Portion Control Scales Buyers' Guide
Consistency is key in any restaurant kitchen – customers come to expect a certain experience, flavor, and portion size, and altering any of those factors is always a risk. While quality kitchen equipment and skilled workers can help ensure flavor profiles are kept the same from dish to dish, a portion control food scale can help you maintain consistent serving sizes. Ensuring you have the same amount on each plate can ensure your customers get their money's worth while also preventing profit loss from oversized portions. Consistent portion sizing will also help you properly manage your inventory to limit food waste and make sure you always have what you need on hand. This guide will break down the types of foodservice scales to help you find the right one for your commercial kitchen.
Types of Portion Control Food Scales
There are two main types of foodservice scales: digital and dial. The type of scale determines how the user will read the weight. Digital scales are easy to read and give accurate measurements, with digital screens either in front of the platform, or mounted on the counter or wall nearby. These scales also have electronic controls, usually with at least a power button and tare button. Some will have additional controls to change units of measurement or save the current weight. Digital scales may be powered by an AC adapter or batteries, and many have an auto-off feature to help preserve battery life.
Dial portion control scales display weight with a mechanical dial instead of an electronic display and do not require a power source. Some users may find these scales are not as easy to read as digital scales, but these generally cost less. Not every dial scale has a tare option, so be aware of that if you will be weighing items in containers that would add weight to your measures if not properly accounted for. Dial scales are usually lightweight and portable, and they often have higher weight capacities than their digital counterparts.
Weight Capacity and Increments
Portion control scales are rarely used to weigh portions heavier than a few pounds, so be aware of the largest servings you will measure to ensure you choose a scale that will accommodate that application. Commercial food scales are available with capacities as high as 200 pounds, and some have capacities as low as 1 pound.
As important as capacity are the increments in which you can measure weight. Most digital scales allow you to choose the unit of measurement you need, often including grams, kilograms, ounces, and pounds in the options. Dial scales are likely to only display one or two of these units, so be sure the unit of measurement you wish to weigh in is included. Because digital scales are more accurate and easier to read, they are usually accurate to two or three decimal points in ounces. Dial scales only have the 360 degrees of a round face to divide up in increments, regardless of how high the weight capacity is, so the increments that you are able to read the weight in will typically decrease as the scale's capacity increases.
Platform Size and Shapes
Another important consideration to make when you purchase a portion control scale is the size and shape of the platform on which the food is to be weighed. Although most platforms are flat, they may be round, square, and rectangular, and are available in sizes ranging from about 12 to larger than 200 inches square. This selection will enable you to weigh everything from small bowls of single portions to full-size food pans.
Some scales include platforms that are specially shaped to accommodate weighing in various vessels. Flat platforms can have a dip in the center for more easily holding bowls, while other platforms are actually bowl-shaped. French fry/taco holder food scales and ice cream cone scales have platforms shaped to hold the items they are named for. Measuring cup scales are made to look like traditional measuring cups, allowing you to simultaneously measure an ingredient's weight and volume.
Specialty Options and Accessories
When you need a scale that can do more than just weigh food, these options may come in handy for you:
- Submersible scales are water-resistant, so that even the electronic controls can be submerged for easy cleaning and are protected from liquids related to the products you're measuring.
- Wireless scales feature a readout screen that is not attached by wires to the platform, enabling mounting on a nearby countertop or wall for quick and easy reading.
- Foot-operated tare switches allow you to keep your hands free for high-volume weighing.
- Legal for trade scales can also be used in selling food products by the pound.
- Wireless or wired computerized scales can keep track of prices or how many servings of each food type is being served. These can also usually be attached to printers for printing labels, making them valuable in institutional cook-chill operations.