The best pound cake I have ever tasted is the pound cake my late Nan used to make.
I have her recipe to this day, stored in a trinket box that houses all sorts of sentimental family memorabilia.
Yet no matter how hard I try, I can’t manage to make it taste like hers.
There is certainly a fair bit of magic involved in baking – especially when performed by women of my Nan’s generation, or even my own mother. When they bake, it comes out perfectly every time, mainly because they are the ones who’ve baked it.
And of course, the other reason why the recipe doesn’t work for me is because it’s written out in cups and spoons, none of which I have managed to hold on to over the years.
My Nan was famous for her red spotted mug she used for measuring everything. And when I was a child, I was quite certain all the culinary magic in the world lived in that dotted chipped cup (as it most likely did).
My modern-day kitchen scales simply don’t measure up.
And while I am certainly perfectly capable of baking (and especially cooking) without them, I do use them several times a week. My daughter’s little ones will also one day probably tell you my cookies and biscuits were magical – but I can’t in all good faith ascribe any of it to my scales.
It must come from somewhere else.
Even though the scales we use today are no longer the residencies of magical properties, they are a necessity, an incredibly useful and all-round life-saving tool (especially if you are baking something extravagant like macaroons or éclairs).
So while I can’t promise any particles of magic will arrive with your order, I can guarantee the scales you buy will make your baking endeavours less hectic (and ensure your dessert of choice does come out perfect).
Here is how to choose them:
What to look for in kitchen scales
Not the most complex of kitchen appliances, kitchen scales still deserve a bit of purchasing attention. Consider the following:
Types of scales: you will likely be able to get your hands on the following kinds of scales:
- Digital kitchen scales – the most popular option, comes with an LCD display and will require batteries
- Mechanical kitchen scales – these have a spring that moves a dial that then displays the right weight. A bit less reliable, but they can often take more weight than digital scales. Plus, they have that retro look to them you might love.
- Balance scales – this is what you imagine an old-fashioned apothecary uses. Fiddly and less reliable than digital scales, but will last you several lifetimes.
Accuracy: you ideally want a set of kitchen scales that will weigh to the gram, to ensure absolute precision
Maximum weight: depending on what you want to be weighing (potatoes, meat, onion vs. baking ingredients), you want to ensure your kitchen scales can handle the load
Measuring units: ideally, you will settle on a set of scales that can do both imperial and metric, and that can also easily convert units from one into the other. A scale that offers plenty of units to choose from (grams, ounces, and so on) is always better than a more limited one, as you never know what kind of recipe you will be baking from.
Liquid measurements: you might also want to look out for liquid units, like millilitres, as they make the baking process that much easier too
Tare function: you by all means want this – it will allow you to weigh items in actual bowls and cups without having to subtract the weight of the dish from your total. You can also look out for an auto-tare function that can come in handy if you bake a lot.
Auto-off feature: this is especially useful if you tend to forget to turn your scales off when you are done with them, as it will preserve battery life
As for the scales themselves:
To top our list are the classic, the timeless, the efficient and the precise Salter digital kitchen scales.
(needless to say, these are the ones I own)
What I love about them is the design – they are simple yet by no means ugly, and you can get them in 5 different colours too.
They are also very accurate, and very precise – up to 1 gram that is. If you are measuring very fine ingredients and need extremely precise amounts, these scales will be there for you.
You can switch between imperial and metric units easily, and you can also measure liquids, which is super handy. The “zero” function also enables you to just keep adding to the same bowl, meaning baking will be less messy and much quicker.
They are limited in the sense that you can’t measure more than 5 kilograms – but that should be enough for most households.
They also have an auto-off function and will power off after 3 minutes, which is a great time frame in my book – and will not interrupt you in the middle of something.
Reliable and made to last, these kitchen scales are a great gift for any baker. Not to mention, they are used on the Great British Bake Off – need I say more?
Another set of digital kitchen scales here, this time from a French manufacturer.
Straightforward and simple to use, with a non-slip base and an easy-to read display, this model has a large surface ready to take on your larger bowls or a couple of fruits and veggies. It is also easy to clean, so don’t worry about staining it.
