The Best Ice Cream Scoop
We spent more than 25 hours researching and testing five scoops (after considering 40), and even enlisted the help of employees at three ice cream parlors, to find that for perfectly round scoops with minimal hassle, you can’t beat the classic Zeroll scoop ($25). It cuts into hard ice cream more cleanly than other scoops, thanks to its heat-conducting core, and its shape produces gorgeous scoops out of even the densest of desserts. The Zeroll is easy to clean and less likely to break than mechanical scoops, and its simple handle fits most palms comfortably.
Don’t just take our word for it: The Zeroll is the prefered scoop of many ice cream shops. All the experts we spoke to and the multiple servers at multiple ice cream parlors unanimously recommended the Zeroll. Its simple design has been virtually unchanged since it was introduced 75 years ago. Buy this scoop, and you probably won’t ever need to get another (or, at least, not for a long time!).
The shape of the OXO scoop didn’t give us the stellar leverage of the Zeroll, but it still did a decent job of cutting through ice cream. The cushy handle might be a little easier on tender hands, too. When it came to making tightly packed orbs of ice cream, it wasn’t on par with the Zeroll, but if you’re going into a bowl and not a cone, then that shouldn’t matter much. This scoop is really for people who must have something that’s dishwasher safe.
Table of contents
Why you should trust us
For this piece, we looked to editorial reviews in Cook’s Illustrated, Serious Eats, The Kitchn, and the Chicago Tribune. We interviewed enthusiast ice cream bloggers (are you really surprised that’s a thing?) like Bethany Schlegel Shaw of Scoopalicious, Lindsay Clendaniel of Scoop Adventures, Dubba Scoops of On Second Scoop, and Chad of The Ice Cream Informant to figure out what are must-haves (and must-avoids) for home scooping. We also asked bloggers Karina Sinclair of The Ice Cream Initiative and Mattie Hagedorn at Veganbaking.net what they thought. And to get some pro opinions on how scoops stacked up after hours of high-volume use, we worked with three ice cream stores in San Francisco: Bi-Rite Creamery, Humphry Slocombe, and The Ice Cream Bar.
We also have plenty of firsthand knowledge of the subject: One of us (Lesley Stockton) has scooped a fair amount of ice cream as a restaurant line cook dishing up 50 orders of Bananas Foster each night, learning that you want a scoop that can cut through rock-hard frozen ice cream with as little hand and arm fatigue as possible. Tim Barribeau, the other half of our scoop team, has written for The Sweethome and The Wirecutter since 2012, covering both gadgetry and cooking tools with experiences including interviewing James-Beard-award-winning authors and chefs; performing blind taste testing with Japanese rice experts; and reviewing rice cookers, sous vide circulators, tea kettles, and more.
Who should get this?
Although you can certainly get by scooping ice cream with a soup or serving spoon, those tools tend to bend when confronted with really hard ice cream. A designated scoop is much easier to use and produces perfectly round servings that are more aesthetically pleasing.
If you have an old ice cream scoop, spring-loaded or otherwise, and it’s difficult to get into hard-frozen ice cream or it’s just uncomfortable to use, consider upgrading. It’s not worth struggling with a bad scoop that can’t smoothly gather up rounds of ice cream and cleanly release them into bowls or cones.
How we picked and tested
Ice cream scoops often 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 others made out of nearly 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 so the ice cream slides easily out), a comfortable handle, and ease in cleaning. (After scooping ice cream for a birthday party, you’ll want to be able to get out all the melted stickiness as easily as possible.)
The things you want to avoid most with ice cream scoops are low-quality materials and overly complex construction. Scooping through frozen dairy products is tough, and if the ice cream scoop is poorly constructed or made of crappy plastic, its coating may flake, it can bend, or it may simply break.
We looked at ice cream spades and paddles, but since they are an ungainly size and better suited for cutting into large vats of ice cream, we opted not to test them. Even though they 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, they’re not as practical for home use as a scoop is. If you do want one, the the Zeroll Ice Cream Spade is loved as much as the scoop is.
