Scooping ice cream is a simple enough task. So why are there, like, eight billion designs clamoring for the title of best ice cream scoop? There are the portion scoopers—those ones with the squeeze-handle that releases the ice cream. There are varieties with heated scoops. There are ones that are shaped like a spade. There are ones with super pointy tips. There are heavy ones and light ones and big ones and small ones. So, really, how do you make a decision about the best ice cream scoop to buy? We tested a variety of types, and we've got answers for you.
In total, we tested 12 varieties, by—you guessed it—scooping lots and lots of ice cream.
We had a clear winner—but that was in 2017. Then, in August of 2019, we found ourselves prepping a deeply delicious melon ball and vanilla ice cream combo, and we wondered, "is there a new superior scoop?" So, we tested the original winner against three new scoops to see which model came out on top.
Our All Around Favorite Ice Cream Scoop: The Zeroll
First, it has a classic, durable design. Like other rankings, we found that the simpler an ice cream scoop was, the better. The Zeroll is made of one piece of cast aluminum, meaning it has no breakable parts and will last. Looking at the scoop, it looks heavy, but it's actually quite light-weight, without sacrificing durability. It feels steady and the materials feel high-quality in your hand. The actual scoop is perfectly shaped to make round balls of ice cream that slide easily out of the scoop and into the bowl. It has a sharp edge that cuts into even the most frozen ice cream.
Invented in 1933, the Zeroll is actually considered to be the first modern ice cream scoop, and its inventor, Sherman Kelly, has a patent on the "Ice Cream Dipper." As the story goes, his product allowed ice cream shops to save money during the Great Depression, because the dipper's ability to scoop perfectly round, compact balls meant that ice cream parlors could get 10–20 percent more ice cream out of each gallon. To this day, it is the preferred ice cream scooper of most ice cream shops. And, the thing just looks professional, classic, and high-quality.
But here's the real secret of the Zeroll: its handle is filled with heat-conducting liquid. This means that it transfers heat from the scooper's hand up the handle to the scoop, warming the ice cream and allowing it to be scooped and released more easily.
This scoop is more expensive than what you'd normally pay—about $18. But it will literally last you a lifetime.
The Best Bet If You Like a Lever Scoop: The OXO Good Grips Squeeze Ice Cream Scoop
A worthy second-place contender is the OXO Ice Cream Scoop with a squeeze handle. If you are very loyal to the release-lever, portion scoop, this is the one for you. It's lightweight, and has a perfectly round scoop. Ice cream comes out of this scoop easily, even before you use the release lever. It makes a nice round and compact scoop. Despite the fact that the lever-release handles are inherently more awkward to hold than a plain handle like the Zeroll, this one manages to be ergonomic, with an option to loop your hand through the lever and only hold the smaller handle, not the whole thing. The plastic handle feels sturdy and comfortable.
This model won over its worthy portion-scooper competitor, the Winco, because its release lever for the ice cream is more flush with the scoop, meaning less ice cream gets trapped. However, the squeezing motion that releases the ice cream is awkward, and not really necessary for a better scooping experience—better to go with the simpler design of the Zeroll. The materials feel significantly cheaper in this scoop, and the moving parts and lever system are more prone to breaking than the simple, high-quality design of the Zeroll.
Our Fancy Favorite: The Midnight Scoop
In our 2019 re-test, we tried out what might be the most expensive, fanciest manual ice cream scoop on the market: The Midnight Scoop. The Midnight Scoop, which is made from stainless steel and comes in a box so eerily similar to iPhone packaging we think there could be a copyright infringement case in the works somewhere, is about as extra as an ice cream scoop can get. The brand materials shout "You've been scooping ice cream wrong!" and warns about weak wrists prying what must be particularly icy ice cream. After we got over the initial sting of the weak wrist insult, we realized their aerospace engineer-led team does have a point—unless you tilt the carton and the scoop simultaneously, you do end up using your wrist and hand strength more than your arm or shoulder. When I put it to the test, I was impressed by how easily the scoop glided through the ice cream with little hand movement—but in the colder cartons, even the ergonomic handle couldn't beat the Zeroll's warming liquid. It's also $35, which is more than I'd like to pay for an ice cream scoop. If you get particularly tired out when serving up sundaes or you're a design geek, this could be the right scoop for you.
What We Looked for and What We Tested
We were looking for ice cream scoops with an edge sharp enough to cut into very frozen ice cream. We looked for a good shape in our scoop—meaning that we'd get a nicely rounded, compact ball of ice cream, and that the ice cream would slide easily out of the scooper. We looked at how ergonomic the scoops were: how easy they were to hold and maneuver.
Other Scoopers We Tested
As we said above, ice cream scoops come in a wide array of designs. We looked at scoops with mechanisms for releasing the ice cream, like the small levers and squeeze handles in portion scoopers. We also tried a scooper from Goodcook with a scoop that's divided in two pieces that fit together like a puzzle. When you squeeze the scissor-like handle, the pieces come together, allowing you to scoop a ball of ice cream. Release the scissor-like handle and the pieces come apart, releasing the ice cream. We also tried another novelty scoop called the Twister that has a sharp pointed end and a twisted shape, with extra-sharp edges.
The Winco is also a functional portion scooper. We might even like its release lever better—instead of awkwardly squeezing like the OXO, you press a thumb on a lever that moves the piece of metal that releases the ice cream. However, that piece of metal is not totally flush with the scoop, so it traps ice cream, making cleanup more difficult—and wasting precious ice cream! In terms of classic scoopers, we also liked the OXO Point Scooper. Its pointed tip makes carving into especially frozen ice cream easy. Its handle is a cushier plastic than the Zeroll, and it's more contoured to the hand. However, it doesn't make quite the perfect scoop that the Zeroll does, and your hand is more prone to tiring if you're scooping for a crowd.
In our re-test, we also tried a new model from Vollrath that has a slightly curved, ergonomic handle. The handle was comfy and it created good, even scoops, but, though the handle contains anti-freeze, it couldn't beat the Zeroll's heated handle technology when it came to releasing the ice cream from the scoop.
In terms of novelty scoopers, we actually really liked the Twister. It's ultra-pointed end dug right in to frozen blocks of ice cream. Its twisted, contoured handle is pleasant in your hand, and the whole thing feels pretty ergonomic. However, this scoop lost major points when its pointed tip cut a hole in the bottom of our ice-cream carton. Dripping vanilla started pouring out of the carton. Not great. This thing doesn't know its own strength—and for children, it might be a safety hazard.
A newer design for ice cream scoops is a spade shape, with a sharp, long, flat tip. We found this type of scoop good for carving into hard, frozen ice cream, but it didn't create the perfect rolled ball that the Zeroll could.
In general, we found the simpler the scoop, the better. The Zeroll's lightweight, classic, durable design—and its heat-conducting handle and ability to make perfect, Instagram-worthy rounded scoops of ice cream—made it hands-down our favorite scooper. If you like a portion scooper, go for the OXO Squeeze scoop. It makes round, pretty scoops, has an ergonomic handle, and has a quality release lever that removes the ice cream from the scoop. And, if you're after high design or have particularly weak wrists (not judging!) buy the ergonomic Midnight Scoop.
Now that you know the best ice cream scoop, it's time for some ice cream!Rhoda Boone
Originally Appeared on Epicurious