If you're at the beginning of your baking journey — or even if you're somewhere in the middle — you're probably starting to notice a lot of recipe writers advocating for measuring ingredients using a digital kitchen scale. Professional pastry chefs have measured their ingredients by weight for...decades? centuries? a really, really long time, at least.
It’s actually mostly just in America where measuring by volume has been the default, ever since Fannie Farmer popularized the use of standardized measuring cups (s/o to Baker Betty on TikTok for teaching me this!). Prior to the twentieth century, “a cup” was just… whatever cup you had at home, and people cooked and baked using their own measurements unique to their measuring cups. So standardizing volumetric measurements was a big step forward in accuracy!
But it’s time to take the next step forward. With home baking becoming increasingly popular and technically complex, recipes for home bakers have begun to follow suit into the world of weight measurements. For good reason, too!
When it comes to baking, you'll get the best, most consistent results if you use a kitchen scale. (Measuring cups can still be useful — you don’t need to chuck yours in the bin!) But if you want to really improve your baking, learning to use a kitchen scale is one of the best ways to do that.
I was resistant to using a kitchen scale when I first started baking a lot. It made me nervous that I’d have to do a lot of math and I worried it would make baking less fun. I felt more comfortable with my measuring cups. But once I started using a kitchen scale... there was no going back. If anything, baking has gotten even more fun since I switched, because I have a lot more confidence that my bakes will turn out right!
So if you're anxious about making the leap to baking with a kitchen scale and aren’t sure where to start, here's why it's worth it. And if you want to know what kitchen scales I recommend and how to choose the right scale for you, scroll to the bottom!
Why you should use a kitchen scale
1. You'll get better results when following recipes, particularly when baking
This is the number one reason to use a kitchen scale. Depending on how tightly you pack flour into a 1 cup measuring cup, you might have 120 grams of flour or 170 grams of flour, which is a HUGE difference! When you follow recipes that measure by weight, you know that you’re using the exact same measurements as the person who developed the recipe.
If you’ve ever made cookies using a recipe that measured by volume (cups) that didn’t spread the way they were supposed to, or that were dry and tough instead of thin and crispy, there’s a good chance that you followed the recipe correctly but just scooped your ingredients into your measuring cups differently. Switching to measuring by weight will solve that inconsistency.
Here's what 120 grams of flour looks like in a 1 cup measuring scoop, loosely scooped versus tightly packed.
Not all "1 cup" measuring cups are equal — here's a tightly packed "1 cup" of flour in my usual measuring cup compared to "1 cup" of flour tightly packed into a copper measuring cup I only use as a photography prop. That's 13 grams of difference.
Thirteen grams might not seem huge, but if your recipe calls for 5 cups of flour suddenly you could find yourself with 65 grams (almost half a cup) more flour than needed! Even if your recipe only uses one cup of flour, those 13 grams make up a pretty big portion of the total amount of flour. You could end up with cookies that don't spread when they should or muffins that are flat instead of domed or dough that's too sticky to knead or too dry to stick together the way it should.
Most of the time, if someone tells me that a recipe didn't work for them, my first question is: "Did you use a kitchen scale?" because if they didn't... that's likely the issue!
Beyond more accurately measuring the ingredients themselves, you'll also get more uniform bagels, tortillas, and pita bread if you use a kitchen scale to divide your dough into portions instead of eyeballing it.
2. You don't have to deal with so many complicated math fractions when you measure with a kitchen scale
Baking math is way, way, WAY easier with a kitchen scale. Trying to scale recipes up or down that use volume measurements can be a nightmare. What happens when you divide a recipe in half and end up needing 1 and 2/7 cups of flour or ⅗ths of a tablespoon? It gets messy... fast.
But when you measure by weight, scaling up and down is easy! Doubling? Easy. Halving? Easy. You can even increase by smaller amounts, like 5%.
To scale up: Just multiply the ingredient weights in the recipe by the amount you want to increase the recipe, then add that number to the original weight measurement. So if you have a recipe that calls for 10 grams salt and you want to increase the recipe by 5% (.05), you multiply 10 x .05, and get 0.5. Then you add those together: 10 + .5 = 10.5 grams. Repeat with all of the ingredients and you've successfully increased the recipe by 5%. No need for specialty sized measuring cups!
To scale down: If you want to decrease the recipe by 5%, do the same multiplication, but then subtract instead of adding the numbers together. So a 5% decrease would be 9.5 grams salt.
(And if that sounds overwhelming, please tell me what a 5% increase of ¾ tablespoon is in teaspoons. Because that is math I do not want to do.)
3. You don't need different liquid and dry measuring cups if you measure by weight
If you’re measuring by volume, you need one set of measuring cups for liquid ingredients and another set for dry ingredients. When you use a kitchen scale to measure by weight, everything is just… weight. You don’t need specialty measuring cups for your ingredients. You can use a bowl or a measuring cup or a plate or... anything. Literally anything.
