What Are Metric Weights and Why Should You Use Them?

Here in the US of A, folks tend to be pretty adamant about sticking with our current system of measurement. But almost the entirety of the rest of the world has different ideas about how food items such as chocolate should be weighed and measured.

If you're a resident of the U.S., you may be wondering, "So what?" But if you want to improve your home cooking and baking, then you may want to consider switching to metric weights. 

Need some convincing? Here's an overview of what metric weights are and how home chefs of all stripes can benefit from using them. 

What Are Metric Weights?

To understand what metric weights are, we first need to identify what they aren’t. They are not part of the dominant measurement system in the U.S., which goes by many names including the Customary System. In this system, there are several units for weight including ounces, pounds, tons, and so on.

In the metric system, there’s only one unit for weight: the gram. This system also uses different units for other measurements; namely liters for volume and meters for length. These units are standardized, so any country that employs the metric system is working with the same units as other countries using the same system. 

Because we’re talking about metric weights, we’re mostly interested in the gram here. When it comes to the culinary world, this unit typically measures non-liquid ingredients such as butter, cheese, flour, meats, sugar—and, of course, chocolate. If quantities of these ingredients ever surpass 1,000 grams in weight, then the metric system employs the kilogram (which equals 1,000 grams).

Why Use Metric Weights?

Okay, so now that we understand what metric weights are and how they might be relevant to the foods you eat, including chocolate, let’s dive in to why metric weights offer extra value in the culinary world:

  • They provide an (almost) universal measurement. Being willing to work with metric weights opens you up to a broad world of recipes from other countries (because most countries utilize the metric system) or from more professional gourmands, who often don’t deign to use any system but metric. By equipping yourself with a decent scale, you’ll be able to tackle virtually any recipe.  Also, most scales allow you to toggle between ounces/pounds and grams!
  • They take the guesswork out of measuring ingredients. As a general rule, weight is a more reliable measurement than volume. For instance, “one cup” of chocolate can mean a lot of things—depending on whether the chocolate is finely chopped or coarsely chopped, or one cup of flour can be different if you just poured the flour into your container so it’s aerated and light versus it sitting and settling into its container over time so it’s more densely packed.  Volume is relative and weight is constant. These discrepancies can cause the amount you add to a recipe to vary wildly and potentially impact the final dish. In contrast, working with weights means you don't have to worry about whether you’re using the right amount. Bonus: You’ll never have to eyeball wonky instructions such as “one tablespoon minus 1/8 teaspoon” again.
  • They cut down on equipment. If you place a mixing bowl on a metric scale and add your ingredients directly to the bowl simply by weight, there’s no need for measuring cups, levelers, and other measuring tools. This helps cut down on messes while you’re baking or cooking and makes cleanup easier once you’ve finished up in the kitchen.
  • They improve consistency. Have you ever succeeded at cooking up a recipe one time and failed miserably the next? Uneven measurements might have had something to do with it. The metric system can help your recipes stay consistent from one batch to the next, because you aren’t relying on manual measuring and the inconsistencies that can naturally arise from, say, attempting to count off 10 perfectly even cups of flour. 
  • They are easier to scale up or down in yield. Recipes using metric weights are much simpler to double or cut into thirds using basic multiplication and division.  Trying to cut a recipe into thirds when an ingredient calls for 2 tablespoons and a ½ teaspoon is trickier and has more risk for converting incorrectly.

While metric weights may take a little getting used to, employing these measurements in your cooking can make you a more consistent, accurate, and ultimately more relaxed home chef!