It can also measure up to 5 kilograms and is accurate to 1 gram. Liquid conversions are also available, and you can even do both your solids and liquids in the same bowl – perfect for saving time and reducing the amount of dishes you need to wash up.
It has a tare function too, and comes with a handle on the back which means you can easily carry these scales around or hang them somewhere.
Auto-off is also there to prevent you from going through batteries like crazy – and if I tell you it comes in 7 colours (including a very fetching purple), you’ll want to make this guy a part of your baking routines.
Here is an OXO number I quite like – mainly because it has a display you can pull out of the base, meaning you will have a much easier time of reading the display even when using your largest bowls, without having to peer around them. You can remove the platform and wash it too (by hand only).
This does not make it bulky though, and you can easily store it in a cupboard or kitchen drawer.
The screen is not backlit though, which can make it tricky to read if the lighting is not good – a weird choice for the manufacturer, I have to admit.
These scales will also tell you how much capacity you have left to work with, which is a nifty feature you don’t always see.
You get the usual metric/imperial conversion options, as well as a tare function to help streamline your baking. Ounces will be displayed as fractions though, and not as decimals. These scales also very precise, measuring to the precision of 1 gram.
Overall a very decent and accurate set of scales for any baking enthusiast.
Here are some scales that can weigh a bit more – 8 kilograms in fact. These are also accurate within 1 gram, so you should have no problem putting them to all kinds of good use.
They also have the option of being powered by a mains adaptor instead of batteries, which can come in handy, especially if you are trying to reduce the amount of batteries you use around the house.
The tray is made out of stainless steel and will be easy to clean – but the entire contraption is a bit on the bulkier side, so you won’t have such an easy time of storing it as with the previous models.
What is especially nifty with this model is that it lets you weigh items by percentage, so your baking can be made that much simpler, and the function is very easy to use.
You also get the usual metric/imperial units, but there is no way to measure liquids as accurately, which might be a deal breaker for you.
There is also a programmable auto-off setting, so you can save energy easily.
A good set of scales with some useful features.
If you are looking to purchase some pocket scales, these ones will serve you incredibly well.
Whether you are looking to measure very specific nutrients, medication for yourself or a loved one, or any other item up to the weight of 20 grams, and are also looking for incredible precision – these scales will suit you.
They measure in 0.001 gram increments, so you are not ever likely to make a mistake, as long as you calibrate them well.
You will get a set complete with tray, calibration weights and tweezers designed for precision, as well as the 2 AAA batteries you need to power the scales.
They can display weights in 6 different units, and have a tare feature, so you can even mix your own capsules with them, for example.
A great set of pocket scales if you are looking to measure fine and delicate weights.
Here is another set of Salter scales for your consideration, made in collaboration with Heston Blumenthal (not my favourite chef, I do have to admit).
It has a stainless steel finish, is easy to clean and maintain, ensuring you clean up your messes easily.
What makes this model stand out though is the dual scale it actually features: a larger plate that has the capacity of 10 kilograms and measures accurately in 1 gram increments, and a smaller plate that measures up to 200 grams in 0.1 gram increments.
The combination of these plates will surely enable you to put together even the most elaborate of bakes (which is incidentally what Heston is known for).
You have a tare function with this one, as well as an easy way of switching between imperial and metric units. You can also measure liquids, which is a huge plus.
If you are looking for both incredible precision and a scale that can weigh larger items or help you batch cook meals for an entire family for a week – this Salter x Heston model is a great choice.
If you are on the lookout for some jug kitchen scales, and prefer them to your more traditional digital scales (what a choice of words – when did traditional and digital start to mix well?), here is a good option.
You get up to 5 kilograms to toy with, and you can easily do conversions from solids to liquids on the handle of these scales. You can switch between imperial and metric units.
You also get a tare feature, so you can use just the one jug to do all of your measuring – great when you are doing a simple one-mix bake. It is also great for smaller spaces, as you won’t need to get a separate bowl.
The mixing bowl can also be detached (and is dishwasher safe), and it has a measurement scale on the side, so you can even use it without the actual scales (and of course you can mix your ingredients together with a whisk or a mixer).
You might find it a bit of a challenge to haunch over the display, but other than that – a great set of jug kitchen scales for the aspiring baker.
