Becoming a Precise Chef
Updated: Jan 6
How many of you use a kitchen scale, and how many of you use a measuring cup? And with that, how many recipes have gone belly up, and you can't figure out why? More than likely, you were using a measuring cup while trying to be as accurate as possible but to no avail.
Cooking, specifically baking, is very touchy, with less of an ingredient here, and there can cause the potential to alter a recipe completely. In my first post, I talked about my experience working in a bakery as a bread baker. The lead bread baker who trained me was a stickler for precision. We had this massive scale, likely costing over $1,000, to measure everything down to the nearest gram.
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I suppose the point I'm trying to make here is; professionals use kitchen scales; it is very rare to use measuring cups in kitchens, especially baking, in my experience. As we measured the various flours, water, and salt, just five grams over or under would completely throw off the weight at the end. A loaf of bread would not be the correct weight at the end. And the entire day's baking wouldn't be perfect. Our goal was to make our artisanal handcrafted bread identical every time.
In addition to the widespread use of professionals using scales rather the measuring cups, they are far more accurate. I want you to do a mini-experiment; you will need a scale and a measuring cup. Measure one cup of any sugar or flour and then weigh it. Repeat this multiple times. The results speak for themselves; you will get many different weights even though you measured that same cup of sugar or flour.
What's the reason for this? Ingredients have different granule sizes; this is especially evident when you use generic flour versus name-brand flour. These varying granule sizes will sit in your measuring cup differently depending on the brand of flour or sugar as well as how compacted it is. This will lead to the various weights you see. The more straightforward explanation would be your eyes measure out a cup of flour so it is level with a line, but just a tablespoon more or less could lead to improper weights and a failed recipe. Your scale will correct this; it doesn't care what the sugar looks like, just its weight.
But wait, that's not all! Those measuring cups and spoons can vary ever so slightly from brand to brand. One cup in one brand could be just under one cup in another. Your scale won't lie to you; it's the same across the board. I've found the Escali scale here tends to be most user friendly and accurate.
So that got a little complicated there. We know now the science behind why a scale is superior and that professionals use them all the time. But what if you're just a home cook, a few grams here and there is ok, right? Well… I guarantee that using a scale will make your recipes turn out more often and better every time, but there are other benefits.
Do you hate washing dishes? Yea, me too; with a scale, all you do is put an ingredient in a bowl to the correct weight, press zero or tare, and add the next ingredient. There are no measuring cups and spoons to wash, making you a cleaner, more efficient chef. And who doesn't want a cleaner kitchen and look like a professional when they have guests over?
So, it'll reduce dishes and make your recipes turn out better and more often; you'll be a cleaner, more professional-looking chef, so why not buy a scale? There are relatively cheap ones under $20 on Amazon; besides, all those recipes that didn't turn out costed money. More recipes that turn out= no loss of ingredients on failed recipes= money well spent.
Unfortunately, many recipes don't have weight measurements, and it is still taking home cook recipes, especially in the U.S., to catch up to using scales. But that doesn't mean you can't find recipes that use weights. It just requires a little more searching. So, in the meantime, buy a scale and use the recipes on this website (which will have weights and cups). You won't regret it.
When you begin thinking like a chef and using a scale, you are one step closer to becoming a chef yourself!
“The Flying Chef”