Yesterday I was cooking a Focaccia were I required just a gramme of yeast and a gramme of salt.

When I try to use my (electric) scales, it never registers 1 gramme of difference. I also needed to weigh 5 grammes of olive oil, but i could not take out the exact quantity.

What can I do to measure very small quantities whilst cooking?

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    I use a digital scale that measures down to 0.01G like this amzn.to/2uppHjV for anything that needs 10 grams or less. For sub-gram accuracy, having a scale that you can recalibrate starts being important. – Netduke Jul 24 '17 at 12:28
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    @Netduke: Too bad it only weighs to a 100 grams, but I'll definitely get one once I have my meth lab up and running ;) – Willem van Rumpt Jul 24 '17 at 12:33
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    0.01 gram accuracy, so you don't overdose on the err..... spices – Netduke Jul 24 '17 at 12:37
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    I'd recommend reading this article (scroll down to "Overreliance on grams"). – Batman Jul 24 '17 at 19:37
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    @Batman I was rather underwhelmed by that article. IMO it opened with how bad measuring spoons are, rambled extensively about the problems with trying to use volume when weight was given or vice versa (irrelevant to the point), and then endorsed spoons because scales with 1g resolution are worse for things you only need a tiny amount of. – Dan Neely Jul 24 '17 at 20:38

Simplest solution: Buy a more sensitive scale. There's plenty around that can measure grams.

If that's not an option, you can sort of just about get it quite, but not completely wrong by using measuring spoons:

A full teaspoon with something in it is usually around 5 grams. A quarter teaspoon would be 1.25 grams, if you happen to have a 1/8th measuring spoon, it would be around 0,6 grams.

I'm not very proficient in baking (or not at all, really), but what I notice (or think I noticed) is that correct measurements in baking are more important than they are in cooking. So the best advice would still be (since you're baking a focaccia) to buy a more sensitive scale.

  • Most kitchen scales don’t reliably measure single gram difference, even though they claim the opposite. Scales that are precise enough are often quite pricey (the cheapest are probably postal scales). That said, single-gram precision is simply not required for virtually all recipes. No foccacia is going to be ruined by including 2g of yeast. It just needs to rise for less time. – Konrad Rudolph Jul 25 '17 at 13:43
  • @KonradRudolph: I immediately believe that a lot of scales claiming to measure to the gram are actually not doing that. Advertisement and reality rarely meet up 100%. I suspect they probably do a better job than my "teaspoon is about 5 grams, plus or minus a gram" though, even if off by margin of 20% (as proven by the 2.8 grams for yeast in the answer from Matt Vee). In any case: Unless your point is: "Don't buy/invest in a more sensitive scale", I can't see your point. – Willem van Rumpt Jul 25 '17 at 16:10
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    My point was twofold: (1) This degree of precision is hardly ever (or even never?) needed in the kitchen even for baking, so a precise scale might not be a cost-effective investment. (2) If investing in a precision scale, don’t blindly trust cheap products (though I agree with you that their precision will still be higher than teaspoons). Do your homework, and be prepared to shell out a bit more money. – Konrad Rudolph Jul 25 '17 at 16:15
  • Fair enough, on both points. I always feel that minor deviations from the recipe won't matter too much, but, as I said, I also noticed bakers/people who bake really tend to take their measurements quite seriously. I'm not a baker, so I felt obliged to mention that my measure-spoon-eyeball-it way may not be satisfactory for them. – Willem van Rumpt Jul 25 '17 at 18:17
  • A reliable 0.01g sensitivity scale is only about $10, I sure would not call this a investment priced purchase. This amzn.to/2uAWrFv scale is actually one of scales recommended by the modernist cuisine guys too. – Netduke Jul 26 '17 at 12:40

Convert it to volume. You can easily google the density of yeast or olive oil. When I did it for yeast I found that there's about 2.8g per tsp. So, a heaping 1/4 tsp is about 1g. I also found that 5g of olive oil is about 1.1 tsp.

