Sep 12, 2023

The Best Ice Cream Scoop

The OXO Good Grips scoop we used to recommend has been redesigned, so we’ve removed it from this guide until we can test the new version. If you want something that's dishwasher-safe, check out the Sumo scoop.

You scream, I scream, we all scream for ice cream—but you shouldn't have to scream about how difficult it is to scoop. A good ice cream scoop should allow you to dig effortlessly into deeply frozen ice cream, and we’ve found that you can't beat the classic Zeroll Original Ice Cream Scoop. It cuts into hard ice cream more cleanly than other scoops, thanks to its heat-conducting core. And this model produces gorgeous scoops from even the densest desserts. The Zeroll is easy to clean and less likely to break than mechanical scoops, and its simple handle fits most palms comfortably.

Favored by ice cream shops everywhere, the Zeroll cuts into hard ice cream more smoothly, produces better spheres, and is easier to clean than any other scoop we tried.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $20.

Don't just take our word for it: The Zeroll is the preferred 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 more than 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 Zeroll cleanly digs into rock-hard ice cream with greater ease than any other scoop we tested.

We picked the Zeroll in our original 2013 review, and after further tests, our original verdict still stands. The Zeroll cleanly digs into rock-hard ice cream with greater ease than any other scoop we tested.The secret is the heat-conducting fluid in the handle that transfers the heat of your hand to the bowl of the scoop for easier scooping and releasing. The large round handle is easy to grip, which lets you make beautiful balls of ice cream with less effort. While it's not dishwasher safe, we don't think hand washing an ice cream scoop is that big of a deal.

For this piece, we looked to editorial reviews in Cook's Illustrated, Serious Eats, and The Kitchn. We interviewed enthusiast ice cream bloggers 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 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. (Since we first published this guide, The Ice Cream Informant and The Ice Cream Initiative have both become inactive.)

We also have plenty of firsthand knowledge of the subject: Lesley Stockton scooped a fair amount of ice cream as a restaurant line cook dishing up 50 orders of Bananas Foster each night. And she learned 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 has written for Wirecutter on gadgetry and cooking tools, including rice cookers, sous vide circulators, tea kettles, and more.

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.

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.)

Complex levering and scooping mechanical designs do little to help you scoop ice cream.

Complex levering and scooping mechanical designs do little to help you scoop ice cream. While a portion scoop—also called a disher—with its moving pusher may be great for evenly dividing up cookie dough or muffin batter, the mechanical parts jam and stick when dealing with hard frozen ice cream. Chad from the Ice Cream Informant told us, "I prefer [one-piece designs] over the moving units that always stick and take multiple movements to release the scoop anyways." Lindsay Clendaniel of Scoop Adventures agreed. "Dishers are great for portioning food such as scooping/sizing cookie dough or mashed potatoes, but I think they are horrible for scooping ice cream," she said. "Because the ice cream is harder in consistency, the disher mechanism often gets stuck on the ice cream and falls off-track, making it very frustrating to scoop. It also seems that dishers wear out pretty quickly and make long-term use difficult."

Instead, go for a solid, easy-to-grip scoop that doesn't have any moving parts. There's plenty of room for variation among handle size and shape and scoop form, and mechanical gewgaws add little to the endeavor.

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 employs a lot more leverage, they’re not as practical for home use as a scoop is. If you do want one, the Zeroll Ice Cream Spade is much-loved, like the brand's scoop.

After consulting our experts, reading 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 our most recent test, 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 Zeroll Original Ice Cream Scoop and OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Ice Cream Scoop (since replaced by a slightly different version, which we haven't yet tested).

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.

Favored by ice cream shops everywhere, the Zeroll cuts into hard ice cream more smoothly, produces better spheres, and is easier to clean than any other scoop we tried.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $20.

There's no better tool for digging into frozen treats than the Zeroll Original 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 the test of time; it has remained essentially unchanged for more than 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 a cushy rubberized handle like some other scoops we tested, the actual scoop cuts into hard ice cream easily, so you don't have to bear down so much in the handle.

This scoop features a core of heat-conducting fluid—the first to boast this design—that transmits the warmth from your palm into the metal, helping it cut through ice cream more easily.

This scoop features a core of heat-conducting fluid—the first to boast this design—that transmits the warmth from your palm into the metal, helping it cut through ice cream more easily. According to Zeroll, the fluid is a "non-toxic, safe, water-soluble oil"1, not antifreeze, as some people suggest. There are many cheap knock-offs, but none are as sturdy as the original. The difference really is noticeable when compared side by side with solid steel scoops that take more elbow grease to maneuver since they don't have heat-conducting fluid to help warm the aluminum (which is already a great heat conductor).

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, other stainless steel scoops needed 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.

