Measure It!Thursday, June 24, 2021
A toops, pinch, dash, twist, handful, little bit, etc, are all “freehand” descriptors used for measuring quantity in a recipe. A common question that is asked, especially by new cooks, is what does any of that mean? These types of measuring methods can pose problems in standardising a recipe. Simply put, the size of hands differs from person to person and by gender. This brings the discussion to the standardisation of measurement. Every year on May 20, the world celebrates World Metrology Day. This started in 1875 in a bid to have worldwide uniformity of measurement. Metrology is the science of measurement and is very important due to the applicability of measurement in all industries including the food industry.
Therefore, based on the science of metrology, the only way to ensure the exactness of a specification or recipe is by measurement. If measurement is not used then this can pose a food safety risk. For example, in the baking of chicken or the roasting of pork the use of a thermometer to check/measure the temperature will provide information on the degree of doneness of the meat. This also holds true for a canteen or other food service scenarios where temperature must be monitored to ensure foods are not kept in the food safety danger zone.
In addition, one downside of freehand instead of measurement is that it encourages food waste, down time and rework and can lead to increase in inefficiencies. “Freehanding” or “eyeballing” means people will use their judgement to determine the correct weight or volume during the measuring process. Individuals with long years of experience will be able to use freehand or eyeball measurement; however, the margin of error increases depending on what is happening with the person at any given time. Hence, this is not a good practice particularly for the new food service worker.
Some may consider time taken to measure burdensome or additional work. However, once the process is streamlined then the measuring step will help to improve efficiency, which is a positive impact. It is better that the cake has a melt-in-the-mouth texture than being as tough as bulla. A tough cake may not be a food safety concern but has quality implication; that batch of cakes will have to be dumped, increasing food waste and increasing operational expense. Cake customers are looking for soft and moist cake; do not turn customers away with a bulla that is imitating a cake.
In food processing or food service portioning, consistency and accuracy are important. This can only be achieved by using measurement. Parameters that are monitored or measured include brix, acidity, temperature, pH, etc. The basic tools of measurement that must be in an establishment include scales, thermometers and pH meter.
Metrology, the science of measurement, it has applicability across all industries. Measurement is very important in the control or reduction of food safety risks. Stop free handing and eyeballing; measure it!
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