Agood kitchen scale is an absolute must-have for every kitchen. Although nothing can substitute for skilled intuition—add a dash of this and a handful of that, cook until golden brown and delicious—there are times when the precision a scale can provide is vital. Many baking recipes call for cups and fluid ounces, but no matter how experienced a baker you are, the cup of flour you weigh today will not be the same cup of flour you weigh tomorrow. This is because many dry ingredients, such as flour, cornstarch, and brown sugar, can easily be compressed or aerated depending on the whims of the measurer, how the goods have been stored, and possibly some black magic.
Scales aren’t just for all the would-be pastry wizards out there, either. They’re a necessary tool for any serious cook as well, especially for determining ratios or servings. If you like your mirepoix to be two parts onion to one part celery and carrot, a quick check on the scale can guide you. More advanced recipes—such as those for charcuterie, in which perfect proportions of fat to meat to salt are everything—demand the use of a scale. Even in your day-to-day life, brewing coffee is made much easier with a scale, allowing you to forget scoops of beans and cups of water and just measure it all in grams.
If you do decide to purchase a scale, the variety on the market today can make picking one a daunting task. We’ve set out to determine which scale is the best for all your kitchen needs by testing 13 models, ranging in price from $9.99 to $59.99, with maximum capacities between 11 and 17.6 pounds and resolution between 0.05 and 0.1 ounces. Although we wouldn’t recommend using a kitchen scale to weigh anything under five grams (a jeweler’s scale is the way to go for smaller amounts), a scale with higher resolution will be more responsive to minute, incremental changes in weight.
A great scale should be accurate first and foremost, but also easy to clean, intuitively designed, simple to read, and convenient to store. These are the qualities that will have you reaching for a scale every time you portion meat for burgers or whip up a batch of fresh pasta.