The Essential Kitchen: Ice Cream Scoops
For Much More Than Ice Cream
Most of us love our ice cream, which makes the ice cream scoop a kitchen essential. But if you choose a spring-loaded scoop instead of one that's only meant for spooning out frozen treats, you'll also have a kitchen tool that has surprising versatility.
Types of Ice Cream Scoops
There are two kinds of ice cream scoops. The first is specifically designed for scooping something frozen because it has a sharp edge that can dig into a rock-hard frozen surface; plus it has a curved surface that can do the scooping. In a size that's usually about a half-cup, this kind of scoop is usually constructed with an inner filling of a heat conductive, and thus self-defrosting fluid sealed within its walls. This immediately overcomes any temperature resistance as the metal scoop hits the frozen dessert.
In other words, it's like an anti-freeze fueled scoop that makes it easy to cut and scoop out the ice cream. While it's perfect for this purpose, you really can't use it for anything else, although ice cream lovers will say that's okay.
The other kind of ice cream scoop is spring-loaded to manipulate a metal arm that passes back and forth in the bowl of the scoop, neatly scraping out anything that it's been filled with. These scoops, which have no anti-freeze liner, come in a variety of sizes from as small as a half-tablespoon to as large as six tablespoons. Most are round but some also come in an oval shape, which is nice when the scoop is being used to arrange food on a dinner plate.
If you see a number or a size associated with a spring-loaded scoop, e.g., #8, this means the number of tablespoons in a quart that this scoop will produce.
Most ice cream scoops cost between $10 and $18 depending on size and material.
Using a Spring-Loaded Ice Cream Scoop
Even if you don't eat ice cream, here's how a spring-loaded scoop can come in handy in many city kitchens and why it's worth making room for one in your utensil drawer:
- A larger scoop can be used to precisely fill muffin tins with raw dough. All the muffins end up the same size and thus cook evenly.
- Do you make chocolate truffles during the holidays? A small scoop is the perfect tool to spoon the ganache into little round balls.
- No melon baller? Use a small scoop to neatly cut up your cantaloupe or watermelon or to scrape out the seeds in a cucumber.
- Use one to scoop mounds of cookie dough onto a cooking sheet. You'll get all your cookies to be the same size and as with muffins, they'll cook evenly.
- Making meatballs can be tedious and if we work the raw meat too aggressively, the meatballs can become too dense. Instead use an ice cream scoop to spoon out equal sizes of your meatball mixture and then just gently use your hands to round it into a ball before cooking.
- During a holiday meal use a scoop to serve mounds of mashed potatoes alongside your sliced turkey to make a pretty presentation.
- When serving soft salads, such as slaws or céleri rémoulade, use a spring-loaded scoop to serve equal-size portions that will hold some shape when on a dinner plate.
If you do some more elaborate cooking, such as making quenelles, the delicate French dish made usually with poached seafood or chicken, an oval spring-loaded scoop will be a huge work saver and your quenelles will be pretty and perfect -- at least in how they look.
Form and Function
While there are many good brands, including Oxo, The Original Zeroll Ice Cream Scoop is the gold standard. Its beautiful and clean design earned it a place in the Museum of Modern Art's design collection. Its perfect functionality also makes it the scoop of choice at Penn State University's Creamery, which some consider the best ice cream producer in America.
Still, ever the fan of multi-use kitchen tools, the spring-loaded scoop meets my standard for versatility. I own two of them -- one that is a small one-inch round and the other is a two and a half-inch oval.