Scales, measuring jugs and timers



Electronic scales are, for me, a no no. First, they run on batteries, which can run out when you're not expecting them to (yes, they do flash a warning, but even that's been known to fail). If you're in the middle of cooking, I suppose you can pinch the battery from something else, then rush out later and get another one, but that's not really a convenient way of living.

If you want to weigh ½ oz (10 g), you can – but with extreme patience, because the digital figures don't seem to cope easily with the smallest amounts. And last but not least, domestic electronic scales live for about two years, then it's into the dustbin and start all over again.

There is another type of scales, those with a spring mechanism and needle. But unfortunately these don't have a long life either and, in time, the needle can become quite inaccurate.

What I have to say is that if you're keen on cooking there is only one truly accurate way to weigh ingredients and that is to invest in old-fashioned, time-honoured balance scales. It's a small investment for a lifetime of worry-free accuracy. With balance scales everything is instant: you put on the required weight, add the ingredients and you can see immediately when the balance of the two has been achieved. You can, as I do, have one set of metric weights and one of imperial (anyone over 40 is still going to think in imperial terms, but if a recipe is completely metric you can proceed without having to worry).

Why weigh anyway? Because if you've gone to all the trouble of spending money shopping and putting the effort into cooking, why not get it absolutely right without worrying? There are people who claim to be instinctive cooks, who never follow recipes or weigh anything at all. All I can say is they're not very fussy about what they eat. For me, cooking is an exact art and not some casual game.

Measuring jugs

A glass jug (Pyrex is best) will show you in seconds what 3 fl oz (75 ml) looks like and – this is essential – teacups, or half teacups, are not the answer. A measuring jug is also vital when cooking rice, as this is always measured by volume rather than by weight. So when a recipe calls for fluffy 'separate' grains of rice, a simple measuring jug will help you ban the sticky stuff for ever.

Kitchen timers


 If you can guess what two minutes is, then you're a better person than me. Getting into the habit of switching a timer on will, I promise, save you from any number of kitchen disasters. Very often they are incorporated into ovens but if yours does not have one built in, they can be bought separately. Memories are fallible and a timer can save a lot of hard work from going out of the window.

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