After consulting our experts, editorial reviews, and scouring Amazon reviews for our initial 2013 review, we picked four scoops that met our criteria and asked employees at three San Francisco ice cream parlors (The Ice Cream Bar, Bi-Rite Creamery, and Humphry Slocombe) to give them a whirl. After a few hours of work, they gave their impressions on the tools.
For this update, we looked at new models that came out in the intervening two years. There weren’t many. We only found one—the Sumo ice cream scoop— that we deemed worthy of putting up against our top pick and runner-up from last round, the classic Zeroll scoop and OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Ice Cream Scoop.
Because scooping out of an immense tub at an ice cream parlor is a bit different from carving out a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, we tested all three scoops through home use this round. Conveniently, we had just finished testing ice cream makers, so we filled pint containers with homemade ice cream, let the batches freeze overnight, and scooped them up the next day. We tested for how efficiently the scoops cut into the ice cream, how well the tools released their frozen cargo, the roundness of the resulting ice cream spheres, and ease of cleaning the scoops.
There’s no better tool for digging into frozen treats than the Zeroll ice cream scoop. Its large, smooth handle was one of the easiest to hold in our testing, even compared to those with silicone grips. And thanks to a heat-conducting fluid inside the scoop that slightly warms the metal, it cuts into ice cream more efficiently than any of the competition. The Zeroll also makes more beautifully-formed and well-proportioned spheres of ice cream than any other scoop out there. And because it has no moving parts, it’s less likely to break than mechanical scoops. This tool has stood test of time; it’s remained essentially unchanged for 75 years and is considered an icon of modern design, even sitting in the MoMA’s permanent collection.
The Zeroll scoop is incredibly easy to hold thanks to its large handle. It’s big, round, smooth, and easy to grip. Although it doesn’t have the cushy rubberized handle of our runner-up, the actual scoop cuts into hard ice cream easily, so you don’t have to bear down so much in the handle as you do with either the OXO or Sumo scoops.
Scraping the ice cream with the front beak of the Zeroll’s rounded bowl curls the ice cream onto itself, creating perfect spheres for ice cream cones, brownie toppings, and sundaes. And those perfectly rounded portions of ice cream release cleanly and easily from the bowl. Since they’re made with help from the warming core fluid, there’s no need for mechanical levers or scrapers. After a few scoops, both the OXO and Sumo need a gentle shake to release (although nothing too aggressive).
Since the Zeroll has no moving parts to break, there’s less chance of it breaking over the long run. The only thing that can really do harm to the Zeroll is the dishwasher. It should only be hand washed to avoid damaging the aluminum casing.
Different-colored caps at the base of Zeroll scoops denote size. The classic Zeroll scoop comes in six sizes: brown for 4 ounces, blue for 3 ounces, green for 2½ ounces, gold for 2 ounces, silver for 1½ ounces, and red for 1 ounce. For our testing purposes, we used the 2-ounce scoop.
Cook’s Illustrated (subscription required) and The Kitchn’s roundups of best ice cream scoops both gave top awards to the Zeroll. Donna Currie at Serious Eats also vouched for the Zeroll, as well as bloggers Lindsay Clendaniel of Scoop Adventures, Karina Sinclair of The Ice Cream Initiative, and Mattie Hagedorn at Veganbaking.net. It receives a 4.5-star average rating on Amazon.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
The Zeroll isn’t dishwasher safe. It’s made of aluminum, which reacts to dishwashing detergent.
The warranty isn’t that great, covering only defects from first purchase. However, as long as you 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 us that in their 15 months of operation, often pulling more than a thousand scoops per day, not a single one has needed to be replaced. She said, “they show little wear and I don’t think they’ll need to be replaced any time soon.”
Long term test notes
There’s not much that can go wrong with an ice cream scoop, but after six months of typical home use we are still impressed with the quality and build of our top pick, The Zeroll Original. We’ve been using it semi-regularly since we published this article and there’s not a single complaint to be had. Tim Barribeau uses it about once a week at home and found the Zeroll hasn’t corroded and still cuts through rock hard ice cream straight out of his chest freezer.
