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Unlike common tools like spatulas, pans and baking sheets, food scales probably aren't high on your list of must-have kitchen gadgets. But according to experts, they can make cooking at home a whole lot easier.
"People should think of a scale as a basic kitchen tool, not just something for professional cooks," said chef Meredith Laurence of Blue Jean Chef.
The gadget can help you perfect recipes, minimize kitchen messes and even lose weight. That's why Shop TODAY consulted a handful of pros to get their insights on how you should be using a food scale in your own kitchen.
Why should you buy a food scale?
Have you ever made a recipe that came out perfectly the first time, but a total failure the next? It was likely because your measurements were off.
"The biggest advantage to using a scale is accuracy and consistency," Laurence said. "By using volume measures [like measuring cups], you could measure some ingredients, like flour, 10 times and have different amounts [each time] based on how compressed the flour is. When you weigh an ingredient, it’s the same amount every time."
They're particularly helpful in baking where precise measurements are key, added chef Elena Besser. Meaning anyone who started making sourdough or banana bread over the last few years could benefit from having one on hand.
It also simplifies the cooking process, Besser said, since it eliminates the need to use (and then clean) multiple measuring cups. "You can measure everything in one bowl; you just have to tare it in between," she said.
Using a food scale for weight loss
When trying to lose weight, one of the best things you can do is adjust your portion sizes to fit your needs, said Samantha Cassetty, a registered dietician and wellness expert based in New York City. "A food scale is the most precise way to measure portion sizes," she said. "It will save you time, since you won’t have to count out your nuts or chips, and you won’t have to try to guess what a two-ounce serving of pasta or a four-ounce serving of salmon looks like."
Some scales will also tell you the amount of calories and macronutrients in foods, which can be helpful if you're trying to reduce your calorie intake to lose weight, she said.
"You might also notice that with a better understanding of portion sizes and how various foods impact your hunger and fullness, you make different decisions about what to eat outside of your home," Cassetty said. "For example, if you’re ordering takeout, you might pass up the pasta dish that’s triple or quadruple the standard 2-ounce portion and choose something more balanced instead."
While it can be a helpful weight loss tool for some, Cassetty adds a note of caution: Weighing food can be tedious and time-consuming, which isn't always worth it. And, for certain people, it can lead to problematic thinking around food. "If weighing your food interferes with your enjoyment of eating or your ability to socialize or participate in everyday experiences, it’s not the right tool for you," she said.
Expert-approved food scales
Laurence recommended this scale for a few reasons: The stainless steel surface is durable and easy to clean and the digital screen makes it easy to read in low light spaces or when the sun is glaring. Plus, the display can be pulled out, so it won't get blocked when you're measuring big bowls or plates.
Tracy Wilk, a chef instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education, uses this scale in her own kitchen. She appreciates the 11-pound weight capacity (which is great for home use) and the chic wooden design. The scale converts between pounds and grams and has an auto shut-off feature to preserve battery life.
Besser said this is her go-to scale, thanks to its ability to zero-out weight and switch between ounces and grams. "It comes in a lot of really fun colors too, like pink and tarragon green," she said. "So it’s a nice little accent piece to have in your kitchen."
It's also thin, she added, which makes it easy to slide into drawers and stow away.
Besser also recommended this scale from Zwilling. While she noted that it's more expensive than others, its clean design will look sleek on your kitchen counter. It has a 22-pound weight capacity, so you can weigh anything from large cuts of meat to bulk dough preparations.
If you're weighing liquids, Besser suggested this waterproof option from Williams Sonoma. You won't have to worry about spills. Plus, it has a touchless tare function that lets you zero it out with the wave of a hand — which is perfect for when yours are messy. (You won't have to worry if you do make a mess, though, since it's easy to clean.)
Other bestselling food scales
If you're looking for a budget-friendly, no frills scale, this Amazon Basics option is the one for you. It's less than $10 and holds up to 11 pounds. The LCD display will provide you easy-to-read results in ounces, grams or pounds.
Obtain accurate measurements every time with this Cuisinart scale that comes with a stainless steel bowl and lid that can be easily removed for storage. One reviewer called it "a must-have for baking."
Whether you're measuring out ingredients for your latest recipe, tracking intake for weight loss or mailing a package, this multifunctional scale does it all — for less than $20. It can hold up to 22 pounds and is designed to give you the most accurate measurement even when you add ingredients with four high-precision load sensors.
This scale is Amazon's bestselling Kitchen & Dining product, with a 4.6-star average from more than 120,000 reviews. It's not too hard to see why it's so well-loved: At just under $15, the scale is super affordable and it will display weight in both grams and ounces.
Measure liquids and foods with confidence on this top-rated scale. The small option covers all your basic measurements, but you can upgrade to the medium or large variety to get insights on your food's calories, protein, fat and more via a connected app on your phone.
This scale provides nutrition information for more than 2,000 foods, so it's great for anyone who wants to use the tool for weight loss. It will track statistics for individual ingredients and calculate your daily totals on the easy-to-read screen.
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