Scales and balances are necessary tools in all aspects of the food cycle – during harvest, processing, packaging, service, and sales. Purchasing weighing equipment for food-related applications can be a daunting task, but with proper information, it can be easy as pie.

What are food scales?

Food scales are specifically used to weigh products such as meat, vegetables or fruit. They are typically used to ensure portion uniformity in food outlets, restaurants and kitchens, as well as for personal calorie-counting in the home.

Types of food weighing scale

There are many types of food scale to buy — from easy-to-use digital kitchen scales to scientific food testing equipment such as moisture analysers. Most food scales fall into one of four categories: retail, testing, production or personal.

What are food scales used for?

Retail food measurement

Scales are used to weigh food products in many types of businesses, including restaurants, grocery stores, supermarkets and sweet shops. They can measure produce at farmer's market stalls, weigh meat at a delicatessen or butchers, or verify quantities of ingredients mixed into a cake a bakery. Checkweighing scales are helpful for catering operations, as they help ensure uniform portion sizes. Approved food scales are required when selling food by weight commercially.

Food testing labs

Moisture and weight assessments of food provide critical information about content, quality and safety. The levels of acidity and water, along with the absence or presence of bacteria, moulds, pathogens and other contaminants, can be determined by analysing food samples. Food testing labs rely on highly specialised, scientific weighing devices. Moisture analysers use heated halogen lamps and loss-on-drying (LOD) methods to accurately establish moisture readings for products before dispatch. In research and development, weighing equipment is critical for maintaining sample integrity. Aside from moisture analysers, high-end precision or analytical balances can be used alongside microscopes to analyse and weigh tiny amounts of food samples, preservatives or chemicals to test these are of a safe level before packing and selling commercially.

Food Testing

Food production

When food products enter the processing phase, scales, balances and moisture analysers facilitate quality control. They can help to ensure freshness and quality of the product during packaging, and aid in determining proper expiration dates. Scales used in food production are specifically designed for larger, processing applications in industrial environments. Heavy-duty platform floor scales have higher weighing capacities and can be used to weigh large containers of produce such as potatoes without the need for excessive lifting. Usually constructed of stainless steel, washdown scales are sealed to protect against the intrusion of moisture, dirt or food particles. They can be cleaned easily and hosed down frequently during use to adhere to health and hygiene standards.

Crates of Tomatoes

Home use

Personal food scales generally include digital kitchen scales. They are usually small, compact and easy to use for individual portion control or measuring baked goods in the home. These scales offer a cheap alternative to professional food scales, although lack in terms of features and approvals.

Why use a food scale?

Using a food scale will vary in importance depending on the type of scale and how you intend to use it. A food scale for personal use is designed to be used recreationally and is therefore unsuitable for industrial-grade weighing operations. Furthermore, trade approved food scales are required for selling produce and other good by weight and every business needs to ensure they are weighing food in accordance with legislation. For more information on EC trade approvals within the food industry and general food law, please visit the FSA (Food Standards Agency).

Standardisation

Trade approved food scales are required when selling products that have been weight-specified. For example, if you order an 8oz steak in a pub, you expect to get 8oz of meat. Standardisation is not only trade-required, but also has a positive effect on customer satisfaction.

Restaurant kitchen

A take-away or catering business can save money by standardising portion sizes. For a take-away pizza business, measuring ingredients instead of approximating them helps ensure the pizza has the same flavour, appearance and taste every time. It also can minimise the amount of wasted food, which can help keep costs under control. Wedding caterers can use scales that offer counting features to verify the number of servings before placing into chilled storage. Certain professional kitchen scales come complete with mixing, formulation and percentage weighing functions built-in which allows the user to easily recall or store recipes and weigh ingredients as part of a ratio for greater control over the food making process.

Healthy living

Food scales can be used to maintain a healthy lifestyle through portion control. By weighing food portion sizes in grams, users can calculate an accurate calorie count, which can be used to control and maintain food intake on a daily basis. Whilst most digital kitchen scales are equipped for portion control, if you are a restaurant or catering business you will need to ensure that you have a professional kitchen scale that is legally approved for your portion weighing.

How to use a food scale for calorie counting: Top tips

  1. Make sure your scale is set to the correct weight increment (grams, kilograms, ounces, etc).
  2. Verify that the scale has been zeroed/ tared.
  3. Remove packaging and non-edible parts from the food. (if you are weighing grapes, discard the vine, etc).
  4. Place the product on the scale.
  5. Ensure that the product weighs as close to the portion size listed on the package as possible. (for example, a slice of bread should weigh 30g, so the value on the scale should be as close to 30g as possible).
  6. Once you approve the value, use a calorie counter to see how many calories are in a serving (how many calories are in a 100g serving of pasta).
Weighing Cranberries

How to find the best digital food scale for your needs

When you’re shopping for a digital food scale, you need to think about how you will be using the product. If you work in the food testing industry, you may require a greater precision found in analytical or precision balances for recording accurate test results. If you are selling food by weight at a market stall, you will need trade certified food scales in order to do so. If your scale is for personal use, an easy-to-use, convenient compact scale or kitchen scale may be the best choice for you.

Recommended food scales for commercial use

Inscale offers a wide variety of food scales to suit all areas of the food industry. Here is a list of some of our most popular food scales for retail, production and testing use:

Astro compact scale - Adam Equipment

Astro® Compact Food Portioning Scales

 

Adam Equipment's Astro compact scale is a small, portable and affordable scale for accurate portion weighing. Ideal for personal portion control and portion management in restaurants and other food retail outlets.

HR series analytical balances - A&D

A&D HR Series Analytical Balances

 

The HR series of analytical balances by A&D is the perfect choice for food testing and analysis. High performance and highly precise laboratory balance ideal for food testing and research laboratories.

GFK floor checkweighing scale - Adam Equipment

GFK Floor Checkweighing Scales

 

The GFK floor scale is the ideal choice for food production facilities and factory environments. The GFK can withstand regular use and check weigh heavy bags of produce and other products in order to perform accurate stock counts. The ABK also has a strong stainless steel base that can be easily cleaned after food spillage or dirt build-up.

SJ-EC Trade Approved Compact Food Scales - A&D

A&D SJ-EC Trade Approved Compact Scales

 

A&D's SJ-EC compact food scales are small, in-expensive scales for weighing baking ingredients, coffee beans, tea leaves and cooking spices. Highly recommended trade approved scales that are ideal for use in barista coffee shops, delis and bakeries.

See also:

Why You Should use Weighing Scales for Sausage Making

Bakeries: Why You Should be Using an Accurate Baking Scale

Baristas: Why You Should use an Accurate Weighing Scale to Weigh Coffee