Here is another model that also comes with its own bowl.
These scales are made of stainless steel, and the above-mentioned bowl has the capacity of 2.15 litres, so should cover most of your bakes. The scales themselves have a 5 kilogram capacity, and are precise up to 1 gram.
What you also get is a timer (great when you are on the clock) and a temperature sensor. There is also a tare feature and an auto-zero, so you are definitely not limited to the bowl alone. There is an auto-off as well, saving you valuable battery life.
You can do metric or imperial measurements, but there is no option for liquids, which is a bit of a shame.
By folding the bowl over the scales, you get to effectively cut them down in size, so storing them shouldn’t be too much of an issue – and the bowl itself is great for mixing ingredients in. Does not have a pouring spout though, which is also a shame.
Overall, a nice set of scales that will work well for you.
- Maximum capacity: 2 kilograms
- Units: Metric, imperial – depending on which weight set you buy
- Features: Mechanic scales
And now for some mechanical scales.
These ones are definitely very nostalgic and have a very vintage feel to them, so if you want them to fit into a rustic kitchen, or if you simply prefer to use mechanical scales – check these ones out.
You get a cast iron body (that is mostly responsible for that vintage feel) and a patterned acacia wood stand + a pear-shaped bowl you can remove, that is also great for pouring as well as scooping. Imagine yourself measuring out flour from an old-fashioned bag.
The mechanism itself will last you a lifetime, and you can adjusting and re-calibrate it if need be. You also need ti get a matching set of different weights to go with the scales that will look especially neat as a decorative item.
The clear downside of these scales is that they are fiddly, and that you will actually need to place different weights on one side to balance out with the other in order to get your measurements.
However, if you are baking with kids, this can be an incredible way to do things – not only is it old-fashioned, it can be quite fun trying to get your measurements right on your first go, making educated guesses about the weight.
Heavier than digital scales, you won’t want to toss these around – but as they make a great decorative feature in a rustic kitchen, these vintage scales can certainly liven up a space.
And finally, here is another set of mechanical kitchen scales, this time a tad more modern and less rustic.
They are still very retro and old-fashioned, and come in this old-school cream that again reminds you of bakeries and delis of old.
You get both an imperial and a metric scale, and the needle is reliable and not as sensitive as with some other mechanical kitchen scale models. You can also reset it to zero when adding further ingredients, so there is a built-in tare function available, which you may not have been expecting.
The bowl itself is dishwasher safe and you can easily pop it off when it needs cleaning. It’s shallow though (with a 1-litre capacity), so you might need to add something else to it when measuring out larger quantities.
What you might dislike is the fact that the dial will move in 20 gram increments, so these scales won’t be as precise as you might need them to be – depending on what you prefer to bake.
They will sit proudly on your countertop though, so keep an eye out for these ones if you prefer a traditional mechanical set of scales over the digital option.
Which kitchen scales should I buy?
Your main point should be to consider digital over mechanic – and then to consider which units you need, and how important measuring liquids is to you.
You can then go into the finer details, like colour, design and size – but all of the scales we have just seen will serve you well and faithfully, adding just a bit of extra charm to your recipes.
How to measure flour without scales?
An excellent question!
And one that I found myself googling once upon a winter evening, having set out all of my ingredients for a slutty brownie (recipe to be found here), only to discover I had no batteries for my kitchen scales.
Here is what I learned:
First, you should arm yourself with a dry ingredients measuring cup and a liquids measuring cup. This will not only help you work with American recipes, but make life easier when you run out of batteries.
However, the trick is actually in how you add your flour to the cup.
Don’t scoop it in!
Rather fluff it up in the bag or container, and spoon it into the cup. Flour packs, so the tighter you make it, the more will fit into the cup, and you’ll actually get extra flour in your mixture.
And we all know that this can very easily ruin a bake.
Add your flour to the cup via a spoon, and level it with a straight-edged knife. This should make your cup pretty equal to one cup of flour.
If you do have a scale, and want to convert cups to grams, you can use this handy calculator.
You can of course arm yourself with a spotted mug that hold a specific amount of flour and work your way from there – and you might just find a little extra grain of magic has found its way in there as well.