The Best Ice Cream Scoop

It’s hard to imagine a food more closely linked to the ideal of summer and childhood glee than ice cream. But the plethora of bent dessert spoons that litter many a kitchen are enough to let you know that it might be worth buying a proper ice cream scoop to get the stuff out of its container in the first place. We found the most qualified candidates, then took them to real ice cream parlors and had them test them head to head. The verdict was unanimous: the classic Zeroll scoop will give you gorgeous scoops out of even the densest of desserts.

Why? All the experts I spoke to and the multiple servers at multiple ice cream parlours unanimously recommended the Zeroll. I’ve spent more than 15 hours researching a simple, affordable piece of kitchen gear.  I’ve pored over reviews of around 40 of these things, from the loved to the universally reviled, and spent a lot of time scooping with them myself.

What makes a good scooper?

The basic ice cream scoop is a piece of homeware that can suffer from the affliction of being over-designed. There are mechanical scoops, scoops coated with teflon, ones that are electrically heated, ones that remove a perfect cylinder core of ice cream, and scoops made out of every possible combination of materials and shapes on the planet. But it turns out the most straightforward models seem to be doing everything right.

The basics of what you should look for in an ice cream scoop are pretty simple. You want a sharp edge for cutting through the ice cream, a nice round head for scooping it out well (and that the ice cream slides easily out of), a comfortable handle, and ease in cleaning. (After scooping out ice cream for a birthday party, you’ll want to be able to get out all the melted stickiness as easily as possible.) And the Zeroll hits all of those easily.

Thankfully, you’re able to get all of these things for a fairly reasonable price tag, around $16. That may seem a lot if you’re used to buying $5 ice cream scoops from your local dollar store, but it’s still not an expensive purchase, and it’ll probably last for a decade or two.

What to avoid

The thing you want to avoid most with ice cream scoops is low quality materials and overly complex construction. Scooping through frozen dairy products is a task that’s rough on many products, and if the ice cream scoop is poorly constructed, or made of crappy plastic, it can flake, bend, or simply break.

Likewise, complex levering and scooping mechanical designs do little to help you scoop ice cream. While a portion scoop with its moving pusher may be great for evenly dividing up cookie dough or muffin batter, the mechanical parts jam and stick when dealing with hard frozen ice cream. And then you have the likes of this Oxo scoop, which easily gets ice cream everywhere inside its mechanical works, or the Deni 5111 Electric Ice-Cream Scoop—yet another countertop appliance to plug in, this time to heat up the scooping element. No thank you.

Instead, go for a solid, easy to grip scoop that doesn’t have any moving parts. There’s plenty of room for variation among handle size and shape, and scoop form, and mechanical gewgaws add little to the endeavor.

Testing procedure

After hours of research, we discovered the four best ice cream scoops currently available: the classic Zeroll scoop, the highly rated Rösle ice cream scoop, the popular Zyliss, and the oft-admired Oxo Good Grips Solid Stainless Steel Ice Cream Scoop. We put all four through the most brutal test we could think of: an ice cream parlor.

These four ice cream scoops were taken to three popular San Francisco ice creameries: the Ice Cream Bar, a classic soda fountain where you can get insane milkshakes that will put most cocktails to shame; San Francisco fixture Bi-Rite Creamery, where every day there’s a line out the door and around the block; and bizarre-flavor mavens Humphry Slocombe. In all three field tests, we gave all four scoops to the folks working at the ice cream bar, and after a few hours of work returned to get their impressions on the tool.

Because scooping out of an immense tub at an ice cream parlor is a bit different from carving out a pint of Ben and Jerry’s that’s hiding in your fridge, we tested all four through home use, too.

Who should buy this

Anyone who likes frozen treats scooped out of a container, and then put in a bowl or cone. I suppose if you have some sort of preternatural dislike for ice creams and sorbets, or you only eat popsicles, you can probably skip buying a scoop. But for less than $20, it’s great to have an ice cream scoop around that you know will work well and last for visitors who bring you ice cream that you then refuse to eat.

Our Pick

If you want an ice cream scoop that’s easy to hold, cuts through densely packed ice cream easily, and carves out beautiful spheres of the stuff, we recommend the Zeroll ice cream scoop.

