F&W tested seven popular ice cream scoops to find the best.

By Sarah DiGregorio
June 26, 2019
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David Cicconi / Food & Wine  

Welcome to F&W Gear Guides. We publish buyer’s guides to essential pieces of kitchen gear based on real-world testing. Missed an installment?  Find them all here.

Yes, there’s a best ice cream scoop. After testing seven popular models, we found one that blew away the competition by allowing us to produce perfectly round scoops of ice cream with minimal effort.

The winners:

  • Our Favorite Ice Cream Scoop: Zeroll Original Ice Cream Scoop, $14 at amazon.com
  • Best Ice Cream Scoop for Small Hands: Zyliss Ice Cream Scoop, $12 at amazon.com
  • Two More Worthy Ice Cream Scoops: OXO Good Grips Solid, $15 at amazon.com and Sumo, $14 at amazon.com

Read on to see how we tested.

Related: The 8 Absolute Best Ice Cream Makers to Buy, According to the Experts

In Search of the Best Ice Cream Scoop

Ice cream is the food of my people. I grew up on Cape Cod, where every teenaged townie spends at least one summer scooping ice cream for tourists. I did it myself at the excellent Ben and Bill’s Chocolate Emporium. (Yes, that’s real lobster in the lobster ice cream. No, it’s not better than it sounds.) But when I set out to test ice cream scoops to find out which one produces the prettiest, most effortless scoops, I thought it best to call a real expert: Jeni Britton Bauer, of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams.

Jeni has been in the business for two decades, owns eight shops and is the author of two ice cream cookbooks, so she knows her way around a scoop. She has an all-time favorite model that she uses at her shops (the Zeroll). In general, she says to choose a model that’s all one piece, without moving parts like a release lever. “The spring/lever ones don't work well for American hard body ice cream. Too many pieces and they pop apart when scooping. I don't recommend them,” she wrote in an email.

That narrowed down the field considerably. I also decided to restrict the testing to 2- to 3-ounce ounce scoopers. That way, a heaping ½-cup serving is about two scoops, which feels just right, neither skimpy nor over-the-top.

Starting with Jeni’s recommendation, I took a look at the brands and models recommended by Cook’s Illustrated, The Sweet Home and The Kitchn, as well as those that are best sellers on Amazon, and gathered a group of seven contenders.

David Cicconi / Food & Wine

The Tests

To test the scoops, I spooned up cookies and cream ice cream from a 1.5-quart oblong container, mango sorbet from a pint container (both of which I put in a deep freeze for a few hours to make sure they were very solid), as well as a few pints of assorted rock-hard, freezer-burned ice cream that were hiding in the back of my freezer.

There were never going to be any true disasters here. No matter what you use to scoop—even a regular spoon—it’s all going to end with a dish of ice cream. But in an ideal world, there are a few important criteria a good scoop should meet. Imagine, for instance, you are dishing out ice cream for a big birthday party. You want a model that’s comfortable and balanced in your hand, one that glides easily through ice cream or sorbet (no matter how hard or how chunky) corralling it into a tightly curled, round orb for either a bowl or on a cone. Then you want the ice cream to to release fairly easily from the scoop. You want the scoop to be compact enough to easily fit into a pint and nimble enough to navigate a container’s bottom corners to get out every last bit of ice cream.

In testing, I followed the protocol Jeni recommends: Make sure the scoop is completely dry and at room temperature. A wet scoop or a hot scoop will leave behind ice crystals in the ice scream that will spread and cause freezer burn. (You might see ice cream shop workers dipping their scoops into a container of water between uses, but Jeni says that’s not a good practice, and it’s only done for expediency.)

I tested the scoops myself, rating each one from one to three stars (three being the best) on all the criteria above: comfort in my hand, ease of scooping, ease of release and attractiveness of scoops. I also had my husband and a female friend with smaller hands than me to try them, to see if different hands prefer different scoops.

What Makes a Great Ice Cream Scoop?

Only one scoop was a complete flop. Most of the scoops performed well, especially in comfort and ease of scooping. A few that were otherwise great ran in to trouble on releasing the ice cream, the colder they got, the harder it became to get the ice cream out of the container. A few were too large or blunt to get into nooks and crannies at the bottom of the carton.

Tthe scoops fell into two general categories: Light and heavy. Three were in the 4 to 4.5 ounce range and four were in the 8 to 8.5 ounce range. But design mattered more than weight. There were winners and losers in both groups—a well-designed heavy scoop can give leverage cutting through hard ice cream. A well-designed light scoop can feel more comfortable and nimble.

Two of the scoops have heat conducting or defrosting fluid sealed inside the handle: Supposedly, that fluid transfers heat from your hand on the handle to the bowl, warming it just enough so that it glides smoothly through the ice cream and then releases the ice cream easily from the bowl. Both performed well—one better than the other—though the downside is that you can’t put them in the dishwasher. However, washing an ice cream scoop by hand really isn’t much of a hardship, so I didn’t hold that against those models.

