This week we are tackling measuring ingredients.
Before you click off of this week’s challenge, thinking it will be too hard or useless. Just hang in there and you will see how this is actually far from hard or useless.
I am going to tell you a little story about how I learned how to cook.
I am old enough to remember Canada’s pre-metric days. We followed the British Imperial system of measurements:
- We bought milk by the quart
- We bought gas by the gallon
- We bought bananas by the pound
At school, the girls were expected to learn how to cook and sew, and the Imperial system was drilled into our heads.
Then everything changed. The metric system came onto the scene and we needed to relearn what had already become second nature.
- We now bought milk by the Litre
- We now bought gas by the Litre
- We now bought bananas by the kilogram
My generation is considered the “transition” generation because we were kind of caught in the middle. We were taught the Imperial system, but were now expected to live in the Metric system.
To this day, I still have trouble visualizing the difference between a kilogram and a pound of bananas.
The biggest change was cooking by weight instead of volume.
When it came to cooking, I just kept using volume, and tried to avoid weighing whenever possible. My thinking was:
- Using a scale to weigh food takes too long. My little nesting cups make it so much easier.
- I don’t want to have to do math when I cook.
- Cooking with a scale is too inconvenient.
- I can’t see in metric. What does 40 g of onions look like?
A few years ago, I saw someone claiming that using a scale and the metric system for cooking was easier, less time consuming and required less math than using cups. I didn’t believe it for a minute.
I wanted to prove this person wrong. I borrowed a scale and decided to make a recipe that was written using both weight (using a scale) and volume (using cups and spoons).
Recipe by Weight
- 56 g Sugar
- 113 g Butter
- 125 g Flour
Recipe by Volume
- 4 1/2 Tablespoons Sugar
- 1/2 Cup Butter
- 1 Cup Flour
Measuring the ingredients on the scale was surprisingly simple. I just put a bowl on the scale and poured the ingredients into the bowl until I got the right number.
The Volume recipe was a bit more involved. First of all, I do not have a 1/2 Tablespoon measure. I’ve never seen one. So I just estimated by filling a Tablespoon half full. The butter was a bit messy because I had to try to smush it into my “1/2 Cup” measuring cup. The flour was easy enough because I just scooped it out of the bag using my “1 Cup” measuring cup.
(Note: I could write an entire article about the great debate around how to properly scoop flour with a cup when measuring – but I won’t.)
The first thing I noticed was that I ended up with a lot more dishes using the cups and spoons. I also was not very confident that I got the flour and sugar measurements right.
The end result was quite surprising. The cookies made with the scale were tender and just sweet enough. The other cookies were a bit on the dense side and not sweet enough. I guess I was right about my flour and sugar measurements being off a bit.
I have to admit that I was a bit embarrassed in the end.
- Using a scale was actually quicker and easier than the cups. No math was needed.
- I only needed 1 measuring tool (the scale) for the metric recipe. The other needed 3 tools (1 Cup, 1/2 Cup, and Tablespoon).
- Using the scale was more accurate and made better cookies.
So, the cooking process showed that using a scale was actually easier, but what if I wanted to double or halve the recipe. I would have bet money on the fact that using my trusty measuring cups would be way easier.
Actually it is not. Just do a google search for “how to scale a recipe” and you will see how hard it is to do. What is half of 1/3 Cup, or triple 2/3 Cup? Hmm.
When using weight, there is no need to google anything. Just multiply or divide the recipe using your calculator.
When Not to Use a Scale
I do not use a scale when measuring wet ingredients. I use volume measuring cups with millilitre markings on it. I ignore any markings that say “cup” or “pint” or whatnot. This just adds another level of confusion.
When dealing with dry ingredients, there is no reason to avoid the scale. Just because it is a new way to measure, doesn’t mean it is wrong or hard. It is just different.
The funny thing is that Americans and Canadians are really the only ones who have an issue with it. The rest of the world is fine with using a scale.
They know a better way when they see it. There really is no benefit to using those tedious measuring cups.
Yes, you can find plenty of recipes out there that only use volume measurements for both wet and dry ingredients, but that is quickly changing. Recipe authors are realizing that they need to convert their recipes to metric and are working hard to get it done. The other consideration is that you need to be informed about which measurement standard their “cups” use (US Standard, Metric, or Imperial).
Before you know it, recipes that use archaic cups will become few and far between. Perhaps this is the time to get busy and cook the easier, more efficient way – not just the way you are used to.
- This article discusses different measurement standards around the world and how they can confuse the every day cook.
- Using a scale is a good concept but how does it work in regular life? This post provides answers as well as two videos to show you.
START THE CHALLENGE
Now it is your turn to start the challenge!
- Review the information above.
- Complete your own experiment by making a recipe by weight instead of volume. If you do not have a scale, see if you can borrow one. Otherwise, buying one is a great option. A really good scale can be picked up for less than $20.
Is using a cooking scale new to you, or have you been using a scale for a while already? Let us know.