Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Weighing in on scales

by Russ Bean, for Chef Educator Today

Editors' note: This article is an online exclusive for the May 2009 issue of Chef Educator Today.

Ingredient and food-portion control is a kitchen fundamental, but even some experienced chefs dismiss the practice as time-consuming or not necessary. The reality, though, is that the tools of food-portion control are simple and inexpensive. Graduated measures are used for portioning liquids and some dry powdered ingredients, including expensive herbs and spices. Simple ladles can be used to control soup and sauce dispensing. Scales are used for dry-weight portioning of recipe ingredients, sandwich meats and cheese, plus prepared foods, including deli salads, entrées and sides.

Accurate mechanical or digital scales are the basic tools for recipe-ingredient control. In addition to avoiding waste of expensive recipe ingredients, the use of scales helps ensure quality and batch-to-batch consistency. While an experienced chef knows "a pinch" when he or she sees it, less experienced cooks need a simple and easily repeatable way to measure key ingredients.

Mechanical scales are still widely used in foodservice for both ingredient and portion control. (People like the simple analog dial and needle pointer.) For many applications, accuracy to the nearest ounce or half-ounce is adequate. Mechanical scales are available with different maximum weight capacities, which can be matched to fit your classroom's need. For sandwich ingredients, a two- or five-pound (maximum) scale is fine. For example, Winchester, Va.-based Rubbermaid Commercial Product's Pelouze 800 Series (photo, right) washable mechanical portion-control scales are available in 32-ounce and 5-, 10-, 20-, 32- and 40-pound models.

In this digital Information Age, it is no shock that digital scales are gaining the upper hand. Based on sophisticated load cell technology, digital scales are capable of very precise weight measurements; some models display in increments of one-tenth (0.1) of an ounce or in grams. With their solid-state design, digital scales are typically flat and compact, often just two or three inches high, with a large stainless steel load platform that can be removed for easy cleaning. Dayton, Ohio-based Globe Foodservice Equipment Co.'s GPS10 Portion Control Scale (photo, left) can be set to weigh food in pounds, ounces, grams or kilograms, and to display that weight in nice big 1-inch LCD characters. It has a durable ABS plastic body with a stainless steel platter that is removable for easy cleaning.

Cleanability is certainly a big issue with all these scales, especially scales used for portioning deli meats, cheeses and ingredients that will not be cooked. Like any kitchen surface, scales are susceptible to bacterial or viral cross contamination. So scales need to be easy and safe to clean. The new Poseidon WSC-10 Heavy Duty Digital Portion Scale (photo, right) from Edlund Co., Burlington, Vt., has a stainless steel body that is designed to be completely submersible, which makes washing fast and easy. This self-calibrating model is designed for use in harsh environments (aren't all kitchens?), and it offers six display options and has adjustable leveling feet. Edlund also offers a dishwasher-safe mechanical scale in its DOU-2 Model.

The only downside to digital scales is that they do require a little electric power in the form of either 9-volt batteries or a plug-in to a 120-volt outlet via AC adapter. But some, like the Globe GPS10, have an automatic shut-off to conserve battery power and save energy when not taking measurements of key ingredients or food portions.

Barry Callebaut announces World Chocolate Masters judges, partners with Kendall College

Cocoa and chocolate manufacturer Barry Callebaut announced that pastry chefs Andrew Shotts and Paulina Abascal will represent the United States and Mexico, respectively, on the 2009 World Chocolate Masters judging panel. This year's World Chocolate Masters will be held at the Salon Du Chocolat in Paris from Oct. 14 to 16. Shotts is the owner of Garrison Confections, a gourmet chocolate maker in Providence, R.I.

pastry chef Andrew Shotts

Abascal is a renowned pastry chef in Mexico and host of "Pasteleria.MX," a show on V-me, a Hispanic television network in the United States.

pastry chef Paulina Abascal

Barry Callebaut also announced it is the official chocolate partner of Kendall College's School of Culinary Arts. As part of the partnership, all chocolate desserts served in Kendall's gourmet restaurant, The Dining Room, will be made with Barry Callebaut products. In addition, Kendall will use the range of artisans and specialists available at Barry Callebaut as guest lecturers and trainers in chocolate work.