The Best Ice Cream Scoops

Courtesy of Amazon

Our Favorite Ice Cream Scoop: Zeroll Original Ice Cream Scoop (2 ounce) ($14 on Amazon)

Comfort: 3 out of 3 stars

Ease: 2 1/2 out of 3 stars

Release: 3 out of 3 stars

Attractiveness of scoops: 3 out of 3 stars

This is Jeni’s go-to scoop, and the one that shows up on top of most lists, and for good reason. “They are the gold standard in ice cream dishers,” Jeni said. The Zeroll ice cream scoop is made of light aluminum (4.9 ounces) with a simple, easy-to-grasp handle that’s filled with a heat-conducting fluid. That fluid transfers warmth from your hand to the bowl of the scoop, helping it glide through the ice cream and then release the scoop easily. The lip of the bowl is a bit sharp, too, which helps it scoop rock-solid sorbet. Because the scoop is so light, you do need a little bit of elbow grease to get going. Once you do, it works like a dream, and it makes perfectly rolled balls of ice cream—the best-looking scoops of all. It’s not dishwasher safe, but it takes seconds to rinse it off, so that’s not much of a problem.

And this scoop has a history: In the early 1930s, Sherman Kelly of Toledo, Ohio was vacationing in Florida when he noticed that a woman working at an ice cream shop had callouses and blisters all over her hand from scooping frozen ice cream. He saw it as an opportunity: In 1933, he patented his idea for a self-defrosting model that would make scooping ice cream painless and set up the Zeroll Company in his garage. Now the scoop is made in Florida, but the product hasn’t changed much in the years since.

Courtesy of Amazon

Best Ice Cream Scoop for Small Hands: Zyliss Ice Cream Scoop ($12 on Amazon)

Comfort: 3 out of 3 stars

Ease: 2 1/2 out of 3 stars

Release: 2 our of 3 stars

Attractiveness of scoops: 2 out of 3 stars

It might seem odd that the heaviest scoop—this one weighs in at 8.7 ounces—is best for small hands, but this scoop’s well-balanced heft gives great leverage for cutting through hard ice cream or sorbet. The ergonomic handle is super comfortable and made testers feel like their grip was secure. Minor quibbles: The scoop is too big and blunt to be very effective getting the last bits of ice cream from the corners of a container; ice cream sometimes sticks a bit and need a nudge to come off the scoop; the scoops themselves aren’t as pretty as those made by Zeroll. It also makes bigger portions than the other models I tested, which could be a good or a bad thing depending on your perspective!

Two More Worthy Ice Cream Scoops: OXO Good Grips Solid ($15 on Amazon) and Sumo ($14 on Amazon)

Comfort: 3 out of 3 stars

Ease: 2 out of 3 stars

Release: 1 out of 3 stars

Attractiveness of scoops: 2 1/2 out of 3 stars

These two scoops are virtually identical in every way. Both are solid stainless steel ice cream scoops: That’s a plus because some online user reviews claim that models made from coated plastic—like the Zyliss—can flake or pit after long periods of heavy use. They have very comfortable rubber grips on the handles and narrow bowls with a pointed tip, which helps get a scoop going. I got prettier, neater scoops from the OXO for some reason, but other than that, I can’t see any difference between the two. Both seem like solid, well-made models that will last a long time. The downside is that the more you scoop, the more the ice cream sticks, so you'll have to shake or pry it out.

Also Tested

Norpro Nonstick Anti-Freeze Ice Cream Scoop ($7 at amazon.com)

Comfort: 1 out of 3 stars

Ease: 2 1/2 out of 3 stars

Release: 3 out of 3 stars

Attractiveness of scoops: 1 1/2 out of 3 stars

Like the Zeroll, this lightweight model is filled with heat-conducting fluid that helps with ease of scooping and release. This one also has a nonstick coating, so it was the most effective of all in releasing the ice cream from the bowl of the scoop. However, if you’re going to get a self-defrosting scoop, there’s no reason to choose this one over the Zeroll. The handle is thinner than the Zeroll and feels slippery from the nonstick coating, so it’s hard to get a good grip on it. The shape of the bowl is more oblong than round, so the scoops are not as neat and pretty. 

Tovolo Tilt Up Ice Cream Scoop ($8 at amazon.com)

Comfort: 1 out of 3 stars

Ease: 2 out of 3 stars

Release: 2 out of 3 stars

Attractiveness of scoops: 1 out of 3 stars

I could have sworn this was the heaviest scoop at 8.2 ounces, but once I weighed them all it turned out that the Zyliss (8.68 ounces) was heavier. It feels hulking because it’s unbalanced—it’s top-heavy, with a very thin neck, which makes it feel like it’s going to fall out of your hand. The two little feet that prop the scoop up off the table when you set it down are supposed to minimize mess, but the ice cream just drips down the feet instead. It makes large, clunky scoops. If you want the leverage of a heavy scoop, the Zyliss is a much better choice.

KitchenAid Classic Ice Cream Scoop ($8 at amazon.com)

Comfort: 1 out of 3 stars

Ease: 1 out of 3 stars

Release: 1 out of 3 stars

Attractiveness of scoops: 2 1/2 out of 3 stars

Everyone who picked up this scoop had one thing to say: It feels cheap. (I was surprised, since I usually like KitchenAid products.) It’s very light, but unlike the other aluminum scoops, this one is plastic. It’s slippery and hard to grip. The lip of the bowl is rounded and blunt, so there’s nothing to help you cut through hard sorbet or ice cream, and you have to use a finger to pry it out. The scoops are fairly neat and attractive, but really you’d be better off saving the eight bucks and using a soup spoon.

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