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Ice Cream Scoops

By Cook's Illustrated Published May 2015

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

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.

$248.64*
Recommended

Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.

$141.90*
Best Buy
Recommended

Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

$67.99*
Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

$49.93*
Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.

$129.95*

Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.

$99.95*

Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.

$24.99*

Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.

$35.88*