The Zeroll scoop design has remained essentially unchanged for 75 years, and is considered an icon of modern design, even sitting in the MoMA’s permanent collection. The reason that it’s so popular is that it features a core of heat-conducting fluid, that transmits the warmth from your palm down into the ice cream, helping the scoop to cut through ice cream more easily.

Unfortunately, there’s one caveat for the scoop: it’s not dishwasher safe.

The Zeroll scoop is incredibly easy to hold thanks to its large handle, and through the heat conduction (or maybe just being a big hunk of metal with a lot of thermal mass) it’s able to carve through ice cream really well. You can either use it to scoop deep, and dig up an enormous mass of ice cream, or else drag it across the top of tub for a perfectly round scoop. It’s hard wearing, long lasting, and just generally an excellent tool.

After spending a large amount of time carving through ice cream with a number of different scoops, the Zeroll simply works. It cuts through hard ice cream with almost no effort, the ice cream comes out of the scoop easily, and if the plethora of reviews are anything to go by, if you treat it right it’ll probably last longer than you will.

Who else likes it

The Zeroll is one of the most famed and widely lauded ice cream scoops ever crafted. If it’s any indication of just how popular the scoop is, all three ice cream parlors that we talked to in our testing had all already opted to use these scoops in a professional environment.

Cook’s Illustrated recommended the scoop in a 2008 review, saying “This simple, sturdy classic packs an innovative feature in its handle: self-defrosting fluid that activates by hand warmth to melt rock-hard ice cream as you scoop. However, it’s not dishwasher-safe.”

“This scoop is pretty much indestructible.”
TheKitchn’s roundup of best ice cream scoops gave top awards to the Zeroll, saying “we still think it’s the best. Classic and sturdy, it has heat-conducting fluid in its handle to help melt ice cream as you scoop.”

Donna Currie at Serious Eats also vouched for the Zeroll, commending it for helping cut through reasonably hard ice cream, also saying “this scoop is pretty much indestructible, and the big handle is easy to hang onto.”

Ice cream bloggers are also especially fond of this thing. Lindsay Clendaniel of Scoop Adventures told me “My favorite and most used ice cream scoop is the Zeroll (original scoop)… The deep, round scoop allows me to dish out a nice round scoop of ice cream. I also like this scoop because it fits in my hand well and does not get cold. So I guess you could call me a ‘Zeroll purist.'” She also commented that she’s had one for more than four years, and that it’s lasted incredibly well, saying “As long as you follow the instructions and don’t put it in the dishwasher (which will mess up the fluid inside), you are golden.”

Karina of Ice Cream Initiative reviewed the scoop, heaping praise for how it handled, saying “As I rolled out beautiful, smooth, cookbook-worthy scoops of our Pumpkin ice cream, I knew my Zeroll had earned its spot in my utensil drawer.  The weight of it feels study in my hand, but not too heavy.  You don’t need a scoop with a lever because the heat transfer releases the scoop without any effort (although Zeroll carries that kind, too, if you prefer).”

Even folks who avoid dairy like the thing. The Vegan Baking blog gave it a rave review, complimenting it for how easy it is to hold, and the gorgeous scoops it makes.

 What’s with the whole not being dishwasher safe thing?

The Zeroll isn’t dishwasher safe. Often you’ll see that fact associated with the heat conducting core of the scoop, but that’s not really the culprit. The folks at Zeroll were able to explain a bit to me about how the core of the scoop works, and why it isn’t dishwasher safe.

According to Zeroll, the fluid is a “non-toxic, safe, water-soluble oil”—not antifreeze, as some people suggest. The reason you can’t put it through the dishwasher is actually because of the aluminum body, which is apparently “due to the caustic material in the dish detergent that will oxidize/tarnish the aluminum.”

But if you do wash it by hand, you can expect it to last decades. Apparently there are scoops from the 1940s that are still in use. Juliet Pries of the Ice Cream Bar told me that in their 15 months of operation, often pulling more than a thousand scoops a day, not a single one has needed to be replaced, and she said “they show little wear and I don’t think they’ll need to be replaced any time soon.”

