If recipes are the equivalent of edible mathematical equations then kitchen scales are the calculators. Using kitchen scales will ensure proper portion control of ingredients and help curb food costs as well as consistency. The three most common types of kitchen scales are top-loading dial scales, digital scales and mechanical hanging scales.
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Top-Loading Dial Scales
Top-loading dial scales, or spring scales, are the most economical scales for any kitchen, including commercial. This type of scale uses a platform or basket to hold food while it is weighed. The dial lens is shatterproof and usually at an angle to improve readability. A zero knob is located below the platform to tare, or balance, the scale. Dial scales are generally manufactured with weight increments of ¼ lb., although some models feature increments to the tenth of a gram.
Digital scales are more compact than a dial scale and can increase the weight increment to one-hundredth of a gram. The editors at America's Test Kitchen write that digital scales, although more money, are the most accurate and easiest to read. Digital scales use either a battery or extension cord and have the capability to convert weight measurements to kilograms.
Hanging kitchen scales are generally used for larger weights as some models are capable of handling more than 272kg. However, due to the larger weight capacity the spring technology is prone to advanced wear and weighing smaller amounts can be difficult. Baskets are used to hold the food and dial faces can range from 6 to 10 inches in diameter. This type of scale is a speciality item for most restaurant-supply stores, meaning they will need to order it.
Commercial kitchens such as groceries, delis and bakeries use scales that are certified for legal trade. Safety organisations such as NSF and the USDA also offer certifications to some models of scales.
Maintaining food safety and preventing cross contamination is paramount when preparing food. Choosing a scale that is easy to clean and made of stainless steel can reduce the risk of food-borne illnesses. A kitchen scale can become an invaluable piece of your kitchen's arsenal and as celebrity chef Alton Brown writes in his book "Gear for Your Kitchen," "If you can, weigh it."
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