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May/June 2015

Ice Cream Scoops

We tested seven classic and innovative ice cream scoop designs, as well as a portion scoop, to find the best model for scooping high-quality, dense ice cream.

How We Tested

High-quality dense, hard ice cream requires a sturdy scoop to dig out and release perfectly smooth, round spheres for topping pie and balancing in cones. For years, our go-to dipper has been the Rösle ($26.95), chosen for its gently curved bowl that produces picture-perfect scoops. But its narrow handle has always felt a bit small for users with larger hands—and frankly, its price tag is steep. In search of a model that’s just as effective, but more ergonomic and economical, we compared it with six models (priced from $11 to $18.44), including classic and innovative designs as well as a portion scoop that claimed it could also scoop ice cream. We scooped from hard-frozen pints of our favorite ice cream and sorbet.

Bowl shape varied among the models, most of which were either slightly curved ovals or perfectly round half spheres like the portion scoop. Both models featuring the latter design formed tidy orbs, but frustratingly the ice cream had to be scraped from the confines of the bowls’ relatively tall walls. A large, shovel-shaped bowl on another model formed awkwardly oblong scoops that overwhelmed sugar cones. Better were the shallower oval scoops (including the Rösle), which encouraged ice cream or sorbet to roll back on itself, forming perfect balls that released easily.

As for a more-comfortable grip, testers rejected models with spring-loaded handles, like the portion scoop; stretching our hands as much as 6 1/2 inches to grasp the two wide-side ends and squeezing them while scooping was uncomfortable, particularly for those with smaller hands. One of these, which featured an innovative split-apart bowl for supposedly easy release, had a thin edge on both handles that dug into our palms as we dug into the ice cream. The other failure, another innovative model, sported a pair of feet sticking out from the back of the bowl meant to prop it up and prevent ice cream puddles from forming on the countertop when we set it down; but while the bowl itself didn’t drip, the feet snagged the rim of the ice cream container, got sticky as we scooped, and left puddles of their own. Ultimately, simpler designs were best. Testers preferred single, rounded handles that measured 3 to 4 inches around at their widest point.

From head to handle, the best scoops came from two models, both of which offered wide, comfortable handles for superior grip and leverage and oval bowls that yielded neat scoops. But one model's handle has an extra perk: It contains a heat-conductive fluid that instantly heats up when your hand warms the handle. When that heat travels to the scoop’s metal bowl, it slightly melts the ice cream as you scoop to make the job easier. The downside is that the fluid-filled handle isn’t dishwasher-safe, but since hand-washing an ice cream scoop takes seconds, it’s a minor flaw on an otherwise solid product.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

$33.31*

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.