The Zeroll scoop has a famously long lifespan, but unfortunately the warranty isn’t that great. While with proper use you will get many years of use, it’s only covered as being free from defects when you first purchase it — after that you’re on your own. Other companies are slightly better in this regard: Zyliss offers a five year defect guarantee, Rösle offers a fully covered lifetime warranty, and OXO promises a full refund or replacement for any reason over the entire life of the device.

Testing Results

We took the four most popular and well reviewed scoops, from Zeroll, Zyliss, Oxo, and Rösle, and took them to three prominent local ice cream parlors to try for a few hours. Since these places can roll 1000s of scoops over the course of a busy day, they were able to give the scoops a much more rigorous thrashing than we could on our own.

The results from all three places were unanimous: they all liked the Zeroll above all the others. It was complemented variously for being easy to grip, lightweight, for the ice cream not sticking to the scoop, making good looking scoops, being effortless, for dishing up consistent sized scoops (and being available in different sizes), durable with no moving parts to break. One person even called it the “perfect scoop.”

It should also be pointed out that all three places already used Zeroll scoops in their place of business, having already chosen them as the best possible option.

But keep in mind that ice cream parlors need different things than most home scoopers. They’re reaching forward and down into big tubs of ice cream, rather than pulling it out of small containers. They also probably care a bit more than most about how well the ice cream comes out looking at the end, often fitting ice cream into cones rather than the bowls more common in home consumption.

The competition

There are so many mediocre ice cream scoops that the vast majority can be dismissed out of hand. Mechanical scoopers are okay when it comes to very soft ice cream, and are incredibly useful for doling out batters and doughs, but simply get wedged and blocked when trying to scoop hard ice creams.

Chad from the Ice Cream Informant told me “I prefer [one piece designs] over the moving units that always stick and take multiple movements to release the scoop anyways”, and Lindsay Clendaniel of Scoop Adventures told me her immense dislike for mechanical scoops, saying “Dishers are great for portioning food such as scooping/sizing cookie dough or mashed potatoes, but I think they are horrible for scooping ice cream. Because the ice cream is harder in consistency, the disher mechanism often gets stuck on the ice cream and falls off-track, making it very frustrating to scoop. It also seems that dishers wear out pretty quickly and make long-term use difficult.”

As Dubbe from OnSecondScoop told me “I shouldn’t need the lever because the ice cream should just fall out of a good modern day scoop.”

There are also plenty that can be quickly discarded, like the Deni 5111 Electric Ice-Cream Scoop, which heats itself up to cut through ice cream, but apparently only gets vaguely warm, and would be just another cumbersome appliance. Cook’s Illustrated’s review of scoops from 2008 also quickly avoided such scoops as the Tovolo Standz Ice Cream Scoop which was impossible to get the ice cream out of, and a huge mess; and the Van Vacter Ice Cream Knife, which was ungainly and made ugly scoops.

There are also overly complex contraptions like the Cuisipro Scoop and Stack, which by all accounts barely works. Or bizarrely shaped scoops like the Twister, Smart Scoop, Calphalon 3 Way, or the Wilton, all of which are problematic either in form or construction.

No
*At the time of publishing, the price was $9.
While good for getting into pints, users have widely complained that this scoop starts to flake after a year or two.

We recommend against the Zyliss ice cream scoop because of worries about the long term life of the tool. While its broad head and comfortable handle made it one of theKitchn’s top 5 ice cream scoops, a quick read through the Amazon reviews find many people complaining of the metal’s coatings coming off after just a year or two of use. While rated for dishwasher cleaning, even people who only hand clean the Zyliss scoop still have reports of the metal pitting, and small flakes of the stuff coming through in their desserts. As one user put it “I love my scoop and it works really well, but the scoop surface is pretty heavily pitted after a year or so of use, despite being exclusively hand-washed.” So while BakingBits was effusive in their praise, the long term reliability of the scoop is certainly questionable.

In the testing, The Zyliss scoop had some fans for its weighted handle, and ability to curve perfectly around a pint container. But it was widely critiqued for making too big scoops, shovelling rather than rolling, and for ice cream sticking to it.

Shiny but no
*At the time of publishing, the price was $25.
Pleasant to look at, but rather uncomfortable to hold. Give the Rösle a miss.

