Restaurants, bars, cafeterias and caterers all rely on accurate measuring and portion control tools to save time, reduce food costs and maintain consistency.
Before you can properly control portions your culinary creations, first, you need to accurately measure ingredients. When you have been measuring the same ingredients day after day for years, your memory muscle can easily eyeball quantities but the only way to really know for sure is to measure. In an industry where every penny counts, using the right tool can save money and time.
For home kitchens, these same measuring and portion control tools will save money and time, but for many will also help manage nutrition.
What are Measuring and Portion Control Tools?
Measuring and restaurant portion control tools do the same thing – measure a specified amount of an ingredient or menu item. However, like all tools, certain ones can do a better job than others. What we mean is that some tools allow for better accuracy and/or consistency for a particular task.
Types of Measuring and Portion Control Tools
Here are the measuring and portion control tools every kitchen should know:
Weighing is the most accurate way to measure ingredients. Every kitchen should have at least one kitchen scales on hand. Scales can save time and money, both valuable assets in any kitchen.
Scales can be mechanical or electronic. Electronic (digital scales) are fast, accurate and easy-to-read, however, mechanical scales are simpler, inexpensive, portable and require no power.
When purchasing a scale determine the range of weights you want to weigh on the same machine - it may be necessary to have two scales. Also consider how accurate you need your weights and chose a scale with the correct incremental measurements. Do you need to weigh ingredients to 100 g, 1 g or 0.1 g? Important for any restaurant owner or operator wanting to control food costs.
Extra features to consider that could benefit your commercial kitchen are a tare, memory or counting function, being waterproof, having a rechargeable battery and if the plate/bowl is removable for cleaning. For more details about scales and what to know, read our scales buying guide.
A disher is a spring-loaded scoop that with a squeeze (or thumb press) activates a blade to release the entire contents of the scoop bowl. Popular in many kitchens for their ease of use and ability to assist in food cost control. Portion control dishers can be made of stainless steel or a combination of stainless steel and plastic.
Dishers are referred to by number, which can be found on or inside the handle, on the thumb press or on the bowl blade. The number indicates the number of scoops yielding from 1 qt of product, but is based on a standard volume measurement.
Styles include thumb press and squeeze handle. Thumb press is designed for right-handed kitchen staff but lefties can manage. Squeeze handles are ambidextrous and reduce hand fatigue under repeated use. Dishers with plastic handles are colour coded for easy reference.
Dishers are perfect for soft foods where scraping the scoop bowl for each food portion would be time consuming. A favourite tool for portioning cookie and muffin dough, meatballs, mashed potatoes, hummus, sandwich spreads (tuna, chicken, egg, cream cheese) and chocolate truffles.
A combination of a spoon and ladle, a spoodle gives chefs the best of both types of utensils increasing speed of service and ensuring consistent portion sizes. These portion control spoons have round or oval bowls and straight handles and can be made of stainless steel, plastic or a combination.
The volume capacity of the spoodle is printed or stamped on the handle and the length of the handle is a consideration depending on container size and depth and to reduce reaching.
Bowls of spoodles can be solid or perforated. Perforated spoodles can be used to measure ingredients that may be stored in liquid but need to be drained for the recipe or to remove extra liquid before serving to customers.
Spoodle handles are straight allowing the user to rest the spoodle on the side of the container to either level the ingredients or allow drainage. Manufacturers offer colour coded handles for simple volume identification.
For measuring ingredients, every kitchen needs measuring cups. There are two types of measuring cups - one type for dry ingredients and one for liquid ingredients. They both can hold the same volume, but the type of cup you use is determined by the ingredient.
Dry measuring cups can be made of stainless steel or plastic and typically have handles. This style of measuring cup is meant to be used for a single measurement (½ cup for instance) and designed so cooks and bakers can level off the ingredient for accuracy.
Liquid measuring cups are graduated containers, typically with handles and pour spouts and can be made of glass, plastic or metal. Graduated measurements are printed or embossed on the container. For accuracy, use a liquid measuring cup with appropriate incremental measurements. For example, it would is difficult to accurately measure 125 mL in a 4 L container.
When you only need to measure small amounts (from 1 mL to 30 mL) of either dry or liquid ingredients, measuring spoons are the better option. Made of stainless steel or plastic, spoons can have round or oval bowls with the capacity printed or embossed on the handle.
Typically sold in sets ranging from 3 to 6 pieces, their capacities will range depending on the set. However, there are also foodservice brands, like Vollrath, that sell measuring spoons separately.
Specialty measuring spoons for foodservice also include sets with long handles, allowing operators to reach the bottom of larger food containers like those for spices, spice blends and dried herbs. You will also find ladle shaped versions as well for portioning small amounts of liquid ingredients and sauces.
Designed for scooping and serving all types of liquids, ladles can be made of stainless steel, plastic or a combination. Ladles are indispensable tools of all foodservice kitchens and dining rooms.
Ladle bowls can have rounded or flat bottoms or can be oval with pour spouts and handles can be various lengths. Volume is printed or embossed on the handles.
Additional feature to consider for your kitchen are handle hooks for hanging on the edge of pots or for storage, handle coatings and style for minimizing heat transfer if left in hot foods.
Ladles are a preferred self-serve tool for salad dressings, sauces, soups and stews for buffet service. Ensure you also consider the visual appeal of the ladle, length of handle and ease of use in addition to serving sizes.
Control the flow and keep a tight rein on your alcohol and cocktail mix inventory with bar pourers and jiggers. Also called liquor pourers or pour spouts, pourers can be measured or free flowing and are made of plastic or a combination of stainless steel and plastic.
Measured pourers dispense a predetermined volume of liquid on each pour. Colour coded versions can be used to quickly identify either liquor type or standard measurement.
Features to consider when choosing a pourer include speed if you are a high-volume bar, flip caps or covers if bartending outdoors and closure type (collared vs non-collared) to minimize leaks and drips. Also remember to review the bottle opening sizes of your bar inventory. If using bottles larger than 750 mL, a larger cork size may be necessary for a tight, leak-free fit.
Free flowing pourers mean that when tipped, the liquid flows continuously until tipped back. For accurate measuring free-flowing pourers are meant to be used with a jigger. Efficiency and speed are benefits of using this type of pourer and are popular with experienced bar staff and high-volume bars.
Used with free flowing pourers, a jigger, also called a shot glass or measuring glass, is a flared glass or cup that holds a standard measurement of liquor or liquid. Made of stainless steel, glass or plastic, this measuring tool is a must in all bars.
Jiggers can be a single cup or can be two different volume cups attached base to base. The smaller size of a two-sided jigger is called a pony and is usually half the volume of the larger side.
Speed and efficiency are benefits of using a jigger and free flowing pourer and are populate with professional bartenders and in busy cocktail bars.
From a customer service perspective, when they sit at your table or open the takeout container, they expect their meal to look and taste the same as the last time they ordered. That all starts with measuring and ends with portioning.
Whatever you are cooking, brewing, frying, stirring or pouring; measure and portion with confidence using the right measuring and foodservice portion control tools.