How and Why We Designed the Pull-Out Food Scale

I am not a confident cook, so when I had to host Thanksgiving for 30 people, one of my biggest concerns was making sure I precisely followed the recipes of those far more skilled than me. I didn’t want to have too much or too little of anything and risk making my dishes too doughy, not sweet enough and so on. Accuracy, consistency, and proper conversion could mean the difference between a happy meal and a bunch of annoyed, rumbling tummies, but achieving those with just my eyeballs and my iPhone was tough. This was a situation where I really could have used a scale.

6 min read

Of course, cooking for a large group of hungry holiday-ers isn’t the only situation that calls for the precision of a scale. How about portioning for more balanced eating? Eyeballing two ounces of this, a quarter pound of that or a pinch of anything isn’t always easy.

In 2006, we saw an opportunity to make the whole experience of measuring easier and more enjoyable, whether for the holidays or everyday—that’s why we developed our first Pull-Out Food Scale(Opens in a new window).

Precision is the big motivator for someone to use a food scale, but it wasn’t enough for an OXOnian just to make a scale that was precise. Instead, we wanted to dig deeper to understand and address other frustrations both home chefs and professionals had when using scales. Things like:

Inability to see the scale’s reading: For measuring something small, like baker’s chocolate, this isn’t an issue. However, when you’re measuring a large quantity of dry ingredients in a big bowl, the edge of the bowl could shadow the display. In some cases, the bowl’s edge completely covered the display. Of course, if you move the bowl back a bit or pick it up to see the display...well, talk about an imprecise measurement.

Tough to tell when the scale has maxed out: Without an indicator, people will just keep adding...and adding...and adding...until pretty soon they have a bowl full of flour or other ingredients (a potential recipe ruiner) and no idea where they hit the scale’s limit. Then, they have to either start over or go through the annoying process of removing ingredients bit by bit.

Storage challenges: Odd shapes or a large footprint have made it difficult to find a home for the scale in a cabinet.

Cleanability: Many people measure directly on the scale rather than in a bowl, and for frequent bakers this can start to get messy. It was important for us to make it easy to deep clean the measuring surface without requiring people to submerge the whole scale.

We knew precision was the starting point, so we designed the scale to use digital logic and to measure within an eighth of an ounce.

food-scale-2 Early prototype of the 11 Lb Food Scale with Pull Out Display

Then, we focused on the display. We tried multiple approaches to solve the visibility challenge but ultimately found inspiration in one of our nation’s most established institutions: the United States Postal Service. The pull-out displays in commercial postal scales make it easy to see measurements regardless of how much a package peeks over the edge, but this methodology wasn’t yet widely used in consumer products. In testing, we learned that having a smooth retraction of the display was critical to a good user experience, so we coiled the wires in a specific way and added magnets inside the scale to keep the path of the display smooth and steady. And, as a thoughtful additional touch, we opted to backlight the display to make the numbers readable regardless of shadow.


Next came the capacity indicator. To help users know when they've maxed out the scale, we added a visual indicator on the display that fills in as the scale gets closer and closer to its limit. We also made the top easily removable for easy cleaning, the profile slim to allow for easy storage, and the body of stainless steel for durability and countertop appeal, just in case frequent users wanted to make it a permanent fixture in their kitchens.

These innovative features resonated with home chefs and professionals, and, although we've since launched new digital scales with different capacities and designs, the core functionality has stayed largely the same. We've also heard about some new use cases over the years.

Amy, our Product Manager who brought the first OXO scale to market, was a nervous first-time parent when her daughter was born and wanted to be sure her daughter was growing at a healthy rate. Instead of taking the unscientific approach of standing on a scale herself, then picking up her daughter and trying to do mental math, Amy used the food scale. She placed a cookie sheet on top, zeroed out the scale and then added a burp cloth and Olivia. This proved to be an accurate and effective way of tracking her daughter’s weight for the first 11 pounds.

5lbscale11lbscale 22lbscale glassscale

What do you use your food scale for?


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