The average home cook doesn’t really need a scale unless they’re working with dishes that need precise measurements or do a lot of baking. In chef’s school, we measured all baking ingredients by weight instead of the Imperial “cups” system to help ensure a level of quality control on our finished products. In countries that have fully adapted to the metric system, all recipe ingredients are measured in grams, so a kitchen scale might also be useful for people who cook from any UK cookbooks.
The other and more popular use for a home kitchen scale is for health and nutrition purposes – to measure out exact amounts of foods to help in following a specific diet.
The type and quality of the scale required therefore depends very much on what you’re using it for. There’s also the choice between mechanical and digital, with people on both sides of the debate on which is best.
In terms of where to find such items, it really depends on the quality needed. Department stores such as Zellers carry very basic mechanical models, while hardware stores like Canadian Tire have a baker’s version (able to weigh up to 5kg) and a nutritional version with nutritional values for a number of foods built right in.
I found the motherlode of kitchen scale selection at Placewares in St. Lawrence Market (93 Front Street East). With scales ranging in price from $7 to $99, they had a couple dozen different scales to suit any need – including one that measured in .05g increments, in case you’re measuring other, non-food “consumables”, potentially for resale. This would definitely be my first choice in terms of where to send someone looking for a kitchen scale for home use – they had big ones, small ones and everything in between to cover just about any required use.
I’d also suggest looking at Tap Phong (360 Spadina Avenue), or if the use is for more than just the occasional recipe, Nickolaou (629 Queen Street West) or Dinetz (231 King Street East) likely have industrial or professional versions that are probably a bit more spendy but can take the ongoing use such a scale would get in a restaurant environment.
And while there are plenty of different models of kitchen scales out there, when I need to measure something by weight, I actually use a postage scale that I’ve had kicking around since my days of running a mail-order record label.