Weighing in: Should all recipes require you to use a kitchen scale?

Recent online special guests included restaurateurs and cookbook authors Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby. Here are edited excerpts from that chat. Recipes whose names are capitalized can be found in our Recipe Finder at washingtonpost. com/recipes.


Q: About six months ago, I bought a kitchen scale. It has revolutionized my baking (and cooking, on occasion). I find that my baking is much more consistent, and the finished product is as the recipe writer intended.

As a result, I now struggle when baking from a recipe that designates only cup, tablespoon, etc., measurements. For instance, Ellie Kreiger's recipe for the Double Chocolate "War" Cake does not indicate weight measurements, so I am hesitant to try it.

I know it would be a tremendous hassle, but have you considered including weight measurements in all your recipes?

A: I appreciate your thoughtful request, and congrats on the acquisition! Adding ingredients to the same bowl as you tare away on your scale is liberating. We're always open to improving the reader experience here at WaPo Food. Here's some of my current thinking on adding weights to all baking recipes:

● For simple cakes like Ellie's, measuring by weight is not all that important.

● We'd have to select and go by standard weights for a huge variety of flours and sugars, etc. You'd be surprised - as we are - by how many times what we weigh and what King Arthur Flour indicates can differ. And weights can vary depending on the humidity factor in your environs.

● Speaking of surprising, not that many home cooks have or use kitchen scales.

● We like to keep recipes as simple and clean-reading as possible. And frankly, introducing more numbers also raises more opportunities for mistakes.

- Bonnie S. Benwick 

A: We generally support the idea of more cooks using scales, but Bonnie is right about the issues.

- Joe Yonan 


Q: I'm having a big dinner party in a couple of weeks for which I'm making mashed white and sweet potatoes. A lot of the food is last-minute, so I'm wondering how far in advance I can make them. I usually cook them the night before and reheat them in a casserole in the oven, which works really well.

Could they go into the freezer if I made them this weekend, or would that screw up the consistency too much? Could I make them Wednesday and leave them in the fridge for the Saturday party? I was hoping to do them earlier so I'm not saddled with a million things to do the night before.

A: Definitely go with Wednesday prep and storing in the fridge. Freezing potatoes leads to lots of water buildup and ice. They'd be waterlogged.

- Rich Landau, Kate Jacoby 


Q: Every year, I make a big batch of chicken corn soup based on a recipe my mother learned when we lived in Lancaster, Pa. This year, I remembered that your corn chowder recipe called for using the cobs when making the stock. I did that, and it made a big positive difference in how the soup came out! It almost seemed as if I had added cream to the pot, but it was otherwise the way I always make it.

A: A tasteful testimonial! We have two chowder recipes that call for using the cobs. Which one caught your eye: the Double Corn Summer Chowder, the Vegetarian Corn Chowder or the Corn and Sweet Potato Chowder With Saffron Cream?

- B.S.B. 


Q: I am in the market for some reusable containers to bring leftovers in to work to heat them up. I'd prefer they be glass, but have a lid that clasps on. Does anyone have any that they really like that are microwave-safe?

A: GlassLock came out on top in a Cook's Illustrated equipment review.

- Becky Krystal 


Q: I don't have a stand mixer, so how do I adapt a bread recipe that calls for one? Would the kneading time double, triple or more if I knead the dough by hand?

A: Although baking is so exact, the recipes themselves inevitably leave themselves open to interpretation: Every kitchen is different, and kitchens themselves vary day to day. I make dough at home by hand, and it's all about knowing what you're looking for.

Working by hand, you will probably knead about 1 1/2 times as long, but it's best to stop when you think you've met the recipe's description (tacky, just forms a ball, firm ball, etc.)

- R.L., K.J. 


Q: I've been tasked with making snacks for a picnic. I'm considering making your Candied Lavender Pecans. They look pretty good, and they'd be easily transported.

My question: My officemates aren't the most sophisticated eaters, and I'm wondering whether the lavender would be too "out there" for them.

A: This is not one of those hit-you-over-the-head-with-lavender recipes. The lavender is noticeable but subtle - very nice. Give them a shot.

- J.Y.

Reader Comments

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