Measuring out ingredients with a scale rather than by the cup or tablespoon is a gram good idea. Here’s why.
Ask any professional baker how much sugar you need to add to a dozen egg whites to make a meringue and I bet you’ll see her eyes roll skyward and her lips and fingers moving as she makes quick calculations in her head. It’s not that she doesn’t know that recipe cold; most likely she is converting the egg white amount into liquid volume and then translating the quantity of sugar needed to make those whites stiff and glossy from grams per milliliter to a cup measurement. (Don’t let anyone tell you the kitchen is a refuge for people who flunked math!) Cooking by weight is the norm in restaurants, but for home cooks, using a scale in the kitchen is still mostly uncharted territory. Lately, though, that’s starting to change for a number of reasons.
At Giada, my new restaurant in Las Vegas, all of our recipes are written out by weight. For restaurants, consistency is the name of the game, and weight is simply a more accurate way to measure out ingredients, especially in large quantities. If you doubt that, try this: fill a measuring cup with flour by spooning the flour into the cup and leveling the top with a knife. Now, dump that flour onto a scale and weigh it. Next, try again by scooping your measuring cup into the bag of flour and shaking it, to level the top. When you weigh this second quantity, I bet you’ll have a variance of as much as 30 to 50 grams! Multiply that up to a restaurant-scaled recipe and you can see that it would make a big difference in the amount of flour going into a dough or baked good, one that could mean the difference between light and tender versus dense and tough.
A scale lets you be precise through every stage of the process. Do your cookies come out unevenly baked? Maybe they’re not consistently sized, with the result of the smaller ones getting baked to a crisp while their big brothers are still doughy inside. Professional bakers avoid this problem by weighing each dough ball on a scale before dropping it on the baking sheet. That way they’re all exactly the same size and will bake at precisely the same rate. At my restaurant, that’s how we measure out our pizza dough, foccacia, and meatballs, so they’re all uniform size.
Easy cleanup is another benefit of cooking by weight. By using a scale to measure all your ingredients before placing them into a mixing bowl (be sure to zero out the scale each time for accuracy), you avoid dirtying a bunch of different measuring cups and spoons. You can purchase scales that come with their own built-in, dishwasher-safe bowl. Now that’s convenience!
I’m finding that more and more cookbooks are featuring weights in addition to cups and tablespoons in their recipes because chefs and cooking instructors know it’s the best way to ensure a good outcome. So give it a spin. I’ve included a few recipes for you to try, including the Lemon Ricotta Cookies people are swooning over at the restaurant. Prepare these recipes by weight and see if you don’t get more consistent results along with fewer dirty dishes in the sink!