Likewise, we’re worried about the construction of the Rösle ice cream scoop. While it managed to get top honors in the Cook’s Illustrated test, which is usually a major point in its favor, the Amazon reviews raise some worrying questions about long-term life. Cook’s Illustrated really liked the extremely thin edge, which made for very easy cutting through cold ice cream, calling it “easy as pie.” But the thin, hard handle doesn’t match the comfort and grip of the other top picks.

A number of Amazon reviewers have brought up problems in construction. Apparently these used to be built in Germany, but the production has since been offshored to China. The main area of concern seems to be how the scoop is welded to the shaft, which one user called an “ordinary, careless weld that was just plated over.” Another claimed “The choice of metal for the welding appears to brass or copper, and it will tarnish after repeated use. Fabricating a stainless steel 18/10 utensil with a rust-prone joint where inert structural stability is needed the most is incredibly short-sighted.”

But the thing is, no one has specifically had quality problems with the Chinese versions. There are no actual reports of the tarnishing or rusting, or of the joint failing. So are people just grousing because these are made in China? Do they just think the relative high price of the scoop is not justified if it’s assembled in Asia rather than Europe? Without any firm evidence, it sounds like FUD.

Another firm point against it came during testing. The three ice cream joints were unanimous saying the Rösle scoop was by far the worst of our four favorites. One single person liked it, and she complimented it for being lightweight and maneuverable. Unfortunately, everyone else hated the damn thing. It was criticised for being unpleasant to use with hard ice cream, awkward, too hard, having too short a handle, and having trouble with ice cream sticking because of its low thermal mass. As one person put it, “it’s no more efficient for scooping than a large spoon.”

The dishwasher safe, easy-to-grip, pointy alternative

Super scooper
With a comfortable grip, pointed tip, and the ability to survive a visit to the dishwasher, the Oxo is a good alternative to the Zeroll

The Oxo Good Grips Solid Stainless Steel Ice Cream Scoop came just a hair’s breadth away from winning the top spot, and is all but on par with the Zeroll. If you really value just being able to throw something in the dishwasher, or think the more molded grip might be easier on your hands, it’s an excellent alternative to the Zeroll.

The Oxo features a solid, single unit design that is dishwasher safe. It has a slight point to the scoop, which aids in getting ice cream out of the corners of the tub, and carving through hard-packed, very cold ice cream. (It should be noted that the Zeroll was not any worse without the beak at carving cold ice cream.) It carries Oxo’s “Good Grips” marque, and is very comfortable to hold.

On Amazon, it has more than 100 reviews, of which 99 are five star, and the rest four star. There’s not a single review worse than that, many of who praise it as the best ever made. And since the head is a single piece of stainless steel, there’s no chance of it flaking.

The Chicago Tribune said of this scoop that “Oxo does it again, designing a substantial-feeling scoop with a comfortable grip. The sharp-edged and shallow stainless steel scoop works through ice cream effortlessly, and the pointed tip will get every last lick out of the carton.”

The blog Almost Vegan in Paradise reviewed it, and was effusive in praise for its scooping ability, how ice cream falls out of the scoop, and effused “I love this ice cream scoop!”

The Oxo came in second from the ice cream parlor tests. It was praised for being able to get into hard to reach areas, for ice cream not sticking to it, for having a pleasant weight and grip, and for being able to excellently handle hard ice cream. But it was also criticized for having a narrow head, and turning out less than perfect scoops.

It was an extremely close call over which scoop was better, the Oxo or Zeroll. The Zeroll ended up taking the spot due to the sheer huge amount of popular praise it has received over the years, but the Oxo is still a fantastic scoop. I spent a fair amount of time hacking at ice cream with both, and the pair are on par when it comes to carving through even tough, densely packed ice cream like Haagen Dazs. The Zeroll was easier to scoop out nice, round, gorgeous balls of ice cream, but the OXO managed to get into nooks and crannies better. But given the huge amount of positive reviews, the weight of all the ice cream shops, the opinion of a few friends I dragooned into helping, and my own time spent scooping out, the Zeroll is just a smidge better.

