Where are the good kitchen scales?

How hard is it to make a set of consumer digital kitchen scales that are reliable? Too hard, it seems.

Exhibit A, below, is the most reliable, moderately priced (A$40) set I’ve found in recent years. The IKEA Ordning kitchen scale is simple, reasonably robust, and fairly reliable. I’ve had two in the last six years. The first broke because I have a habit of knocking things onto the floor. My parents inherited it because my father is nifty with drills and glue and stuff;) The second Ordning scale isn’t quite as good. No design changes, but the displayed weight seems to creep up or down a little sometimes. A pity, because the first one was really, really reliable.

Exhibit B, below, was a piece of junk I bought at BigW. I liked the idea of a solid flat glass surface, and bright display. Junk. It wasn’t enough that weighing something at different spots on the surface yielded different outcomes, but watching the display settle on a weight, then slowly tick upwards gram by gram over a period of about 30 seconds, then (if lucky) slowly tick downwards to (approximately) the original weight, was excruciatingly frustrating.

The design was clean and the display was bright, but that couldn’t compensate for the flaws. This device is sold under many brands both here in Australia and overseas. I don’t know if the one I bought was a one-off faulty unit. There are other scales that are of the same basic design but have a slightly different base or display, and these might behave differently.

Exhibit C (which I’m not exhibiting) was another type of scale (raised glass disc over a plastic housing) at a similar price point. It refused to register the addition of any amount under about three grams, so if you had 100gm of something already on the scales and slowly sprinkled on small amounts of extra ingredient, it wouldn’t notice. Dumb.

What’s a gram or two between friends?

If baking is your thing, and especially if you spend quite some time developing recipes, every gram can matter. For general use, it’s not so big a drama unless you’re adding small quantities of very potent ingredients (e.g. certain flavours, chemicals in avantgarde cooking, leavening agents, etc), or making a very small batch of something where the balance of ingredients is crucial (e.g. a ganache).

I began to wonder if the expensive digital scales sold in most cookware shops and department stores were, in fact, justifiably pricey. A quick look at the reviews on various Amazons left me sceptical, and the fact that the typical consumer probably trusts their scales without testing them for accuracy/reliablity certainly distorts the reviews.

So I wonder what my readers use and have found to be truly reliable?

A decent set of scales should, in my opinion, manage at least to:

  • measure up to at least 3 kg, preferably more
  • measure as little as 2 gm
  • measure in increments of no larger than 1 gm (there are cheap scales out there that only measure in 2 gm or 5 gm increments)
  • be zeroed/tared
  • measure reliably, without the figure creeping up or down, or the baseline changing
  • (added later:) perhaps measure lb/oz as well.

Reliability of scales is difficult to assess if you don’t have access to more than one set of scales. However, smallish weights can be checked by using multiple coins, as the weights of coins are meant to be reliable (e.g. an Australian 50c coin should weigh 15.55 gm; Wikipedia has useful reference lists for many different currencies).

20 thoughts on “Where are the good kitchen scales?”

  1. Hey Duncan,

    I have a Salter electronic digital scale that I’m quite happy with. (Not that I do any baking that requires a huge amount of control).

    I got it for about $30 at Harris Scarfe Box Hill.

    I don’t know what its maximum weight is, but it:

    – measures small amounts like 1-2 grams
    – measures in increments of 1 gram, (does pounds/oz) as well
    – can be tared
    – doesn’t creep up or down
    – registers when you gradually add more ingredients

    You can test it out next time if you want!

    xox Sarah

  2. I have a Salter scale as well and so far it has been reliable. It measures from 1g to max 3kg. I tested it with some AUD coins and these are the readings:
    Scales Wikipedia
    5 cents 3g 2.83g
    10 cents 6g 5.65g
    1 dollar 9g 9g

    So, for home baking, I’m pretty happy with it

    Lee Lin

  3. First thing that comes to mind is a scientific scale. You will pay for it, but considering how many cheap ones you buy and throw away, it pays off in the long term. I would expect a >10 year life from a scientific/industrial piece of equipment. They should also have calibration, so you can correct it if it drifts.

