Alice Medrich’s advice for bakers


We have discussed the advantages of weight measures over volume measures previously on this blog. Acclaimed author Alice Medrich buttresses the argument in favor of scales in a recent article for The Washington Post. Medrich notes that in most of world, bakers have embraced scales, but not in the United States: “American home cooks have resisted the scale in favor of quirky measuring cups used nowhere else in the world. As a result, many baking recipes “don’t work” because people use their measuring cups in so many different ways. Chefs’ recipes are notoriously problematic for home cooks, because weight-to-cup translations are dubious to start with, and measures are often rounded off to the nearest quarter-cup to avoid awkward amounts such as ‘1 2/3  cups plus 2 tablespoons.'”

Medrich lays out five arguments to convince the holdouts to switch to a scale. The first is that you’ll have better, more consistent results in your baking efforts. Another persuasive reason is that you’ll have less clean up: “Using a scale requires few utensils, none so special that you don’t already have them. When several ingredients are to be added to a batter at one time, you can weigh them sequentially in the same container by resetting the scale to zero (“tare”) between each addition. You can cut down on the use of bowls and containers by using (and reusing) wax paper, aluminum foil or plastic yogurt lids instead,” says Medrich. You’ll also get better use out of those international cookbooks if you have scale. Most cookbook authors outside the US use weight measures, and often the translation into American cup measures is not accurate. (This goes for many great blogs in other countries, too.)

Finally, Medrich offers rebuttals to the common excuses for not using a scale. The first excuse is that cooks don’t like math. But as Medrich notes, “No math is required to use a scale. Some people think you have to add the weights of ingredients when you measure several into one container, or that you have to subtract the weight of a container when you put it on the scale. The scale does the work instead: The touch of a “tare” button resets the scale to zero after each ingredient is added to a container and/or after you put a container on the scale.” And there’s also no need to choose between a scale with units in grams or ounces, as most scales toggle between the two.

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  • Ambrosia  on  October 30, 2015

    I completely agree! I've been using scales forever — and they are so much more accurate and convenient than volume measurements.

    What drives me crazy is when baking cookbooks published in the U.S. do not provide weight measures!! I've decided that I won't buy any more of those.

  • Twistie  on  October 30, 2015

    I'd like to note that the scale used in the illustration above is the exact kitchen scale I use! It was one of the best investments under fifty dollars I've ever made. It's clear, easy to use, and produces great results.

    Weight measurements make things simple and predictable. And while I'm not especially fond of doing math, as Alice Medrich points out, using a scale has little – if anything – to do with math. I just hit the tare button and weigh from zero. Easier than pie… or pi.

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