Don't get stuck. With the right utensil, that wonderful, spherical serving is yours.
By RENEE ENNA
Getting ice cream out of the carton and into a cone is a summer ritual of the utmost importance. That's where the ice cream scoop comes in. Given the dizzying variety offered, choosing one can be tough. It's not like you can give them a test drive in the store. So we scooped up a bundle and did it for you.
We tested nine scoops, priced at $10 or less, sold in supermarkets and department stores. We bypassed the ice cream spade because we were more interested in rounded scoops for cones. We scooped many kinds of ice cream, frozen in two home freezers, into bowls and onto cones.
Scoops were judged on how they felt in the hand, how well they scooped and released, and how pretty the ice cream looked once it emerged out of the scoop.
Here are our favorites; runners-up are listed in order of preference. For the winners, we've included the price and store where they were purchased, but most of them are widely available.
1. Good Cook Smart Scoop looks weird, but this non-stick scoop with a "bowl" that separates won us over. Once you get the idea -- you keep the two-pronged scoop closed until you're ready to release the ice cream -- it's extremely effective. It quickly released ice cream (soft or hard) with excellent results. Dishwasher-safe. ($8 at Jewel-Osco)
2. Cook at Home anti-freeze ice cream scoop contains a self-defrosting fluid that supposedly responds to body temperature. We're not sure if it was the fluid or just the excellent design that made this so easy to use. It produced lovely globes of ice cream. It also was one of the less expensive models. But, it's not dishwasher-safe. ($4 at Linens 'n Things; also, Harold's Kitchen makes a close-to-identical scoop for $6 at many Ace Hardware stores and www.acehardware.com)
3a. KitchenAid's hefty scoop performed admirably, and its plastic handle felt good in the hand. Its stainless-steel bowl easily released ice cream, but the pointy edge created odd-shaped scoops. Dishwasher-safe. ($6.82 at Wal-Mart)
3b. Zyliss' sturdy scoop has a plastic handle and nonstick bowl with a squared-off edge. It felt great in the hand and cut through ice cream beautifully. We had trouble releasing softer ice cream, but the scoops were very pretty. It's dishwasher-safe and comes in many pastel hues. ($9 at Bed Bath & amp; Beyond)
4. OXO Good Grips (basic model with nonstick bowl)
5. Farberware (with trigger handle)
7. Copco Ultimate
8. Orka Scoop and Press
How to scoop: The Web site www.baking-911.com offers these tips for perfect scoops: Start along the container sides, and move the dipper in a circular motion, spiraling toward the center of the container until you have a full scoop. Never scoop deeper than 1/2 inch or you'll compress the ice cream.
To soften ice cream: Either run your scoop under hot water or microwave the container at 5-second intervals.