NOTE: Ounces and fluid ounces are not the same thing. Fluid ounces are a volume measurement. Ounces are a weight measurement. For water, eggs, fats, milk (and dairy products) their weight in ounces is equal to their volume in fluid ounces. One ounce of water weighs the same amount as 1 fluid ounce of water takes up in a liquid measuring cup. But if your recipe calls for 1 ounce honey, that's 1 ounce by weight (unless it specifies fluid ounce); 1 fluid ounce of honey weighs more than 1 ounce of honey, because honey is quite heavy. The good news is as long as you're measuring everything in the recipe by weight (or using the metric system), this isn't really something you ever have to think about.
4. You can buy bulk ingredients and divide them up for future use easily with a kitchen scale (save money and reduce food waste!)
While kitchen scales are particularly useful for measuring baking ingredients, you'll definitely end up using it for so much more than that. When you're making a carnitas recipe that calls for 4 pounds of pork shoulder but can only find an 8 pound package at the store, you can use your kitchen scale to divide it into two 4 lb packages and freeze one for later. You can also use a kitchen scale to divide up ground beef, chicken, chicken stock, and pretty much anything else for freezing in equal portions so much easier with a kitchen scale.
5. It’s easier to buy the right amount of ingredients for your recipe when you're thinking about them by weight
Riddle me this: if a recipe calls for 1 cup of melted chocolate… how many chocolate bars do you need to buy? It’s hard to know! But if a recipe calls for 8 ounces of melted chocolate, well that’s easy. You go to the store and look at the weight of the chocolate bars which is clearly written on the front of the packaging. And maybe one extra as a treat.
Every food item sold in the grocery store has its weight written on it — usually in grams and ounces. Easy peasy. No more guessing!
6. You’ll have fewer dishes to wash
When measuring by weight you can measure your ingredients directly into the mixing bowl. You can use the same scoop or spoon to measure lots of different ingredients. I keep a scoop in my flour container and use it to scoop flour directly into my mixing bowl. Wham, bam, thank you kitchen scale for giving me that dish washing time back.
7. You can use recipes written in Imperial or Metric measurements with a digital kitchen scale
In the U.S. we use the Imperial measuring system for weights. American culinary schools, even those that teach in a French cooking style, use the Imperial measuring system, meaning recipes are written using ounces and pounds, pints, quarts, and gallons. In Europe and a loooot of other countries, the metric system is used, and recipes are written using grams, kilograms, milliliters, and liters.
Most digital kitchen scales have a button to toggle between the Imperial and Metric system. So no matter which measuring system a recipe uses, your kitchen scale will be able to tackle it with you. If you don't have a kitchen scale, that's a lot of recipes you can't make! There are a lot of things that can do what a measuring cup can do (scooping, pouring, etc). There aren't a lot of other things that can do what a kitchen scale can do!
How to choose the best digital kitchen scale for you
There are a lot of types of kitchen scales out there. Here's what I recommend looking for, and the models I like:
- A raised platform: There are a million kitchen scale designs out there, but I always recommend getting one that comes with a raised platform. The elevated platform keeps whatever you're weighing from covering the digital display, which is crucial! Some kitchen scales are totally flat on top which look sleek and shiny, but it's a real pain when your bread dough keeps flopping over across the display.
I really like this Ozeri Pronto Digital Kitchen Scale ($) and this Escali Primo Digital Kitchen Scale ($$) for beginners. The Escali Primo Digital Kitchen Scale is the one featured in all the photos in this post and is the one we used in my pastry school classes.
- Minimum and maximum weight limits: Most digital kitchen scales can weigh a minimum of 1 gram and a maximum of somewhere between 11-13 lbs. Depending on what you’ll be measuring and how precise you want to be, you’ll want to make sure your scale can accommodate those weights.
If you're planning on doing high volume baking, you might prefer a scale with a higher max weight reading, like this OXO Good Grips scale with Pull-Out Display ($$$). It can measure up to 22 pounds (10 kilograms).
- Accuracy: Most entry level digital scales will count grams in increments of one, and ounces in increments of .05. If you want to be super accurate at smaller measurements, you’ll want to get a jewelers scale ($) in addition to a regular kitchen scale OR one of these dual-platform kitchen scales ($$) which have a mini jewelers scale built in. Most recipes don’t use measurements less than a gram, but if you’re getting into super specific artisanal bread baking or plan to make bread doughs with long fermentation times, smaller measurements can be useful.
- Ease of cleaning: The easiest scales to clean don’t have raised platforms. So if ease of cleaning is a priority, a totally flat topped scale like this one might be ideal for you. But if you’re picking one with a raised platform you’ll just want to look at how many nooks and crannies it has where things can get stuck, and make sure that if you do need to wipe it down (or rinse it off) that the water isn’t going to get inside and damage it in any way.
- Weight and bulk of the scale itself: You want to be able to easily grab the scale and move it wherever you need it. A heavier, bulkier scale is a lot harder to move around the kitchen. It's less likely you'll actually use it. The Ozeri Pronto Digital Kitchen Scale ($) and Escali Primo Digital Kitchen Scale ($$) are lightweight and easy to store.
Did you find this post useful? Have a question about using a digital kitchen scale? Leave a comment below!