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There are several kinds of sticky food balls that I'd like to make, but the usual process consists in rolling them in your hand one by one. This process is tedious and time-consuming. I'd really like it to scale better. Such food usually tastes better when the balls are smaller, but this means even more time preparing it.

Examples of the kind of food I'm talking about: rice balls, meat balls, rum balls, ladoo, caramel balls, chocolate truffles, etc.

What they have in common (at least most of them):

  • The material is sticky, so this requires rubbing butter on the hand, or something similar, with periodic repeats to ensure non-stickiness;

  • The material is not very hard, which compounded with the stickiness, makes it hard to improvise with similar tools, such as spoons: it will stick a bit and deform easily;

  • After the ball is done, it is often rolled in some other material (sugar, chocolate, bread crumbs, etc) which coats it.

After looking for several related words ("food baller", "ball scoop", etc.), I only managed to find a few tools that might be useful:

Ice cream scoop These ice cream scoops have a mechanism to help release the material. I'm not entirely convinced this would work, since the food I'm talking about is usually stickier and less solid than ice cream, but still; the main issue is that the smallest one I found is about 3.5 cm in diameter, and I'd need them to be more like 1.5-2 cm.

Melon baller

Melon ballers have the appropriate size, but they are less "round" (as in, less than half a sphere) and designed for hard, non-sticky melon insides. Also, they do not have a release mechanism.

Non-stick, thin gloves might help speed up the rolling, but if they are cumbersome silicon gloves, they will prevent me from being able to properly ball the food. I did not find any thin, non-stick, food-grade gloves either.

Did I just miss something? Otherwise, how do professional chefs manage to produce these kinds of balled food at scale?

  • You can certainly buy vinyl gloves for food use. A big box isn't expensive. But I think the food would stick. Polythene might be better but polythene gloves will always be a loose fit as they don't stretch. They're even cheaper – Chris H Jan 14 '18 at 7:15
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In most professional kitchens, people use the ice cream-type scoop (your first picture), as they come in many different sizes. In general, the scoop would be used to portion the product (sizing consistently). Depending on what the final product was to look like, generally hands are quickly used for final shaping. While latex-type gloves are common, often dipping hands in water is enough to prevent sticking.

  • Would you also know if temperature plays an important role? For instance, if the manipulation takes place while the food is cold/frozen, or inversely while it is hot? – anol Jan 13 '18 at 21:55
  • Catering suppliers tend to stock a range of scoops like this, that you won't find in a shop aimed at the typical home cook – Chris H Jan 14 '18 at 7:17

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