The OXO Good Grips Solid Stainless Steel Ice Cream Scoop ($15) is a decent ice cream scoop in its own right. It didn’t take our top spot because it just couldn’t form clean spheres of ice cream like the Zeroll. The Zeroll also slipped into hard ice cream a bit more effortlessly. If you really value just being able to throw something in the dishwasher, though, 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. Its slightly pointed shape aids in getting ice cream out of the corners of the tub and carving through hard-packed, very cold ice cream. It’s very comfortable to hold because of its classic OXO Good Grips cushy handle.
Even though the OXO is sturdy with a comfortable grip, it simply doesn’t scoop as gracefully as the Zeroll. With the OXO, you really have to work to get a compact portion, and even with the best finessing it still can’t give you a presentation-worthy round scoop like the Zeroll. It also takes more effort to get into ice cream fresh out of the freezer.
On Amazon, it has just more than 500 reviews, of which 91 percent give it five stars, many praising it as the best ever made. And since the head is a single piece of stainless steel, there’s no chance of it flaking, unlike the Zyliss. This scoop is also well-reviewed by the Chicago Tribune and Almost Vegan in Paradise.
The OXO came in second in the ice cream parlor tests. Shop employees praised it for its ability into hard-to-reach areas, lack of sticking ice cream residue, pleasant weight and grip, and excellent handling of hard ice cream. But it was also criticized for its narrow head and turning out less-than-perfect scoops. But if you want a scoop that you can simply throw in the dishwasher when done, and you don’t mind what the portions look like, the OXO is a good fit.
Care and maintenance
As far as care and maintenance go, ice cream scoops are pretty easy, with one tiny caveat. The Zeroll cannot be put in the dishwasher. We don’t see this as a real issue because how hard is it to clean an ice cream scoop? Just wash it by hand with warm water and some mild dish soap; let dry.
The Sumo is almost identical to the OXO Good Grips ice cream scoop except the handle is purple. We liked the OXO a little better because of the hole in the handle for hanging. It performed the same, and it’s also dishwasher safe.
We don’t recommend the Zyliss ice cream scoop because of worries about the longterm life of the tool. Amazon reviews complain of the metal’s coatings coming off after just a year or two of use. In our 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.
The Rösle ice cream scoop was not a favorite with our testers. The three ice cream joints were unanimous in saying the Rösle scoop was by far the worst of the four testers in our original review. It was criticized for being unpleasant to use with hard ice cream, awkward, 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.” This scoop was once a Cook’s Illustrated (subscription required) favorite, but the Amazon reviews raise some worrying questions about long-term life.
The OXO Steel Ice Cream Scoop ($12) has a lever that is supposed to help pop the ice cream out. Instead, ice cream gets everywhere inside its mechanical works. One Amazon reviewer calls the button activated lever “useless.”
The Good Cook Twister ($12) boasts a “patented auger system.” The handle twists to scoop the ice cream. It has an extremely sharp point that some Amazon reviewers see as a safety hazard, and others complain of the metal flaking.
Good Cook Smart Scoop ($11) has to be squeezed while ice cream is scooped, which can make for tired hands really fast. Cook’s Illustrated (subscription required) doesn’t recommend it for that exact reason, along with the flattened scoops it makes.
Dragonn Scoop ($9) has eight five-star reviews on Amazon, most from people who received a free scoop from the company. Its bent lip and thin steel bowl tell us it’s flimsy and wouldn’t put much of a dent in hard ice cream.
New Star Dipper ($7) is a cheap knockoff of the Zeroll. It has the same shape and fluid inside the handle. Amazon reviewers complain about the metal flaking after a few uses.
Tovolo Tilt Up Scoop ($6) looks almost exactly like the Zyliss we tested and dismissed. It has a really deep bowl that doesn’t release ice cream easily and the same complaints about the metal pitting and flaking.
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Originally published: July 15, 2015