The Best Ice Cream Scoops, According to Our Tests
Ice cream is the food of my people. I grew up on Cape Cod, where every teenage townie spends at least one summer scooping ice cream for tourists. I did it myself at the excellent Ben and Bill's Chocolate Emporium. 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 dozens of 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. 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," she says, "Too many pieces and they pop apart when scooping. I don't recommend them."
That narrowed the field considerably, so I restricted our testing to 2- to 3-ounce ounce scoopers. Starting with Jeni's recommendation, I looked at the brands and models recommended by competitors, as well as best sellers at online retailers, and gathered a group of seven contenders. As it turns out, yes—there is a best ice cream scoop. After testing seven popular models, we found the Zeroll Original blew away the competition by allowing us to produce perfectly round scoops of ice cream with minimal effort. Read on for more of our favorite picks.
Our Top Picks
Though other scoops offered great results, overall the Zeroll Original Ice Cream Scoop proved to be the most useful ice cream scooper we tested. The heat conductive handle allows for smooth scoops without introducing freezer burn to your favorite pints of ice cream.
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 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.
I rated each scoop 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 try them to see if different hands prefer different scoops.
Factors to Consider
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 into 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.
The 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.
Pro Panel Q+A
What's the best way to scoop ice cream?
Jeni Britton Bauer 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 cream 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.
How much ice cream is in a standard scoop?
Generally, an ice cream scoop is 1/2 cup of ice cream or 4 ounces. There are usually 32 scoops in a gallon of ice cream, and about 4 scoops in a pint.
Who invented the ice cream scoop?
Alfred L. Cralle, a businessman and inventor, first patented the "ice cream mold and disher" in 1897 after noticing servers struggling to release ice cream from spoons in the hotel he worked for as a porter. His original tool is reflected in the design of modern-day scoops that include the scraper mechanism.
In the early 1930s, Sherman Kelly was vacationing in Florida when he noticed that a woman working at an ice cream shop had calluses 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.
What Didn't Make the Cut
Sarah DiGregorio is a freelance journalist who has written for various publications, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Saveur. Her work has been included in the Best American Food Writing yearly anthologies three times. For this piece she spoke with Jeni Britton Bauer, of Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams for expert tips and developing the testing methodology.