American cooks have been told over and over that weighing our ingredients is superior to measuring them in volume. We get it: weighing will give you accurate, consistent results while measuring into cups creates variables due to scooping method, style of cup, and other such inconsistencies.
Why then do we persist in mainly using volume measurements? Read on for my thoughts as well as my own personal approach for moving from volume to weight in the kitchen.
I believe the reason we continue to measure in volume instead of with weight is simple: our recipes are written that way. And while this is starting to change (many American cookbooks — especially baking books — now list both volume and weight) the truth is many of our favorite tried and true recipes are written in volume only. (Megan touched on this in a post a few years ago.) So what to do?
The first thing to do is to purchase an accurate scale that you enjoy using and keep it in a handy place. The second thing to do is to just start weighing. Any time that a recipe calls for volume, whip out your scale and a pencil. Measure those two cups of flour (or raisins or shredded cheese) in volume as asked for in your recipe and then weigh it. This should take you about 10 extra seconds. Add another five seconds to note the weight directly on your recipe.
Then go ahead and finish your recipe. If it turns out perfect, then you now know the weight of your ingredients and you can duplicate your recipe without worry. If the recipe doesn't turn out, make a note and try again next time you make it, again weighing the volume-measured ingredients and marking it on the recipe. Eventually, you will hit upon the correct, more accurate weight and you will be set.
This may sound too fussy for some but I have found it to be not at all a problem. I'm convinced that it is time for me to really embrace the kitchen scale method and this is the only way I can be sure that my old favorite recipes will come along with me.
How about you? Have you embraced the kitchen scale? How do you work with older recipes?
(Image credits: Dana Velden)