Weighing Ingredients Using the Tare/Zero on a Scale


ScaleWeighing Ingredients using the Tare/Zero on a Scale is key  to ensuring the best outcome when baking.  Anyone who has followed my blog for any time, even briefly, knows that I am all for updating recipes and techniques. All you have to do is take a look at the Croissant, 60 Second Brioche, or Cake Pan Prep to see what I’m talking about.  It’s what I do and love sharing.

But I’ve just about had it with the “shortcuts” being pushed out as the latest, most wonderful way to bake with little effort and especially as a way to cut down the dishes used.

Many recipes don’t require much effort, or dishes or time.  Quick breads are, well, quick.  Basically the dry ingredients go in one bowl and the wet ones in another.  Add the wet to the dry, whisk them together – you don’t even need a mixer in most cases – pour into a prepared pan and into the oven it goes.  Two bowls, a whisk and a few measuring cups and spoons.

So what is the problem with a few dishes?  Don’t most of us have dishwashers nowadays?  So who cares if you use dishes.  Stick ‘em in the dishwasher and walk away.  Just don’t forget to turn it on at night or whenever you choose.  No dishwasher, clean as you go is my motto.  That’s what I do at the restaurant.

Buying a Scale

When buying a scale, try to find one that goes to 10 pounds.  Make sure it has a unit button or something similar that will allow you to weigh at least in grams or ounces.  It also need to have a tare/zero often seen as t/z so the scale can be brought to zero.Buttons on the scale

Scales are relatively inexpensive nowadays.  i usually buy mine at Walmart where they cost about $19.00.  Not much to make sure the ingredients are consistent every time.

Weighing Ingredients Using a Scale

The word tare refers to bringing the scale to zero after a bowl is put on it. Empty bowl tared or brought to zero for Weinghing Ingredients using a Scale What brought this all on is “reverse taring” when weighing.  Taring or zeroing is used to exclude a measurement from the total weight given by the scale. Most commonly, this function is used to negate the weight of the container on the scale. If you put a bowl on the scale, hit tare, and then fill the bowl with an ingredient, the scale will only display the weight of the ingredient in the bowl. Flour in the bowl on the scale It will not include the weight of the empty bowl. Empty bowl weighed.Empty the flour into another bowl. To add another ingredient to a container on the scale, just hit the tare/zero button before adding it. Bowl on scale tared for Weiighing Ingredients using a ScaleThe scale will go to zero, add the ingredient and the weight of the ingredient will show up. Here I have added cocoa to the bowl.Cocoa weighed in the bowlAs you can see only the cocoa is weighed, not the flour that was previously in the bowl. The button can also be referred to as a zero button.  My scale has a t/z on it for tare or zero.

Add the cocoa to the bowl with the flour.Cocoa added to the bowl with the flour..

Add any other ingredients to this bowl as called for, just don’t exceed the total weight of the scale.

Reverse Taring

With the new rage – reverse taring- one is to put the bag of flour, sugar or whatever on the scale.  Press the tare or zero button.  The scale will go to zero.  Say you want to weigh 125 grams.  With the mixer running you are to pick up the bag and add the flour or sugar to the mixer.  Replace it on the scale and the weight you added to the mixer will show.  If you didn’t guess right, you have to do it again.  Too much flour or sugar?  Well sorry, you already mixed it in.

Here’s the problem they aren’t talking about.  If you take too long, the scale turns off and you have lost the weight you added to the mixer so you won’t know how much is being used.  Additionally, if you add too much you have to fish it out.  And don’t forget, you have the watch the scale and move quickly so it doesn’t turn off.

Here is a tic-tock showing this.  It is by far the dumbest idea I have seen when it comes to baking.  It shows the person adding flour several times to the mixer.  Then a bottle of milk is on the scale and the person does the same thing.  She pours some milk in while the mixer is running, puts it back on the scale, gosh she needs some more so she picks it up again and adds more.  If you notice, she is not even looking at the weight on the scale.

In the video she is seen complaining that if you do it the regular way, you have to keep taking the mixer bowl and paddle off the mixer, weigh an ingredient in it and then reattach everything to mix it.  Of course, she is totally upset trying to scrape the mixture off the paddle.

Who does this?

