams (1.8 oz) egg — just whisk it and measure what you need!
10. Ounces and fluid ounces are not the same — it's best to just weigh everything!
This only matters if you're using the Imperial measuring system (ounces, pounds). Ounces are a weight measurement, fluid ounces are a volume measurement. Luckily, most baking recipes only use weight measurements, so as long as you’re weighing everything (including liquid ingredients) you should be fine.
There are four ingredients that have equal ounce and fluid ounce measurements in the Imperial measuring system: Water, eggs, fats, and milk. This means that if you weigh one ounce of water into a liquid measuring cup, the water will fill the cup to the 1 fluid once line.
I mention this because when you first start using your kitchen scale you might notice that when you’re measuring water by weight into a liquid measuring cup, it comes up to the same fluid ounce volumetric measuring mark on the cup. I don't want you to assume that all ingredients will work that way!
One ounce of honey by weight won't fill a measuring cup up to the 1 fluid ounce line because honey is very dense and heavy. One ounce of whipped cream by weight will fill a measuring cup much higher than the 1 fluid ounce line because it's so light!
As long as you weigh everything (or just use the metric system), this isn’t something to worry about. But if you try to use the fluid ounce markings on a liquid measuring cup on the wrong ingredient… your recipe might turn out kind of wonky.
11. You don’t need to measure everything by weight
I know, I’ve spent this whole post harping on accuracy and now I’m about to tell you it’s okay to be imprecise, but it’s true! There are certain ingredients and certain recipes where precision is key to being successful.
When baking I almost always measure my core ingredients — flour, water, fats, sugars, and salt — by weight. But things like baking powder, salt, vanilla, etc, often you can use measuring spoons. Yes, I mentioned salt in both categories; sometimes it's there for a chemical reaction, other times it's just there for flavor!
If you only measure one ingredient by weight measure your flour. It's the one ingredient that can really affect the outcome of your final bake, and is the easiest to mis-measure if you're using measuring cups. If you only measure two ingredients by weight, the second most important ingredient is your liquid — water, milk, whatever. That ratio of flour to liquid drives the stability and final texture or consistency of most bakes, and even just measuring those two by weight will make a huge difference in your final bake.
Some recipes (including many of mine) use a combination of both weight and volume measurements because it’s okay to be a little imprecise with some of the ingredients. And sometimes it’s just easier to scoop 1 teaspoon of yeast instead of trying to measure 3 grams accurately.
Once you get used to baking by weight you’ll figure out what does and doesn’t need to be precisely measured. But more importantly, when something does go wrong in a recipe, you’ll have a better idea of what may have caused it!
Do you have any questions about weighing ingredients for baking? Leave a comment below!