But if you want a scoop that you can simply throw in the dishwasher when done, and that is a bit easier to hold on to, the Oxo is a perfect fit.

What about something completely different

While most of us are used to the small spheres made by a traditional ice cream scoop, another option is an ice cream spade or paddle. Spades have the advantage of being able to cut through large amounts of hard frozen ice cream thanks to a design that takes advantage of a lot more leverage. However, they tend to be an ungainly size, and designed more for large tubs of ice cream than a standard pint. The ice cream that comes out is also a lot less aesthetically pleasing than the gorgeous curls of a standard scoop. But if you really have a lot of trouble with scooping ice cream, this might be a bit easier on your hands in the long run.

Unfortunately, there’s even less written out there about good ice cream spades. But a quick look seems to say that the Zeroll Ice Cream Spade is loved as much as the scoop is — but again, keep it out of the dishwasher.

Wrapping up

The $16 Zeroll combines everything you need in a good ice cream scoop. It’s comfortable on the hand, carves through hard packed ice cream easily, has a sharp edge, affords lots of leverage, and is easy to clean. At $16, there are definitely some cheaper scoops available—but that’s exactly what they are: cheap. So it’s worth spending the little bit extra, and just getting a really good scoop that will last you for a long, long time.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $16.
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Sources

  1. Ice Cream Scoops, Cook's Illustrated, July 1, 2008
    This simple, sturdy classic packs an innovative feature in its handle: self-defrosting fluid that activates by hand warmth to melt rock-hard ice cream as you scoop. However, it’s not dishwasher-safe.
  2. Cambria Bold, The 5 Best Ice Cream Scoops, The Kitchn, May 21, 2012
    We first recommended the Zeroll ice cream scoop here and we still think it's the best. Classic and sturdy, it has heat-conducting fluid in its handle to help melt ice cream as you scoop. Note: this feature also means it's NOT dishwasher-safe.
  3. Donna Currie, Gadgets: Zeroll Ice Cream Scoop, Serious Eats, August 2, 2012
    An ice cream scoop isn't an earthshaking gadget, but this one's got a lot going for it. Even if you don't find that the heat-transfer feature makes any difference, it makes a nice-shaped ice cream ball and it's sturdy enough to last nearly forever.
  4. Karina, The Zeroll Original Scoop-Gold, The Ice Cream Initiative, October 17, 2012
    As I rolled out beautiful, smooth, cookbook-worthy scoops of our Pumpkin ice cream, I knew my Zeroll had earned its spot in my utensil drawer. The weight of it feels study in my hand, but not too heavy. You don’t need a scoop with a lever because the heat transfer releases the scoop without any effort (although Zeroll carries that kind, too, if you prefer).
  5. Here is why this scoop makes outstanding ice cream presentations: one of the killer features of the Zeroll Original scoop is that it's core is filled with a heat conductive fluid that dissipates the coldness of the ice cream into the handle while it scoops. After you form perfect ice cream balls by drawing the scoop towards you at an angle of about 45 degrees, they fall effortlessly into your ice cream bowl without any mechanical sliders or extra effort. All it takes is a slight press against the dish or cone to free the ice cream from the scoop. No moving parts also means that your $20 Zeroll Ice Cream scoop will be the last one you will ever buy. A good investment if you're into good presentation and lasting quality.
  6. Cambria Bold, The 5 Best Ice Cream Scoops, The Kitchn, May 21, 2012
    this heavy scoop features a non-slip, ergonomic handle to give you great leverage. For right- or left-handed use.
  7. "tennis player", Good design except CORROSION of scoop, Amazon User Review, April 22, 2008
    Same experience. I love my scoop and it works really well, but the scoop surface is pretty heavily pitted after a year or so of use, despite being exclusively hand-washed. I didn't know they would exchange this defective scoop for a new one. I will definitely contact them -- thanks for the scoop :) -- sorry, couldn't resist!
  8. Nicole Weston, Zyliss Ice Cream Scoop, reviewed, Baking Bites, August 26, 2010
    The Zyliss completely surprised me with how well it worked. The scoop has a slightly wider, flatter and larger shape to it than most traditional ice cream scoops and its metal edge is tapered, so it slices very easily through just about any ice cream (maybe not something completely frozen solid!). The ice cream slides up the scoop into a nice ball shape and, since the scoop is large, it pops right out onto an ice cream cone or into a bowl. I wouldn’t normally put color on my list of important qualities in an ice cream scoop, but it’s a nice touch that the Zyliss comes in an array of bright colors, too. Since getting it, I’ve actually eaten a lot more ice cream – which is both a good and bad thing!
  9. Ice Cream Scoops, Cook's Illustrated, July 1, 2008
    The slim handle and exceptionally thin edge on the Rösle Ice Cream Scoop rolled up flawless ice cream spheres.
  10. "Ben "Ben"', China not the problem, Amazon User Reviews, May 3, 2009
    This scoop is made in China, but that's not the problem. The problem is the exhorbitant price that can only be justified by the "Rosle" name. The scoop is unremarkable, though it does not suffer the fatal flaws of many junk scoops out there. The scoop works fine, but it is by no means as special as some reviews suggest. The edge of the scoop isn't particularly sharp, the balls of hard ice cream it scoops are not especially round, ice cream does stick to the scoop, and the brazing on the joint between the scoop and handle is not ground smooth and polished -- it looks like any ordinary, careless weld that was just plated over. This scoop should cost no more than $8.
  11. 'Doc Dave "world music fan"', Design flaws from cost cutting, Amazon User Reviews, July 13, 2009
    As other reviewers have mentioned, the scoop itself is fabricated separately and welded onto the pre-made shaft and handle, no doubt to cut production cost. The choice of metal for the welding appears to brass or copper, and it will tarnish after repeated use. fabricating a stainless steel 18/10 utensil with a rust-prone joint where inert structural stability is needed the most is incredibly short-sighted.
  12. Lisa Futterman, Pictures: Get the scoop, Chicago Tribune
    Oxo does it again, designing a substantial-feeling scoop with a comfortable grip. The sharp-edged and shallow stainless steel scoop works through ice cream effortlessly, and the pointed tip will get every last lick out of the carton.
  13. "4alina", Product Review Ice Cream Scoop by Oxo, Almost Vegan in Paradise
    So what do I think? I love this ice cream scoop! If you have a scoop and don’t like it, or haven’t got one yet, get this one! I have zero complaints so far. And while I’ve only used it a couple times, I don’t foresee any problems with it, either.
  • Karina S

