Weights And Measures

One of the things I find irritating about most cook books is the insistence upon using subjective measures rather than weight. For instance, I made onion soup over the weekend. Nothing special about that, but I used the Balthazar Cookbook, so I should get credit for choosing well. Anyway, the recipe called for four medium onions. I don’t know about you, but I have never seen a chart with pictures of onions and their size category, although I am sure that it exists somewhere. The soup turned out very well (the chicken stock recipe in the book is excellent), and I am sure that I used approximately the correct amount of onion. But how difficult would it be to slap the onions onto a scale? I have an electronic scale in my kitchen that I use frequently. When I make hamburgers for the kids I will weigh the meat so that the burgers are of equal size. And because I know how much meat I started with, I can tailor the size so that I am not left with a tiny bit of ground beef. Yes, I know, that is a bit too close to OCD for most people, but the point is valid.

And just in case you thought that your measuring cups are wonderful scientific tools, many seemingly similar ingredients are of very different densities. Kosher salt is about half the density of table salt. And there are significant differences between brands of granulated sugar, so the bakers out there may want to start weighing their sugar for greater consistency. Or not.

I don’t want to sound like a ranting maniac (even though that is exactly what I sound like), but cooking, for many people, is intimidating enough without having to worry about whether the onions in the bag are medium or small.

5 Replies to “Weights And Measures”

  1. i just got a scale. i use it for hamburgers, and for pizza dough. i’m coming to the conclusion that 6 ounces is the correct burger size. i find myself shaving it down from my previous “correct” size of 8 ounces. the best part? grabbing a bunch of meat, throwing it on the scale, and coming within 0.2 ounces, because i’m so darned good. onions though? very confusing. i err on the side of too many, because there’s just never enough.

  2. Six ounces is perfect for the youngins, but I prefer my burgers a bit bigger. Seven ounces is just about correct for me. The problem is finding the right bun. I tend toward the challah rolls, because they are closest to the brioche that I think is perfect, but am too lazy to bake, and too cheap to drive to Balthazar Bakery every time I want a burger.I made Mark Bittman’s Puerto Rican roast pork dish last week, and the onions were poorly specified, which resulted in a marinade that was far too wet to do what Bittman said. It tasted good anyway, but I would have preferred to wing it on the second go-round!If you are in to geeky things like scales, buy a infrared laser thermometer. They are amazing!

  3. Lots of European based recipes have weights listed in grams and millileters. As do the nutritional contents on the back of cans. For example, on one can, a tablespoon (or 14 grams) is 45 calories. But a tablespoon is 15 grams! WTF!

  4. An ounce is 28.3 grams, so a tablespoon will be 14.15 grams. But you are correct that Europe uses weights much more than we do. It makes everything so much simpler. I just don’t get it.

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