Digital vs. mechanical kitchen scales
A kitchen scale is a convenient tool for both cooking and baking, allowing you to quickly and easily measure ingredients without using measuring cups and spoons. This is especially convenient for baking, as recipes often require precise measurements.
When purchasing a kitchen scale, you’ll find both newer digital models and mechanical or analog models. Digital scales operate with an electrical outlet or batteries and use internal computer technology to precisely measure the weight, whereas mechanical scales use a series of springs.
The type of kitchen scale that will be best for you depends on factors like the price point, durability, ease of storage and cleaning requirements.
Digital kitchen scale
A digital kitchen scale uses an internal control board and sensor chips to precisely and accurately measure your food. Digital technology means that these scales can easily measure in grams, ounces, kilograms and pounds, plus convert between these units of measurement.
Digital kitchen scales are typically very precise, which is especially convenient for baking recipes where you may need exact measurements or small quantities of things like salt and baking powder. These scales feature a backlit display for a user-friendly read and include a digital tare function that’s often easier to use than many mechanical models. Plus they typically have a slim and compact design that makes them easy to stow away when not in use, even in small kitchen spaces. A digital kitchen scale generally costs between $10-$35.
Digital kitchen scale pros
- Precise and accurate measurement. These scales are digitally calibrated and can often measure to the precise gram or ounce, unlike some mechanical scales which measure in larger increments.
- Easy to read. The digital display gives you a precise measurement you can accurately read without any guesswork.
- Has multiple units of measurement. Most digital kitchen scales can conveniently measure in grams, ounces, kilograms, and pounds and can easily switch between different units.
- Lightweight and slim designs. Digital kitchen scales are generally light and compact, which makes them easy to store in tight spaces.
Digital kitchen scale cons
- Less durable. The computer inside a digital scale may be less durable over time than a scale made with stainless steel springs.
- Requires a power source. A digital scale requires either an electrical outlet or battery power, which can be inconvenient for some. The cost of batteries will add to the expense.
- Can be challenging to clean. Digital scales can’t be run through the dishwasher or be exposed to too much water, which can make them more difficult to clean than a manual scale.
Best digital kitchen scales
This user-friendly digital scale has a slim build as well as a highly accurate and easy-to-read, brightly lit display. Its compact and attractive design makes it easy to stow in a kitchen drawer or keep on your kitchen counter. This scale runs on lithium batteries and does have a shorter battery life than some other models.
This budget-friendly scale has a lot of perks for its low price point, including a lightweight and stylish design, multiple units of measurement and excellent battery life. It can handle up to 11 pounds of food at once. One drawback: it measures in increments of 2 grams, so it’s not quite as precise as other models.
An attractive stainless steel scale from a trusted brand that’s highly accurate, easy to read and built to last. It has a removable platform for easy cleaning and a fingerprint-resistant finish. The large pull-out display makes it easier to read than some smaller scales.
Mechanical kitchen scales
Mechanical kitchen scales are also called “analog” scales or “spring” scales, as they use a series of mechanical springs to measure the weight. Weight causes the plate to compress the springs, which correspond to dials on the display. Mechanical scales do not require any form of power source, which makes them more portable and convenient for those with only a few outlets in their kitchen. Their heavy-duty stainless steel construction also makes them more durable than some digital scales. They are also easier to clean as they do not have any digital parts that would be susceptible to water damage.
Because manual kitchen scales often measure in larger increments, they may be slightly less accurate and have less precise readings than digital scales. The display can likewise be more challenging to read than a digital scale. A mechanical kitchen scale costs between $25-$50, which is slightly more expensive than many digital scale models.
Mechanical kitchen scale pros
- Doesn’t require a power source. Mechanical kitchen scales can be used without batteries or an electrical outlet.
- Easy to calibrate. Unlike digital scales, a mechanical scale can be easily recalibrated if needed by twisting a knob attached to the spring.
- Sturdy and durable. Mechanical scales are made from heavy-duty materials that are built to last. However, if you use the scale a lot for a long time, you may need to eventually replace the springs.
- Easy to clean. Mechanical scales can be easily washed or wiped down without concern of water damage.
Mechanical kitchen scale cons
- Less accurate. Mechanical kitchen scales often do not have the precision of many digital scales and might be slightly less accurate.
- Often only reads one or two units of measurement. A mechanical scale may only read in pounds or kilograms and not offer the convenience of different units of measurement like a digital scale does.
- Many models don’t have a tare function. Mechanical scales don’t offer the convenience of a tare function like most digital scales do. This can make it more difficult to measure multiple ingredients at once in something like a cookie dough or pancake batter.
Best mechanical kitchen scales
Taylor Stainless Steel Analog Scale: available at Amazon
This mechanical scale is known for accuracy and precision as well as its classic and attractive design. The oversized dial is easy to read and displays both grams and ounces. This scale is also backed by Taylor’s one-year limited warranty for peace of mind.
LEM Analog Food Scale: available at Home Depot
This well-built stainless steel scale that weighs in both grams/kilograms and ounces/pounds and can handle up to 6.6 pounds of food at once. This scale is best for large projects that don’t require precise measurements, as it measures kilograms in increments of 50 grams and pounds in increments of 2 ounces.
Should you get a digital kitchen scale or a mechanical kitchen scale?
A digital kitchen scale offers convenient features, compact design and an affordable price, making it the preferred choice for most home cooks and professional chefs. However, a mechanical kitchen scale is a great second choice, especially if you need a scale that functions without battery power or an electrical outlet.
Katy Severson is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.
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