The site I found is here: http://convert-to.com/

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    I'll often measure out a larger weight, just so that I can see how large it is by volume, and work out the density from that. (but I also have some tiny graduated cylinders that are marked at 1mL increments) – Joe Jul 24 '17 at 15:54
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    Densities work well for liquids but are terrible for dry matter. There’s easily a 2x margin of error, due to how compressed/wet/… the matter is. Might as well not measure at all and just use estimates. – Konrad Rudolph Jul 25 '17 at 13:48

You can measure a power of two, and then divide. For instance, you measure 15 grams, which is almost 16, and then you halve it, halve one of the halfs, etc., four times: you end up with one gram. Or measure 30 (almost 32) and halve five times.

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    @can-ned_food Because we have no need for weighing on a scale where physics break down and mass stops making sense? A kilo halved just a hundred times takes you past the mass of an electron. Maybe you meant halving it 10 times (as 1024 = 2^10)? – Arthur Jul 25 '17 at 11:16

A decimal gram scale is a lot more affordable then many people think. I have this one (https://www.amazon.com/TREE-KHR-3001-Kitchen-Scale/dp/B01HKK4GYS) and it is great. It's accurate to .1 gram and measures up to 3 kg.

  • I use this one all the time. Works great up to 500g. Not exactly the most durable model on the planet, but for light usage, it's perfect. Only 9 bucks! amazon.com/gp/product/B002SC3LLS/… – ChefAndy Jul 24 '17 at 16:13
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    Hmm, the Amazon link doesn’t list a price but when I add it to my cart the price is shown as 55.88$. Not really cheap. – Konrad Rudolph Jul 25 '17 at 13:46
  • Then go for the $9 one that @SomeInterwebDev suggested. The one I linked has a higher capacity (3 kg vs 500g) which is why it is more expensive. – Kevin Nowaczyk Jul 26 '17 at 13:26
  • I imagine having precision at higher weights requires much better equipment. – ChefAndy Jul 26 '17 at 22:11
  • For the most part, the price of a scale is based on the "number of increments" it has, or the precision times the capacity. A 30kg capacity scale that goes to 1g increments has most of the same internals as a 3kg capacity and .1g increments with just some minor manufacturing differences. If you look at scales within a brand family, you'll see the ratio between capacity and precision will be nearly identical for different sized scales. – Kevin Nowaczyk Jul 26 '17 at 23:27

Another option that's used often in analytical laboratories for the same reason: stock solutions!

Since you want to use fairly cheap ingredients, you can create a "stock solution" (in water1) and measure that with much more accuracy.

In your case, you can measure 10g each of salt & yeast, mix them with 80g of water to make 100g of a stock solution2 containing 10% by weight salt and 10% b.w. yeast. You can then measure 10g of this with fair accuracy and add it to your dough, effectively adding 1g each of salt and yeast.

The main downside of this method is that you are wasting salt & yeast to make the stock, but seeing as they're both fairly cheap I don't see it as a dealbreaker. The other point of attention is that you're adding a bit of extra bulk ingredient (8g of water in the above example), which you might need to take into account at some other point.

1: You can substitute water for flour, or any other bulk ingredient, however solid ingredients require very careful & thorough mixing for the above method to work
2: More accurately it's a dispersion as yeast doesn't really dissolve

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    How do you address the changes that occur with dilution, time and temperature? Mix yeast with warm water and a reaction will begin that almost immediately changes the concentration. Too much salt in the solution can harm the yeast, but if the salt is added separately then it won't adversely effect the recipe. Order of operations is often important in the kitchen. – Cos Callis Jul 25 '17 at 15:40
  • @CosCallis Adding yeast to water and then immediately using it is unproblematic. Yeast + salt + water might be more problematic, I’d probably prepare these solutions separately and mix them with the rest of the ingredients. – Konrad Rudolph Jul 25 '17 at 16:18
  • @CosCallis, as Konrad Rudolph wrote, I was thinking of using the solution(s) immediately after preparation and discarding the rest. Additionally, if the OP chooses to properly mix the salt & yeast in flour and keep the mixture cool & dry then the stock dispersion it should remain stable for a bit. – Markos Strofyllas Jul 25 '17 at 17:59

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