Food Duels: Soft-Serve Vs. Hard-Pack Ice Cream

By FWx Editors |

In honor of Top Chef Duels, airing tonight on Bravo at 10 ET., we’re taking on some food battles of our own. Today’s topic provoked a shocking amount of controversy around the office. Ice cream. And it wasn’t the typical head-butting that comes with chocolate versus vanilla or cones versus cups. Today we’re fighting about ice cream style at its most basic: soft serve or hard pack. Breaking down the eight attributes of soft serve,  FWx editor Justine “Never-met-a-Blizzard-I-didn’t-like” Sterling; and in defense of the hard stuff, Noah “Always-keep-your-scoop-in-hot-water” Kaufman. Let’s get to it.


JS: It’s like baby food, but ice cream. It’s the easiest thing to eat in the world.

NK: We’re all adults here. Adults with teeth. We don’t need to gum our food. The various bits and pieces that can go into what I’m henceforth calling real ice cream can actually provide interesting texture.


JS: One of the best things about soft serve is that whatever you top it with will immediately stick to it. No need to waste valuable time pressing in sprinkles. The second those jimmies touch the ice cream they’re stuck. Toppings also become instant mix-ins. Try swirling gummy bears into a rock-hard scoop of hard-pack ice cream. Not gonna happen, unless you break out the marble slab and go Cold Stone on its ass.

NK: The marble slab makes for excellent showmanship, but that’s besides the point. I reject the idea that late-addition toppings deserve much consideration. What does it say about a dessert if the only thing that makes it good is what you add to it? That would be like saying the best part about Kim Kardashian is her plastic surgery. Wait…


JS: OK, fine. There’s no chain store selling 31 flavors of soft serve. Unless you’re at Momofuku Milk Bar, where soft serve comes in flavors like cereal milk and birthday cake, you’re probably going to be choosing between three options: chocolate, vanilla and swirl. If you aren’t happy with one of those three, then you’re just way too high maintenance. No one is ever going to want to date you.

NK: It is literally impossible for me to list all of the real ice cream flavors available without breaking this blog post because of too much text. Even just picking one producer, the flavor choices are almost boundless. Anyone with time on their hands can peruse the Ben and Jerry’s website. At the moment they have 58 options. Soft serve should consider itself on notice that it needs to up the creativity.


JS: There are more than 6,000 Dairy Queens in the US, and you can get soft serve at all of them. Factor in all of the Mister Softee trucks and knockoff Mister Softee trucks, and soft serve is at your fingertips almost anywhere you go. It’s mobile, for gosh sakes. The soft serve comes to you!

NK: Not only does every town in America have a scoop shop, you can also get it in the freezer aisle of every supermarket. Heck, you can even get in the freezer aisle of a crappy bodega, and the only other things they sell are cleaning solution and Wonder Bread.

Mess Factor

JS: If you get sticky fingers, then you’re not eating it fast enough. End of argument. Pick up the pace, soldier.

NK: Sure, pick up the pace. And the terrible ice cream headache begins in 5…4…3…
Dessert is meant to be savored. If you want to take 15 minutes to eat your final course, you should be able to do so without it dripping down your chin.


JS: Soft serve is an of the moment kind of treat. Stop thinking about the future. Think about the now. Right now, you have ice cream—eat it! Soft serve is the Zen of ice cream. 

NK: Maybe you’ve never been broken up with, Justine, but when it happened to me all I wanted was a pint of ice cream and a good cry. If I had to go to one of your soft-serve shops I would have been thrown out, sans ice cream, for sobbing too loudly. Sometimes we just want to eat ice cream in the privacy of our own homes. So thank you, real ice cream. Thank you for allowing me my privacy.


JS: Cone. Cup. Shake. Sure, hard pack can do all of those things too. But can you make a Blizzard or a McFlurry with it?! Yeah, I didn’t think so.

NK: Conveniently left off your list? The best vehicle of all for ice cream: the waffle cone. I can count on one hand the number of places that serve soft serve in a crispy, rolled waffle. But no real ice cream parlor could ever get away without providing it as an option.

We might not have settled this definitively, but at least we can all agree that Dippin’ Dots are the worst.

Let us know who you think won in the comments below, or tweet us with #FWxDuels on Twitter.

Related: 5 Flawless Ice Cream Sandwiches that Will Ruin You for Cones 
5 Outrageously Easy Frozen Desserts 
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