Food Scale Types
Weighing food can provide accuracy when measuring for recipes, maintain consistent serving sizes to control costs, or let you know how much to charge a customer when selling items by weight. There are several different types of commercial food scales, each suited to a specific purpose. Read more to learn about the different types of kitchen scales and which will work best for your foodservice operation.
Portion Control Food Scale
Portion Control Food Scales, also called kitchen scales, can help you serve consistent portions. Making sure that portions are properly sized can save money and help you manage your inventory more effectively. These are also used by some home chefs to help ensure they are preparing healthy serving sizes.
There are two main types of kitchen scales: digital and mechanical dial. Digital scales are easy to read, accurate, and have a helpful tare feature that allows you to reset the scale to zero to account for the weight of vessels or ingredients as they're added. Digital scales may plug in or use batteries, or may be convertible between the two. One drawback to digital scales is that they often have a lower weight capacity than mechanical scales. Mechanical scales are usually light and portable because they do not require a power source. These are less of an investment up front, but their springs can wear out over time, making them less accurate.
When purchasing kitchen scales, it is important to think about what you will be weighing. Make note of the platform size and maximum weight capacity. A waterproof scale can be of great benefit in a busy kitchen, while a dishwasher-safe platform can make cleanup simple. If you will be weighing a lot of dry goods, a scale with a built-in bowl may be best for you, or you may prefer one that comes with a specialized platform if you will be weighing French fries, tacos, or ice cream cones.
A receiving scale helps maintain accountability for your employees and suppliers. These scales are made to weigh items in bulk as they arrive, so you can ensure that you are receiving the correct amount of supplies and are not being overcharged.
Like most scales, receiving scales are available as digital and mechanical. For receiving scales, digital scales are much more common, as they can be designed with a remote display; this allows the platform to be near the floor while the display is on a rod or mounted on a nearby wall for easy reading. Most mechanical receiving scales are countertop models, and while they are cheaper initially, they will usually wear out sooner than digital scales.
Know the weight and size of what you will be weighing when you purchase a receiving scale. Countertop models are available for weighing small items, while floor models are better for larger items that are harder to lift. Some floor models are made with a ramp to allow the item to be rolled up onto the platform. Check what increments and units the scale measures to be sure you're getting one that will meet your needs.
A hanging scale offers a flexible way to weigh produce, meat, dry goods, or anything with an irregular shape. This type of scale is hung from the ceiling or an overhang, or some smaller models can be handheld. The scale consists of the hook it hangs from, the dial or digital screen, and whatever that model offers to hold the items being weighed, which can be a hook, scoop, pan, or bowl.
Hanging scales are available as digital or mechanical, and most have a built-in tare function to remove the weight of any containers you may be using to hold the product being weighed. Be sure to check the maximum weight the scale can hold, and know what units and increments it measures in. For operations where speed is essential, if you choose a mechanical scale, consider one with dampers. Dampers will reduce the 'bouncing' motion of the needle that can slow you down and lead to inaccurate measurements.
Digital Price Computing Scale
A digital price computing scale, also called a legal for trade scale, does more than just weigh products. These scales must be able to either calculate a price based on the weight of the product, or connect to a POS system that can do that calculation. Many of these scales also have a built-in label printer.
Because this type of scale directly determines how much a customer will pay for a product, these scales are built to stringent regulations. These regulations are determined, governed, and tested by the National Conference on Weights and Measures. This organization issues National Type Evaluation Program Certificates of Conformance to devices that meet their strict specifications. Most local regulations require a NTEP-certified scale if the unit will be used for selling, purchasing, or determining the cost of a product or service.1
Commercial price scales have many options available due to the more complicated operations they must be able to complete. Platform size and maximum weight are important to consider, as is the location where the scale will be used. If it will be separate from the point of sale system, you may need a model that can print a label with a purchase price and weight on it. Check to see how many item prices the scale can hold in memory, and how many items it can handle in one transaction. The display is another factor to keep in mind, as some models have an elevated display that will be visible to both you and the customer, and others have display screens on the front and back of the device.
A baking scale, while technically any scale that weighs ingredients for baking, often refers to a balance scale. Balance scales, also called beam scales or dough scales, operate using a set of weights that ensure precise measurements, with the user adding weight in small increments until the scale is balanced. Many bakers prefer using scales for measuring, rather than cups and spoons, because the volume of dry ingredients can vary significantly based on a number of factors, and preparing recipes by weight can provide much greater consistency. Weight measurements are also considered easier to scale up or down than volume measurements.
Balance scales come in a variety of sizes, and may use a scoop or platform to hold the product you are weighing. Be sure to check if the scale comes with weights or if you will need to purchase them separately, and note the maximum weight capacity.
Balance scales can be more time-consuming to use than digital scales, but they do have the benefit of not requiring power, so you never have to worry about plugging it in or providing batteries. If you prefer weighing with a digital scale, most food portion scales or general kitchen digital scales can be used as baking scales.
1. Frequently Asked Questions – NTEP National Conference on Weights and Measures. Accessed November 2015.