    I wont link, but graysonline(.com) have a 7.5kg max, 0.1g interval, +/-0.3g linearity. Current bid = AU$169

    It might be a case of doing it once and doing it properly, instead of cycling scales every few years. On the other hand, maybe I’m just watching to much of Heston.

  4. Thanks for your feedback everyone. It’d be great if you could be specific about the models you have or are comparing, as companies like Salter have heaps of models, and Aldi tends to change models of its devices often.

    Colin’s point is very good — we often lose out by going for cheaper consumer items when a pricier professional unit is a better investment (subject to needs).

    @Lee Lin: Thanks for taking the trouble to weigh some coins. You really need to measure larger numbers of coins, though, because small rounded amounts can hide large discrepancies at higher weights (as a minimum I’d suggest weighing ten 50c coins at different locations on the scale’s surface, and also weighing somehting really heavy, then adding the coins and seeing if the scales show the same additional weight).

  5. My only problem with the ikea scales, which I have too, is that they turn themselves off relatively quickly. So I’ll be in the middle of weighing something in a bowl (which means the scales have been tared to the weight of the bowl) and I’ll go and open another packet of sugar, but in the mean time, the scales have turned themselves off. Of course, when you turn them back on, my 100g of sugar then weighs about 300g with the additional weight of the bowl…

    They do however weigh much better than ikea’s people scales, which are rubbish, and I’m not just saying because of the unflattering things it tells me!

  6. Hi there Duncan,

    ARGH! Is all I can say. I’ve finally found a set I’m happy with .. but I’m not happy that they are Jamie Oliver branded 🙂


    I bought mine online and I think they were $50.
    Just tested it with a 50 cent piece and it was true.

    I really wanted to like my previous set, the top was solid glass and had printed on it a lot of measurement conversions, but even though they said they measured by 1g increments, I could never get less that 2 gram increases on the display – which was also too small. And it took f.o.r.e.v.e.r to calculate the weight.

    The other “must have” I’d add to you list is the ability to switch easily between lbs and grams.

  7. We have a Salter electronic scale and have been happy with it…until the battery ran out. Then it was back to my antediluvian, tried and true, no fail balance scale.

  8. Happy New Year Duncan. I’ve got a Soehnle (not sure what the model name is), and happy with it. Was wondering if was the Soehnle you were describing for number 3 at first because it has a glass plate raised above a plastic housing, but it measures 1g increments fine. And it’s supposed to go up to 5kg but I’ve never measured anything that heavy yet.

  9. Great to have an option for ounces as well – mine do (from Chefs Warehouse in Sydney). May not be ‘legal’ to sell with ounces in Australia – not sure…

  10. Hey Mr,

    I have a basic set of scales not digital, picked them up for $12 at Target reduced. Absolutely fabulous, wouldn’t do digital if you paid me.

  11. Hi, I have the same Ikea kitchen scale as You.I do not know how to use tare option that this model is advertising.Please help, i lost the instruction paper that came with it.Thanks

  12. Hi Duncan, just the sort of anal thing I love to do (sadly).

    K, I have now a Salter ‘Aquatronic’ 1025 WHDR08 with a max of 5kg/5000ml or 11lb/175fl.oz min weight of 1g/1ml/1/8flo.oz

    I weighed 11 50c coins.

    The first weight 15g. Second 31g. up to the final weight for 11 coins of 172g. 172 / 15 = 15.63636363 I noticed some of the coins were older, and I weighed them individually and they did indeed vary from weighing 15g to 16g suggesting the older ones had worn some of their weight away. The weight was true no matter where I put them on the scales. If one weighed 16g it weighed it top, bottom, right, left and centre.

    Very easy to use scales – trust me on this, I am not technically minded. Press a button to turn it on, press that same button to adjust to zero to weigh next item, press a button marked kg/lb to change weights and one final button marked ml/flo.oz for liquids. I’ve had a tough run with my scales after my previous Proport finally died on me after many grand years of service. This Salter was not costly and looks more accurate than I’m likely to ever need. Having said that, I do like to weigh my dry yeast to the gram, so it’s nice to know this is going to do right by me. Thanks for encouraging me to check it out.

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