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How to Use a Digital Kitchen Scale

Restaurants measure ingredients by weight. All of our recipes require a kitchen scale
. If you live in the United States, you probably use measuring cups. Keep an open mind and don't be frustrated by our recipes. Get a digital scale and try our technique.

Once you get used to our system, you will love it

We measure our food by ounces. If you live outside the U.S. and use the metric system, multiply ounces by 28.35 to convert to grams.

Why do we use a kitchen scale instead of a measuring cup?

dijon mustard bowl scale
  • It is faster. Suppose we want to measure 1/3 cup of dijon mustard. First we spoon the mustard into the measuring cup and level it off. Then we scrape it out of the measuring cup and into our mixing bowl. 

    We have to wash and dry the measuring cup before we can use it again. But what if our recipe calls for 3 oz of dijon mustard?

    We set our mixing bowl on the kitchen scale and press tare. We spoon in mustard until the scale reads 3 oz. If we accidentally spoon in 3 1/2 oz, we just take a little out and put it back in the mustard jar.

zucchini whole on scale
  • It is easier to shop for produce. If a soup recipe calls for 11 cups of chopped zucchini, you have to estimate how much zucchini to buy. If the recipe calls for 48 oz of zucchini, you weigh it when you buy it.

  • Recipes turn out right every time. Imagine a typical recipe that calls for one green pepper. Green peppers come in very different sizes. A large green pepper can easily overwhelm the flavor of a dish.

    If the recipe calls for 4 oz green pepper, you add exactly the right amount. Maybe it will be a whole small pepper or just half of a large one.

  • A kitchen scale is more accurate for baking. Bakeries always weigh their flour because flour gets compacted. One packed cup is not the same as a sifted cup. If you hit the cup on the counter or level it off with a straight edge, you get different results.

We write our recipes in a special way.

We list ingredients in the best order to weigh them. For best results, follow down the ingredient list in order and do not skip around. Here are some tips to help you transition to cooking by weight:

  • Use measuring spoons for herbs and spices. Measure them into a very spices in white bowlsmall dry bowl and set aside until needed.

  • When you spoon dry ingredients into a bowl, don't dump them on top of each other. Put them in separate piles. If you accidentally add too much of one dry ingredient, you can remove a little with a spoon.

  • sifter-flour-bowlTo weigh and sift ingredients, set the sifter in the bowl and put the sifter and bowl on the kitchen scale together. Press tare. Carefully spoon flour into the sifter until you reach the right weight.

    If you have another dry ingredient, like cocoa, press tare and then spoon it into the sifter beside the flour.

    If your sifter is too small to hold all of the dry ingredients, don't sift the flour. Just sift lumpy ingredients like carob powder, baking powder, and baking soda.

  • Put thick wet ingredients like minced garlic, tahini, or applesauce in separate piles in your bowl, as with dry ingredients.

  • Liquids are the tricky part. First weigh heavy liquids like maple syrup or agave nectar. Then add medium density liquids like soy sauce, vinegar, or fruit juices. Weigh water in a pitcher and add it last. Go slowly and pay attention so you don't overshoot with wet ingredients. It is often hard or impossible to remove them once they are in the bowl.

  • Wash and trim produce before you weigh it. Chop or slice after you weigh it, so you don't chop too much.

Tips for faster meal preparation

  • Cook beans and grains in advance. Rinse and drain, then freeze them in ziploc bags. Put 16 oz in each bag.

lemon juice frozen cubes

  • Juice a lot of lemons at once. Freeze lemon juice in ice cube trays. When a recipe calls for lemon juice, remove a few cubes and weigh them frozen. It is easy to cut a lemon juice cube with a knife to get the right amount.

How to choose a scale

Here are some tips for choosing a kitchen scale:

  • Buy a digital scale. Do not buy a mechanical scale that works by compressing a spring. They are not reliable.

  • Get a scale that reads in ounces. When it goes over 1 pound, it should read "17 oz" and not "1 lb 1 oz". Many scales will read in several different modes.

  • Be sure your scale has a tare function. You can put a bowl on the scale and press the tare button. The scale reads zero. You add an ingredient by weight. You press tare again and the scale goes back to zero. You add another ingredient into the bowl with the first one. You can see how useful the tare function is.

  • Get a scale that uses batteries. We move our scale frequently as we cook. The batteries last for a long time.

  • It is best to have a scale with a good sized platform. It helps if you can put an 8 quart pot on the scale and still read the scale. However, this is helpful but not essential.

scale with onion

We went through many scales before we found the My Weigh KD-7000. It is an excellent kitchen scale for home use and you can use it for postage too. It is available on Amazon. The newest model is the KD-8000, which would also be a good choice.

If you don't have a scale....

If you want to try making our recipes without a scale, we hope you really love math. :-)

Here are some tips:

  • The quantities on your measuring cup only work for water, and maybe for small quantities of light liquids like lemon juice. For example, one "8 oz" measuring cup of whole wheat flour weighs 4.2 oz. A cup of cooked black beans weighs 6.1 oz. And a cup of maple syrup weighs 11.4 oz. Every food has a different density. So every food has a different weight per cup.

  • You must use a nutrition website or nutrition software to convert our weight by ounces to volume by cups. The most current website is the USDA National Nutrition Database.

    Suppose a recipe calls for 9 oz of cooked black beans. First convert the ounces to grams. One ounce equals 28.35 grams. So 9 oz X 28.35 = 255 grams. You search the database for cooked black beans and you find that 1 cup of beans weighs 172 grams. Divide 255 by 172 and you get 1.48. Nine ounces of beans is about 1 1/2 cups.

    If you are making a soup or stew, you can usually make a rough guess about the weight of produce, grains, or beans. The recipe will still turn out fine. But for baked goods, you must convert ingredients accurately or your recipe will flop.

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