The Zeroll is one of the most famed and widely lauded ice cream scoops ever crafted. If it's any indication of just how popular the scoop is, all three ice cream parlors that we talked to in our testing had already opted to use these scoops in a professional environment. The ice cream shop employees complimented it, saying it's easy to grip, effortless to use, and lightweight, and that it makes good-looking, consistently-sized scoops.

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.

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."

There's not much that can go wrong with an ice cream scoop, but after years of using the Zeroll Original at home, we are still impressed with the quality and the build.

Marilyn Ong, editor of our kitchen coverage, had one for as long as 12 years before a neighbor accidentally put it in the dishwasher. Her family replaced theirs and don't expect to have to replace it again anytime soon. Their neighbors, meanwhile, bought one of their own because they loved it so much.

As far as care and maintenance go, ice cream scoops are pretty easy, with one tiny caveat. The Zeroll cannot go into the dishwasher. We don't see this as a real issue—how hard is it to clean an ice cream scoop? Just wash it by hand with warm water and some mild dish soap, and then let it dry.

If you want a scoop that's dishwasher-safe: The Sumo is almost identical to the old OXO Good Grips ice cream scoop we used to recommend as an also-great pick, except the handle is brightly colored and doesn't have a hole for hanging. The slightly pointed shape of the scoop aids in getting ice cream out of the corners of the tub and carving through hard-packed, very cold ice cream. Plus, the cushy handle is comfortable to hold. But it doesn't scoop as gracefully as the Zeroll. 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 harder ice cream that's fresh out of the freezer.

The OXO Good Grips Solid Stainless Steel Ice Cream Scoop was a former also-great pick in this guide, but it's since been redesigned and the version we tested is no longer widely available.

We tested an older version of the Zyliss ice cream scoop, and it had some fans for its weighted handle and its ability to curve perfectly around a pint container. But it was widely critiqued for making overly big scoops, shoveling rather than rolling, and for ice cream sticking to it. Amazon reviews also complain of the metal's coating coming off after just a year or two of use, which seems to be a continued problem in the newer version. For all these reasons, we don't recommend this scoop.

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 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 Cuisipro Scoop and Stack is an overly complex contraption, which by many accounts barely works. The ice cream has to be in a very specific state of frozenness for this to be functional.

The Tovolo Tilt Up Scoop looks almost exactly like the Zyliss scoop we tested and dismissed. It suffers from a really deep bowl that doesn't release ice cream easily, and owners make the same complaints about the metal pitting and flaking.

Ice Cream Scoops, Cook's Illustrated

Cambria Bold, The 5 Best Ice Cream Scoops, The Kitchn, May 21, 2012

Donna Currie, Gadgets: Zeroll Ice Cream Scoop, Serious Eats, August 2, 2012

Karina Sinclair, The Zeroll Original Scoop-Gold, The Ice Cream Initiative, October 17, 2012

Mattie Hagedorn, Here's the Scoop - Zeroll Ice Cream Scoop Review, Vegan Baking

Dubba Scoops, On Second Scoop, Interview

Chad, Ice Cream Informat, Interview

Lindsay Clendaniel, Scoop Adventures, Interview

Bethany, Scoopalicious, Interview

Lisa Futterman, Pictures: Get the scoop, Chicago Tribune

"tennis player", Good design except CORROSION of scoop, Amazon User Review, April 22, 2008

Nicole Weston, Zyliss Ice Cream Scoop, Reviewed, Baking Bites, August 26, 2010

Ice Cream Scoops, Cook's Illustrated, July 1, 2008

"Ben "Ben"', China not the problem, Amazon User Reviews, May 3, 2009

'Doc Dave "world music fan"', Design flaws from cost cutting, Amazon User Reviews, July 13, 2009

"4alina", Product Review Ice Cream Scoop by Oxo, Almost Vegan in Paradise

Tim Barribeau

Tim Barribeau is the editor in charge of pets and carry coverage (the latter is anything you might take with you on the way out the door to work). He has been with Wirecutter since 2012, and previously headed our cameras section. A man with too many hobbies, he's currently engrossed in leatherwork, and he might make you a wallet if you ask nicely.

Lesley Stockton

Lesley Stockton is a senior staff writer reporting on all things cooking and entertaining for Wirecutter. Her expertise builds on a lifelong career in the culinary world—from a restaurant cook and caterer to a food editor at Martha Stewart. She is perfectly happy to leave all that behind to be a full-time kitchen-gear nerd.

by Wirecutter Staff

These 100 useful things were the most-purchased Wirecutter picks in August 2022.

by Christina Williams and Wirecutter Staff

These 100 useful things were the most-purchased Wirecutter picks in July 2022.

by Ganda Suthivarakom

The Zeroll Ice Cream Scoop looks dead simple, but its genius is hidden in the handle.

by Anna Perling, Marguerite Preston, and Lesley Stockton

Most ice cream makers make decent ice cream. Our picks make consistently creamy frozen desserts and are easier to use, clean, and store than the competition.

If you want a scoop that's dishwasher-safe: