Thursday, April 26, 2012

Weighty Matters, Part I

  Meet Escali.  Escali is strong...nicely built...handsome...intelligent...precise...helps me in the kitchen.  The perfect partner, really.  I am in love.

You wanna meet him, don't ya?

Huh?  What were you thinking about?!  Escali is my kitchen scale.

  I hope to expound upon something I wrote earlier on this blog and on various food forums in the past about measuring ingredients, and the difference between volume and weight. Most American recipes are written with the ingredients doled out by volume, compared with much of the rest of the world that measures by weight.  Some attribute the deviation to early settlers using what was on hand, which more often than not, included teacups and the like, but no scales.

  Many cooks swear by using weight instead of measuring by volume.  Some of the benefits are:
  • Consistent results each time a dish is made.
  • Baked good especially benefit - factors such as humidity or how tightly the flour is packed into a cup can cause variances in the amount that goes into a recipe.
  • Less equipment used and dirtied up during prep (or mise en place, if you please.)
What IS the Difference?

  Now you've thought about some of the advantages, what exactly is the difference between volume and weight?

  Volume, quite simply,  is how much space something takes up.  Weight, on the other hand, is how much an object weighs - how heavy, how much mass it has.  These two properties aren't exactly the same, and this can be seen particularly with dry ingredients.  A cup of shredded cheese does not weigh 8 ounces like a cup of water.

  Really!  I'll prove it.
 The same cup filled with water would have the same volume (space), but different weights (quantities of mass).  That 2 cup package of pre-shredded cheese in your fridge weighs 8 ounces.  In fact, I've found most cheeses -harder, shreddable, sliceable, crumbly varieties- are half the weight of the volume you'll need to shred or crumble.  [i.e. 3/4 cup shredded cheese takes up the same volume as 6 ounces of water is 3 ounces of cheese in brick form.  Handy to keep in mind while shopping.]  Frequently on my recipes, I'll try to include weights in parentheses along with the more traditional volume measurements.

Next time, Weighty Matters, Part II: Consider the Scale