    We are delighted to have our blog, theicecreaminitative.com, quoted in this article. We still love our Zeroll, and even recently added their packer to our tool kit!

  • eaadams

    I love this blog!

  • Blake Hill

    An ice cream scoop seems like overkill for 99% of people. Regular large spoons everyone already has work as well or better & that’s one less thing you have to have in your drawer.

    It’d be neat to see thesweethome include the option, consider the recommendation of not having the object at all. Thesweethome is a bit different than thewirecutter in that sense.

    Love both sites.

    Thanks,

    Blake

    • http://TheSweethome.com Joel Johnson

      I think you’ll find we’re pretty good about dissuading people from purchases when we think there’s a better option. (Knife Sets, for instance, suggests buying knives piecemeal right in the title.) But it would be overkill to put that sort of consideration on every single item, because when you shake it all out, there are very, very few things anyone really needs, especially in housewares. We trust that most people can trust their own judgement when it comes to their own true need when buying something.

  • http://twitter.com/timothymcn word is bond

    Any word on the Amco serrated scooper? I read about it some time ago, but it was out of stock at the time. Looks like it’s back now: http://www.amazon.com/Amco-Serrated-Ice-Cream-Scoop/dp/B008DSIBXO

    • tbarribeau

      I’ve heard mixed things about serrated scoops, and that they apparently aren’t notably better than a good normal scoop, plus they make for ugly serving as they scrape up the ice cream pretty badly.

  • mce

    It should be made clearer here and on Amazon that the different colors of Zeroll scoop indicate different sizes, as indicated here: http://www.zeroll.com/pages/en/products_scoops.php

  • Flexic

    “We took the four most popular and well reviewed scoops, from Zeroll, Zyliss, Oxo, and Rösle, ”

    The link to the Zyliss is a dupe of the Rosle, just a heads up

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      Thanks for the tip! Fixed it!