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January/February 2017

Portion Scoops

This restaurant-kitchen tool can make you a faster, more efficient home cook.

How We Tested

Portion scoops, or dishers, come in a wide range of sizes and are handy for quickly dispensing uniform servings of cookie dough, muffin batter, potato salad, ice cream, and other soft, difficult-to-manage foods. The trouble is, it can be surprisingly hard to figure out what size the scoops actually are.

Manufacturers identify scoops in very different ways: by volume (listed in fluid ounces, tablespoons, or milliliters), by diameter, or, most commonly—and most confusingly—according to a numbered system unique to portion scoops. In this system, scoops are given numerical “sizes” based on the number of level scoops it would take to empty a quart. It would take twenty level scoops with a #20 scoop, for example.

But in practice, manufacturers play fast and loose with this numbering system. We found that scoops of the same “size” could have capacities that varied by as much as a tablespoon. To get a portion scoop with the capacity we actually wanted, it was much more useful to look for information on the scoops’ volume, which each manufacturer lists alongside the inconsistent and unreliable “size.”

With this in mind, we set out to find the best portion scoop that held about 3 tablespoons—a serving size we often use with cookies in the test kitchen We bought five models priced between $13 and $17, using them to dole out Chewy Oatmeal Cookies and Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies. For a benchmark, we tested them against a tablespoon measure—the tool we’d use to measure out cookies if we were caught without our scoops.

Predictably, the scoops were all neater, faster, and more consistent than a 1-tablespoon measure at portioning the cookies, taking an average of 2 1/2 minutes to serve up uniform hemispheres of chocolate chip cookie dough compared with the 6 minutes it took the tablespoon to make messy, more variable mounds. Exact capacity wasn’t an issue: Scoops slightly under 3 tablespoons made one or two more cookies than those that were exactly 3 tablespoons, but this did not significantly change the yields or baking times of the recipes.

Our preferences came down to comfort and control. Rubbery handles provided more cushioning and were easy to grip even when our hands got greasy from the buttery cookie dough; smooth metal and plastic handles tended to get slippery. We also liked scoops that weren’t too hard to squeeze. Scoops with stiff springs or with levers that extended too far out from the handle tired our hands and fingers quickly. Finally, we preferred scoops that dispensed the dough with a smooth, controlled motion—several of the scoops flung the dough out in a somewhat haphazard way, gouging the dough balls in the process.

Our favorite 3-tablespoon portion scoop, the OXO Good Grips Large Cookie Scoop ($14.97), ticked all the boxes. It’s comfortable to grip and to squeeze, and it neatly serves up almost perfect hemispheres of dough.

Methodology

We tested five portion scoops, priced from $12.99 to $17.45, with capacities of about 3 tablespoons. We used them to portion out batches of Chewy Oatmeal Cookies and Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies, timing how long it took to make each batch, noting how many cookies were yielded, and measuring and weighing each cookie in the batch. We also washed each scoop by hand between batches and then hand-washed or ran them through the dishwasher (where applicable) an additional eight times. Finally, we had users with different hand sizes and dominant hands put them through their paces. Models were evaluated on comfort and control. All models were purchased online and appear in order of preference.

Comfort: We gave more points to portion scoops that were comfortable for testers of all hand sizes to grip and to squeeze.

Control: We awarded more points to portion scoops that released the dough in a clean, controlled motion.

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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.