How to avoid measuring mistakes

 kitchen tools

Baking can be intimidating to the most seasoned of cooks because of its requirements for accurate measuring. Using a digital scale solves a lot of measuring problems, but there are some instances when it might not be the best tool, says Stella Parks of Serious Eats. She provides advice on when to use a scale and other guidance on how to avoid common measuring mistakes

The biggest issue for digital scales is not in accurately weighing the major baking ingredients like flour, sugar, and butter. Rather, it is in the smallest of ingredients like leavening, salt, and spices. Most kitchen scales only round to the nearest gram, which is not going work for the tiny amount of baking soda in a cake. The way we usually measure these small ingredients adds to the problem. Says Parks, "we tend to gradually tap out powdered ingredients in tentative sprinkles when weighing them, until we reach our goal. Few kitchen scales are sensitive enough to register these micro-units, leading to an unfortunate series of 0 + 0 calculations." She recommends using a teaspoon for small measures.

Another big mistake that people often make is confusing grams and milliliters. For some liquids like water, the two are close enough, but for denser items like corn syrup, confusing the two can lead to disaster. In the example Parks provides, if a recipe calls for 225 grams of agave nectar and you use milliliters measurements instead, "the result will be 133% of what's needed-more than enough to ruin any recipe."

One excellent piece of advice that resonated with me (since I am easily distracted), is to create "zones" in your dry ingredients when measuring out small quantities of items like spices or leavening. A person should, of course, measure out each item and have all ingredients in individual containers, so you can easily see if you have added the baking soda to the recipe or not. But in the real world, we just scoop out the teaspoons of this or that and dump them in the bowl, leading to the afore-mentioned confusion. Placing all of a darker ingredient (like brown sugar) on one side of the bowl and then adding small amounts of lighter-colored ingredients such as salt or baking powder allows you to easily see if you have added it or not. 

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