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Shopping for Kitchen Scales

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Baker weighing dough in kitchen
Henn Photography/Cultura/Getty Images

A kitchen scale can help manage serving sizes for someone who’s trying to eat healthier; will accurately measure quantities for certain recipes (particularly bread and other baking recipes); can help evenly portion out batter or dough, cuts of meat and other foods; and can even serve as a postal scale in a pinch. Read up on what you need to know about choosing the right kitchen scale for your needs, then take a look at kitchen scale options at all prices.

Digital vs. Analog

Kitchen scales are available in either battery-operated versions that have a digital display, or non-electronic versions that have a dial-and-needle display. Manual/analog scales have their advantages they won’t run out of batteries, for instance, and some of them have a cute, retro look. What’s more, their design (the item being weighed is elevated on a platform or bowl high above the dial) makes them fairly easy to read. But digital scales are far more widely available and comparably priced (in some cases, even cheaper). Digital scales give a more precise readout and typically will have a smaller graduation (the smallest increment in which they’ll measure). They’re also far more compact; many are the size of a paperback book.

Components of a Digital Scale

There are several differentials to look for when shopping for a kitchen scale. Nearly every scale has a tare button, which “zeros” the scale and is particularly useful when you want to put the item you’re weighing in a bowl or on a plate. Simply put the item on the scale, press the tare button for the display to read zero, and add the food. You can also use the tare feature to add and measure ingredients into the same bowl. Some other features you’ll want to consider when shopping for a scale are:

Graduation: This refers to the increments in which a measurement will be taken. For instance, some scales might only measure to the ounce, while others will measure to a fraction of an ounce. If you will be measuring small quantities of something, such as dried herbs and spices, you’ll want a scale that has a smaller gradation, perhaps one that will measure to single grams. It’s also helpful for a scale to measure in ounces (or in fractions of an ounce) rather than to measure in metric fractions of a pound – you don’t want to be trying to calculate how many ounces are in .33 pound.

Capacity: Be sure that your scale will be able to handle a decent load; some of them have a capacity of only 5 pounds. A capacity of 10 or 11 pounds should handle most needs.

Measurement Units: Nearly every kitchen scale measure in both pounds/ounces and kilograms/grams.

Display: Scales with large number displays or illuminated displays are particularly helpful for people with vision problems. If possible, look at the scale while it’s turned on to see if it is easy to read.

Auto-Off: Most digital scales have an automatic shut off to help preserve battery life. But nothing’s more aggravating than having it turn off in the middle of measuring something (particularly if you’re using the tare feature to measure something into a container, or to combine ingredients in a bowl). If you’re worried about this, look for a scale with a longer auto-off delay, such as 3 minutes.

Battery Type: Digital scales typically either use AA or AAA batteries, or lithium batteries, the coin-shaped batteries like those used in watches or hearing aids. Looking for a scale with a specific type of battery is a matter of preference: traditional AAA batteries won’t last as long, but they’re easy to find and are relatively inexpensive. Plus you can buy rechargeable versions. Lithium batteries will last quite some time but are a little more expensive and might not be obtained as conveniently. A few -though not many- scales can accommodate an AC adaptor.

Special Features to Look For

Some scales have unique design elements that some buyers might appreciate. For instance, a scale from OXO International has a pull-away display panel so that you can still read the display even with an oversized plate or bowl on the weighing platform. Other scales are designed where the weighing platform is elevated high above the display, although in many cases this makes the scale bulkier and harder to store. Also look for memory features that can store different measurements, removable weighing platforms for easy cleaning, and slim designs that can store compactly, and even a scale that is shaped like a liquid measuring cup, so it does double duty.

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