In a restaurant, where the price of every item can make a difference to the bottom line, weighing food can provide accuracy when measuring ingredients for recipes. A restaurant food scale can also help in maintaining consistent portion sizes to control costs, and it can let a restaurant owner know how much to charge a customer when selling items by weight. It can also help to ensure that your food deliveries – the ingredients you ordered so you can create your culinary delights – are accurate. There are several different types of commercial food scales on the market, and each is one is suited to a specific purpose.
Portion Control Scales for Precise Food Measurement
Kitchen scales, better known as portion control scales, can help you prepare servings that are consistently sized, which, in turn, can save you money by helping you manage your inventory more efficiently. There are two types of portion control scales on the market: digital and mechanical. Digital scales are easy to read and are particularly accurate; they may be battery operated or may plug into an electric source. Mechanical scales generally have a higher weight capacity and since they don’t require a power source, they are lighter and more portable. Digital scales are usually more expensive and require more of an investment at first; whereas mechanical scales, tend to be much cheaper. However, the springs in a mechanical scale may wear out over time necessitating frequent replacements, making them less economical in the long run.
Digital scales have an important feature, called a “tare.” This handy function can “tell” the scale to ignore the first weight (which is usually an empty utensil) and to measure additional weight starting from zero. In other words, the container you put on the scale will have no weight once you press the tare button and, at that point, the scale will weigh and display only what is added to the container (net weight).
Before buying a kitchen scale, take into consideration what types of foods you will be weighing and be aware of the surface size and maximum weight limit of the scale you have in mind. Waterproof scales are a great asset in a commercial kitchen, while a scale platform that can be detached and placed safely in a dishwasher is also an asset. Depending on your requirements, a portion control scale with a built-in bowl can be particularly handy.
Receiving Scales for the Busy Restaurant Kitchen
Receiving scales help a restaurant owner or supply manager double check orders from suppliers. They are made to weigh merchandise as it arrives at the service entrance and they help ensure that what you receive is what you have ordered (and what you are paying for).
Receiving scales, like portion control scales, come in digital and mechanical style; and have a much larger weight capacity. The two most common types are the platform scale and the bench scale. Digital platform scales are the most convenient, as they often come with a remote display that allows the platform to be low down near the floor while the digital display is eye-level on a pole or affixed on a nearby wall for convenient reading.
To get the best scale for your business, know in advance – before you make what can be a pricey purchase – the types of items you will be weighing on your receiving scale. Countertop receiving scales can be used for weighing small items, whereas floor models are more efficient as they let you weigh heavier and larger items that are more difficult to lift. For really heavy and unwieldy items, look for a floor model with a ramp that lets you roll the merchandise onto the platform.
Hanging Scales for Restaurant Use
Hanging scales are a great and efficient way to weigh meat, fish, produce, dry goods, etc. Hanging scales can be suspended from the ceiling or, for lighter items, can be handheld. A hanging scale is constructed of a hook (that it hangs from), the digital screen or mechanical dial, and something to hold what is being weighed, i.e., a bowl, scoop, hook, etc. Like other scales, hanging scales come in digital and mechanical styles with a maximum weight. A mechanical hanging scale has the annoying habit of bouncing on its springs, but you can purchase one with a “damper” that will reduce this motion to speed up the weighing activity and increase accuracy.
A Baker’s Scale: For the Ultimate in Accuracy
A baker’s scale, also referred to as a dough scale, is used to weigh ingredients for baking. These scales use a system of weights and counterweights that guarantees accurate and precise measurements. The operator simply adds weight in small increments until the scale is balanced.
The principle of using a baker’s scale is simple: The scale must be balanced before setting the weights, and it must balance again after weighing. To begin, the user sets the container on the left side of the scale, and then balances the scale by placing counterweights on the right side. For a desired weight – say, 2 pounds, the user places weights on the right side totaling 2 pounds. The user then adds the ingredients beings weighed to the left side until the scale balances.
Most professional bakers prefer to weigh ingredients on a scale rather than by using measuring cups and spoons, because volumetric measurements (cups, tablespoons, teaspoons) of dry ingredients can vary according to a range of factors whereas weighed ingredients provide much more consistent results. You can measure flour, for instance, much more accurately with a baking scale than with a measuring cup because flour compacts differently in a measuring cup.
Baker’s scales come in a variety of sizes, usually with a bowl to hold what is being weighed and includes weights and counterweights. The benefit of a baker’s scale is that they don’t require a power source (like a digital scale), they are compact enough to fit on any countertop and they provide highly accurate and dependable results.
A Few Words About Portion Control
To achieve less waste – and more profit – accuracy is vital, and scales are the best route to precision and accuracy. Controlling and streamlining portion size is a key to regulating profit margins, whether you are running a big, busy restaurant or if you own a niche, gourmet establishment. Watching portion size means keeping menu items consistent throughout the day and on through the week; a portion of Fettucine Alfredo, for instance, served at noon on Monday should be the same if the same customer orders it for dinner on Thursday.
To most efficiently control portion size, break down your menu items into their individual parts and determine the weight of each element. With this type of breakdown and with the weight of each item that goes into a particular recipe, every time the menu item leaves the kitchen the serving size will be the same. You can be relatively certain that customers – particularly regulars who tend to order the same dishes – will notice if a dish is irregularly sized, and they will probably be vocal about it if the inconsistency is obvious. In addition, you must keep portion size consistent to control food costs and maintain restaurant profits.
To sum up, there are many reasons to use a scale in your restaurant kitchen. They are more accurate for measuring almost anything; a digital scale, in particular, is easy and precise (and it will convert weights from ounces to grams if the need arises). Most importantly, using a scale will guarantee that you have the upper hand when it comes to the weight of the items you take in at the receiving end, and the size of the portions that exit your kitchen into the dining area. Armed with a variety of purpose-built scales – digital or mechanical – you’ll be able to run your restaurant’s kitchen more efficiently and cost-effectively.