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Test Drive: Digital Kitchen Scales

How you measure can make or break a recipe. Fortunately, digital scales leave nothing to chance. Our top three picks will help you follow your favorite recipe down to the last ounce.

Fine Cooking Issue 107
Photos: Scott Phillips
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Chances are you’ve noticed that much ado is made of measuring ingredients by weight, especially for baking. The hoopla is warranted, though, because weighing is more accurate than measuring by volume alone. Take flour, for example. Fine Cooking’s recipes list flour in ounces frst, then in cups. Why? Because an ounce is an ounce, no matter whose kitchen you’re in, while the quantity of flour that can be packed into a dry measuring cup varies quite a bit.

For precise measuring, use a kitchen scale. How to choose one? A good digital scale isn’t just accurate but also easy to read, operate, clean, and store. It should have a generous weighing capacity, for those instances when you want to weigh a large roast or a winter squash, and useful features like a bright or backlit display for enhanced visibility. Here are three stellar choices, all $50 or less.

Capacity Champ

Salter MaxView Kitchen Scale
$50 at bedbathandbeyond.com

While many scales have an 11-pound capacity, Salter’s MaxView can weigh up to 6 kilos (about 13 pounds) and was among the most accurate we tested. At 7-3/8 x 6-1/2 inches, its plastic weighing platform is huge, and its display is bright, crisp, and easy to see. It has a shiny, sleek black finish and is utterly smooth, making for quick and easy cleaning. Many cooks will find its ability to display liquid, metric, and imperial measurements helpful; the last is shown in fractions. Because it’s laden with features (a timer and ambient thermometer among them), several of its buttons are multifunctional, making it slightly less intuitive to use than other models, though certainly not difficult to master.

Best Features

Oxo Good Grips Food Scale
$50 at oxo.com

With its ingenious design and unique, genuinely useful features, Oxo’s Good Grips scale is a hands-down favorite. The backlit display screen is large and can conveniently be pulled away from the base via a 4-inch cord, so it’s never obscured by whatever’s on the platform above. Its automatic shutoff feature is also smart—it activates after about 3 minutes but will remember its last weight for up to 45 minutes, so you don’t lose track if it turns off before you’re finished. Its 7-inch stainless-steel platform is large and removable for easy and thorough cleaning, though it’s not dishwasher safe. It can weigh up to 11 pounds and displays metric and imperial measurements (the latter in fractions).

Slender Measure

American Weigh Edge Kitchen Scale
$35 at americanweigh.com

The American Weigh Edge is slim in both profile and price but certainly not in virtues. At just 1/2 inch thick, it’s a cinch to store. With its sleek and slender  design, it’s also exceptionally handsome. Its platform is stainless steel, reasonably large (5-3/8 x 6-3/4 inches), and easy to clean, which is good, because its matte finish shows every fingerprint. The readability of its display is great, even with a large bowl aboard. It can display imperial, metric, and liquid units of measure (all in decimals), and with just two buttons, is simple and intuitive to use.

What to Look For

Keep these features in mind when shopping for a digital scale.

Platform When it comes to the weighing platform, bigger is better, simply because it will accommodate larger items. Generally, we prefer a scale with a stainless-steel or plastic platform rather than glass, which is more likely to crack if you drop something on it.

Display Look for a scale with a large screen that’s bright and easy to read. A backlit display is especially helpful.

Controls The controls on a scale should be simple and intuitive. Look for a tare feature, which zeroes the scale before you add additional ingredients to your bowl. Automatic shut-off features preserve battery life but can be a mixed blessing. Look for cycles that last at least two minutes. Anything less and the scale may shut itself off before you’re finished adding ingredients.

Measuring ability A scale’s capacity should be no less than 11 pounds, which is the standard for many models. A scale should switch easily between metric and imperial measurements, and weigh to within increments of 1 gram or a tenth of an ounce.

How We Tested

We tested 12 electronic scales with digital displays. To assess accuracy, we weighed laboratory weights, from heavy to light, that covered the capacity range of the scales. We measured the sizes of the weighing platforms and display screens, and judged the readability of the displays with medium and very large stainless-steel bowls on top. We also evaluated the overall design and the features of each; for instance, automatic shutoff and a tare function (present on all of the models) and backlit or pull-away displays and the ability to weigh liquids (present on just a few).

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