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The best ice cream scooper for perfect spheres at home

Jun 21, 2024

My first job was waitressing at a family restaurant and ice cream shop. Among my duties was dishing out the ice cream cones, sundaes and banana splits ordered by the guests seated in my section. Most ordered ice cream for dessert after lunch or dinner. Some came in exclusively for ice cream. Suffice it to say, I became an ace ice cream scooper practically overnight.

Much of what allowed me to scoop ice cream so masterfully was the actual scooper. Unlike the levered demi-dome-with-a-sweeper scoop of my childhood (which never functioned properly), the scooper at the restaurant was a metal cylinder about six inches long, which served as the handle, with a C-shaped cup at one end — for gathering the ice cream — and a round, colored plastic ball embedded in the other end to indicate the scoop size.

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The handle — actually the entire scoop — was hollow and filled with a heat-conductive fluid that responded to body heat and warmed the scoop just enough to create a bit of melt that allowed an easy entry point into even very hard ice cream and then to rather effortlessly glide through it. As you pulled the scoop, a rounded strip of ice cream curled back on itself to form a ball, which was then easily deposited onto a cone or into a sundae dish.

Our perfectly round ice cream balls also had to be hollow (to give the appearance of more ice cream than there really was in the globule atop the cone). To achieve this, you had to stop the glide as soon as the strip became a ball and not permit “extra” ice cream to spiral, creating a heavier portion. Part of the trick was to not dig too deeply into the ice cream and part was pulling in a smooth, even motion along the surface, almost shaving it rather than digging down as you might with a shovel in sand.

When I started researching ice cream scoops recently, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the very same scoop I used all of those years ago — the Zeroll Original Ice Cream Scoop — is a favorite among culinary professionals and product reviewers today.

Reviewers on retail websites noted that the Zeroll easily produces beautiful round orbs that readily release from the scoop. The sleek handle is equally suited for righties and lefties; and there are no levers, sweepers or other moving parts to hamper the process or results. “Downsides” to the Zeroll? At $24.99, some called it pricey, and it is not dishwasher safe.

I evaluated a few of the other well-received scoops to understand the points of distinction among them. I focused on the Zeroll, the Midnight Scoop, the Sumo, the Spring Chef and the Thrifty. I did not evaluate dishers — those “scoops” with levers, sweepers and other moving parts that one squeezes to release the ice cream, save for the Thrifty scoop, which makes ice cream cylinders rather than balls and was developed locally.


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Except for the Thrifty model, the scoops all feature a single handle with a cup or shovel at one end and, except for the Midnight Scoop, which has a very heavy handle, all are reasonably comfortable in hand. The main differences are in the size and shape of the scooper cup, the weight and balance of the implement and its ability to produce perfectly round (though not necessarily hollow) scoops. I focused on the ease of scooping ice cream out of various containers, the ease of releasing the scooped ice cream from the device, attractiveness of the resulting scoops and the ease of cleaning.

Neither the Zeroll, which has many imitators, nor the Thrifty scoop is dishwasher safe; the other three are.

Although not always pretty or easy, the scoops I evaluated do get the ice cream from carton to cone (or bowl) without bending, as ordinary kitchen cutlery might. That said, the right scooper for you depends on a few key considerations, among them price, performance, dishwasher safety and the type of ice cream you prefer (which can significantly affect performance).

The “ergonomic” Midnight Scoop will run you almost $40. (Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

The Sumo Ice cream scoop costs only about $10. (Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Prices ranged from $9.96 for the “indestructible” Sumo to $39.95 for the “ergonomic” Midnight Scoop. The Thrifty cylindrical scoop with trigger is $26.99. When considering price, I would note that this is typically a one-time purchase and a few extra dollars can have a significant effect on the quality of your ice cream scooping experience.

To evaluate performance, I used pint, quart and “half-gallon” (actually 1.5 quarts) size containers of both chunky and smooth ice creams and a mix of premium (very dense) and “regular” (airier and less dense) ice creams. I focused on notoriously hard-to-scoop flavors such as chocolate and vanilla. I used the scoops on each type of ice cream and container size both straight from the freezer and after giving the denser, premium ice cream a few moments to warm up before scooping. I dug right into the center of the containers and also scooped around rather than across the container to get a more aesthetic result (ice cream at the outer edges is usually softer and easier to scoop than in the middle of the container). This is also useful when scooping from pint containers that don’t offer much space for scooping across.

All the scoops performed better with softer, regular ice cream that has a good deal of air churned into it. Still, even with softer regular ice cream, the Sumo, Spring Chef and Midnight Scoops produced slabs and hunks of ice cream rather than rounded orbs. Yes, you can pack a hunk into a ball, but the Zeroll does that without any extra effort, and even with very hard, straight-from-the-freezer ice cream, the Zeroll rather effortlessly glides through it.

The pointed Sumo bowl dug into very hard ice cream but didn’t get very far from there until the ice cream had warmed some. The unique shape of the Spring Chef — a squared-off shovel with thin edges — is supposed to plow through ice cream like it’s butter. Yes, it bulldozed through softened ice cream, but it did not make particularly attractive scoops without concerted effort.

The Thrifty scoop looks like a staple gun with a steel cylinder attached where the staples would be ejected. To use it, you push the cylinder down into the ice cream, twist 90 degrees and then squeeze the handles as you would a staple gun. Though it does have a cult following, it is really best suited for commercial-size containers, as it requires a large surface area to be effective for more than one or two servings.

Bottom line: The Zeroll has been effortlessly scooping ice cream since 1933. I saw nothing in the other scoops I evaluated to convince me that any of them would perform equally well. None produced symmetrical round orbs with the grace and ease of the Zeroll. I don’t mind paying $10 to $15 more for a one-time purchase and I am happy to hand-wash such a small piece of equipment that serves me so well.

Yes, I’ll stick with the Zeroll, thank you.