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Portion Scoops

Published January 2017

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

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*

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*