Mise en Place

You will notice in most of my blogs I show the ingredients at the beginning of the list.  Each is in a separate bowl.  This is called mise en place – a French word meaning “everything in its place”.  In other words, if you prep all the ingredients in their own container you won’t forget anything.  This is the absolute best way to bake, especially if you are new to baking or are prone to jumping around the ingredient list to measure.Ingredients displayed for Weighing Ingredients Using the Tare/Zero on a Scale

Ideally, you would prep your ingredients in the order listed.  That way there is less room for error.  After I have prepped my ingredients I count them.  There is a running joke in my house that I may not have the right ingredients but I sure have the correct number!

Best Way to Prep Ingredients

I absolutely think this is the best way to bake.  Do I do it, not always.  If a recipe tells me to combine the dry ingredients, I measure one ingredient at a time and place it in a bowl.  Let’s take flour, sugar, cocoa, spices,  baking powder, and salt.  I would weigh the flour in a bowl and place it in another bowl as I did above.  I would then weigh the sugar in the original bowl and pour it into the bowl with the flour.  Ditto with the cocoa.  Then the baking powder, spices and salt would be added thenDry ingredients in a bowl all whisked together. Whisked togetherI have used 2 bowls, a couple of measuring spoons and a whisk.  Not much to insure all the measurements are correct.

By weighing ingredients using a scale, if I over weigh, it is simple to just remove enough to correct the weight in the original bowl and then add it to the other ingredients.  By weighing one ingredient on top of another if too much is weighed some has to be removed.  Often some of the other ingredients below in the bowl come out with it.

This is the procedure we followed at the bakery.  I follow it at home and at the restaurant – where by the way, I do my own dishes because I don’t have a dishwasher.

As an advocate of scales for over 30 years, I am delighted to see they are catching on.  Now all we have to do is use them correctly.

I wonder how many recipes will turn out badly using the reverse method before people realize this is a fallacy.  I hope not many.   Especially since they are going to have to scrape off all that batter on  the paddle!

If you liked Weighing Ingredients Using the Tare/Zero on a Scale, see:

Measuring for Baking
Flour as Used in Baking
How to be a Better Baker

Pastry has not only been my profession, but my passion. If there is anything in particular you would like to see or any questions about baking or pastry, please let me know. Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss a post!
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11 thoughts on “Weighing Ingredients Using the Tare/Zero on a Scale

  1. apricotsilk

    On my first visit to Florida….a lot of years ago now…made cake from my recipe, using USA grown fruit. Of course I was stopped at Customs from taking the cake across into USA. I know the Customs guys had a picnic with it…the fruit was only returning home.
    I will look for a computer file with recipe on it….and will send to you Helen….is thats ok. Will need an email address, please….

  2. Eileen

    I have long appreciated you having weighted measurements. My only regret is I did not get an offset scale since it sometimes makes reading difficult. I am always grateful for your willingness to help and teach others.

  3. apricotsilk

    Good morning from Bridlington in Yorkshire, England.
    Words of wisdom here on weighing and scales. Plus…I am going to add….being a Brit, I dont use cups as measures…its alien to me.
    The lovely Helen adds metric to her recipes. I can work with that ok.
    However, I also publish, occasionally, recipes that are Victorian or Edwardian and are in Imperial only. I have tried same recipes in metric and they just didnt work as I know they should…..so please be diligent.
    Its getting towards time to use my family recipe for Christmas cake (sorry!!). Its from about 1850 that I can reliably verify. (No I dont mean 18.50 time). This works wonderfully well in Imperial and not so in converted to metric……
    Have fun and stay safe.

    1. Ann Pollack

      I surely would like to see your Christmas cake recipe! And, yes, Helen is a delight, even when you live very close to her!

    2. hfletcher Post author

      Oh Janet, we would all love to have your Christmas Cake. It makes sense that metric would not work for Imperial. As I understand Imperial, the measurements are slightly greater than American. For instance if our cup is 140 grams, imperial may be somewhat greater than that. Is that correct? Glad to hear from you. Happy to hear you are OK

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Liza – It is Mainstays and found in their Kitchen aisles. I even have one at the restaurant because it is easier to use than the professional one I have.

  4. Lynette Pruett

    Wow! Helen, you’ve opened my eyes to something I hadn’t seen, and I agree that it is the most ridiculous way to use a scale I’ve ever seen! Using a scale as you describe is such a simple process that I can’t even imagine why anyone thought of the reverse weigh method! Wonders never cease.
    While my baking was very good before, since I’ve been using a scale for all of my baking for 11 years, I know it has improved. I would never go back to using measuring cups! In fact, most of the time my measuring cups are more often pressed into duty as bath toys for the grandchildren than they are into kitchen duty!
    And speaking of those grandchildren, I have found that they are the perfect reason to use mise en place routinely!

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