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Equipment Review: Ice Cream Scoops

Fine Cooking Issue 87
Photos: Scott Phillips
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Ice cream scoops are simple tools with a simple purpose, but for some reason, they don’t do a very good job. Most scoops can’t do better than to scrape shavings out of a pint of firmly frozen premium ice cream. Let it sit and soften and you might get a decently shaped ball of ice cream, but then it tends to stick to the scoop. Manufacturers are aware of these little nuisances, and the market is now flooded with dozens of scoops designed to address them.

We tested scoops that fell into four general styles

Trigger-release scoops feature a blade set flush against a half-sphere bowl; when you squeeze the trigger, the blade scrapes under the scooped ice cream to free it. None of the six scoops we tested in this category readily served up attractive balls of ice cream. Even more problematic, ice cream tended to freeze under the blade, limiting its movement. Softened ice cream tended to stick, no matter what. Overall, these scoops didn’t impress us.

Newer to the market but similar in concept are scoops with catapult-like levers meant to push the ice cream straight out of the bowl. We tested four of these, plus two others made of flexible silicone that are designed to eject the ice cream when you press on the bowl itself. Like the trigger-release scoops, none of these scooped well, and often they didn’t release well either, especially when the ice cream was on the soft side.

In the third category are scoops with points. These look as if part of the bowl has been cut away, creating two pointed corners. The points are intended to dig in and scoop ice cream with greater ease. For the most part, the four models we tried did scoop successfully, but the Cuisipro dug in much more easily than the others. The Cuisipro also made nice, dense balls of ice cream, and the ice cream pretty much fell out of the scoop (the nonstick surface no doubt helped).

Last, we tested scoops that, in essence, thaw the ice cream as you scoop. Three of the models had defrosting fluid sealed inside the bowl and handle, and one required pouring warm water into the handle. We were surprised by how well these worked, sliding slowly but smoothly into the ice cream. They warmed the ice cream just enough to ease scooping but not enough to compromise the quality of the ice cream. Of all the models, Zeroll’s carved out the best scoop, making it our first choice.

The Winners

Zeroll ice cream scoops
$16.90 for aluminum scoop $21.90 for nonstick scoop at CooksWares.com

A popular choice with professionals, these scoops transfer heat from your hand to defrosting fluid sealed inside the handle and bowl. The ice cream gently yields to the scoop, much as it does after running a scoop under hot water. The effect, however, is more consistent, and there’s no hassle of repeated dipping in water. The result is beautifully rounded balls of ice cream that readily slip out of the scoop. The nonstick model has a sleeker feel, but the less-expensive aluminum model performs just as well. These scoops must be washed by hand and cannot be put in water over 140°F.

Cuisipro ice cream scoop
$13.95 at CutleryAndMore.com

The uniquely shaped bowl on this scoop allows it to dive into even the hardest ice cream (if it’s rock hard, it’ll take some effort, but it’s manageable). Made of zinc alloy with a nonstick coating, the bowl sculpts perfect globes of ice cream and easily maneuvers around the tight corners of a pint container. The thick handle provides a comfortable grip, and the scoop is dishwasher safe. This scoop is a bit hefty, so if that’s not to your liking, the lighter Zeroll might be a better fit.

Scooping Tips

How to scoop. The more continuous and smooth the movement of the scoop, the easier it is to form an evenly shaped ball. It helps to drag the scoop around the edge of the carton rather than back and forth.

Easier entertaining. To save yourself time and trouble when serving ice cream to a crowd, scoop it ahead and store in the freezer on a chilled baking sheet or in individual bowls. Cover the ice cream well with plastic wrap.

Storing ice cream. To keep the flavor fresh and to prevent ice crystals from forming on the surface, smooth a piece of plastic wrap or waxed paper directly on the ice cream before replacing the lid. A rubber band cinched around the lid’s edge will also help keep air out.

How We Tested

To find out how successful these “problem-solving” scoops are, we tested 22 of them under a variety of ice cream conditions—rock hard, perfectly softened, and a bit melty. Our goal was to find the scoops that could carve round, compact balls of ice cream without a struggle and release them just as easily. We scooped from rectangular half-gallon cartons and cylindrical pints.

In addition to our favorite scoops shown above, we tested the following 19 scoops (listed alphabetically by category): Trigger-release scoops by Amco Housewares, Fox Run, Hamilton Beach, Oxo Good Grips, RSVP Endurance, and Zeroll; press-release scoops by Amco Housewares, Kitchen Collection, Orka/Mastrad, Oxo Good Grips, Oxo Steel, and Zack Futuro; scoops with points by KitchenAid, Oxo Good Grips, and Zyliss; and self-defrosting scoops by Fox Run and Norpro. We also tested Good Cook’s twister scoop and Oxo Good Grips beak-shaped scoop.

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