American kitchens: Why cups, and not weight? Where's the kitchen scale?
(This post has nothing to do with Frugal Month. It does have something to do with my recent obsessing about kitchens though.)
I like the cooking videos on the New York Times web site quite a lot. I especially like the ones from Apartment 4B, starring Jill Santopietro in her tiny kitchen. She’s adorable, and the recipes look workable.
But as I was watching this latest video, where she makes a pizza in that tiny kitchen, I was shaking my head in disbelief many times.
Well first, go and watch it if you haven’t yet. I’ll wait.
Seen it? Ok, this is what’s bothering me.
- She recommends ‘fluffing the flour up’, before scooping-and-leveling it out with your standard measuring cup.
- She then makes the pizza dough with a gigantic Kitchen Aid mixer.
So basically, this girl who has a kitchen barely big enough to turn around in, has a giant mixer, yet has no kitchen scale. I guess there’s some sort of rationale behind the fluffing up the flour step, but - isn’t it more important to have an accurate amount of flour in the dough? What if you fluff more one day than you do another, and your dough doesn’t turn out the same?
Which leads to a question that’s been bugging me for a long time. Why don’t American cooks like to weigh their ingredients?
Now, while I did spend a number of years living in the States, I essentially learned the fundamentals of cooking in Japan, with some England and Switzerland thrown in there. (This is mainly because when I lived in New York, I either was too broke to cook much beyond the basics, or (later on) I had a crazy 100 hour a week type of job which left me little time or energy for cooking. If I’d had a food blog back then, it would have been about the wonders of NYC takeout.) Anyway, the point is, I learned to cook with this basic understanding: For complete accuracy, you need to weigh out ingredients, especially for baking.
But every single American cookbook or recipe site has measurements in cups and spoons. This makes sense for liquid ingredients. And most recipes are forgiving enough so that a few grams or ounces more or less don’t make a big difference. But if you have a complicated recipe for cake or something that you want to be able to replicate reliably, in my mind cups don’t really make a lot of sense. Commercial recipes, which must be reliably reproduceable, don’t do cup measurements.
I do write out most of the the recipes on my sites with cup measurements (as well as ounces and grams) for U.S. readers. I have memorized archaic U.S. only measurements like a stick of butter = 8 Tbs. of butter = 4 ounces of butter. Still, I don’t really see that it’s totally logical.
A fairly fancy kitchen scale doesn’t cost more than $50 or so, $100 at most. (This list of kitchen scales on Amazon.com shows many in the $25 range.) That humongous KitchenAid in the video probably cost what - $400? $500? More? I did not have a very big kitchen in the house we just sold, so I couldn’t find the space for a mixer, but I only needed a tiny narrow shelf to house a good kitchen scale.
So, my U.S. based readers - what’s your opinion? Why do Americans love cup measurements, and not weight measurements? Do you have a kitchen scale? Do you use it? (Do you have a KitchenAid or other big gadget, and bake often, but no scale?)
(Disclaimer: I have nothing at all against KitchenAid. My sister has one, it’s beautiful. I admire it when I visit her.)
(Oh, and one more thing that bugged me about that video, though it’s not unique in this: Carmelize onions?? Make them smell like Carmel, California? Isn’t it caramelize??)