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During the coming summer months, I for once want to have a couple of home-made ice cream sundaes with proper spherical scoops of the type you get at an ice saloon or restaurant. The problem is that I can't get my scoops to be anywhere near spherical. I tend to get large curls, sometimes toroids if I'm lucky, flat chunks of ice cream if I'm unlucky, plus the ice cream that remains in the container gets all sorts of crevasses and is harder to scoop the time after. Because I can't get the scoops spherical enough, I tend to eat more ice cream than I should, the toppings are harder to add and the overall eating experience isn't as fun.

I don't know if it's related to the brand of ice cream I buy, the size of the container, the scooping method, the type of spoon or even how I store the ice container in the freezer. What is the trick to getting properly spherical scoops of ice cream?

  • Do you scoop the ice cream straight out of the freezer? – Stephie May 20 at 20:23
  • @Stephie Yes, because I want to minimize the amount of time the ice cream remains outside of the freezer. If I leave it out too long and it gets beyond a certain point, the texture changes after it freezes again and it goes a bit rubbery and less tasty. – Nzall May 20 at 20:46
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The first step on the way to “pretty” scoops is the right texture of your material. As you noticed, with ice cream straight out of the freezer, the results are somewhat random, your technique probably involves a lot of hard work and you are basically “prying lose” your servings. If you’d ask your local ice cream shop about the temperature of their product, you’d notice that their display cases are usually set to something between -7 C and -11 C (rarely colder), depending a bit on their recipes. Your home freezer is probably set to at least -18 C, likely lower. At -24 C, your ice “cream” is more likely an ice “brick” - perfectly fine for long-term storage, but a disaster for scooping.

So how do you get to the desired temperature range? Not on the counter, please. The outside melts when the middle is still solid. And you get the “off” or “rubbery” texture when you refreeze molten ice cream. Instead, put the container into your fridge until it’s soft enough, but not thawed. The timing depends on the temperature settings of your fridge, the size of your container and the brand of ice cream - you’ll have to experiment a bit. I’d probably check after twenty to thirty minutes. (Sometimes a manufacturer will add a hint on the carton.) Once the texture is right, you can use your favorite tool to portion the ice cream, for spheres, I like the kind of scoop that you also use to portion cookie dough - the kind where you push a the handle and a little wire-thingy scrapes the bowl of the scoop. If you want to measure, that’s probably the easiest model.


A few remarks on food safety:

For safe storage, you need temperatures below -18 C. The display cases at the ice cream shop are like the cases at a bakery - to keep the product safe for “immediate” consumption. They will not have a batch sitting at that temperature for weeks. If a container isn’t sold after a reasonable time (I would have to research the exact values), it must be discarded.

Temporarily having the ice cream at higher temperatures is acceptable, but try to keep it as short as possible - when you are done with serving your ice cream, put it back in the freezer immediately. Don’t let your ice cream melt and re-freeze, especially repeatedly, parts of it may have been in the “danger zone” (above 4 C) for too long to be still safe.

  • I assume using a normal spoon isn't really useful for proper scoops? Problem is I tried multiple types of scoops and none of them really work for me. I'm left-handed so that wire tends to be at the wrong side and gets pushed into a broken position quite quickly. I've fried a plastic one with a button on the handle that you press to get the scoop out, but that one also started to become unusable quickly. Another problem I have is that I have no idea what the right hand motions to scoop are, nor how to spread my scooping over the container so the surface remains scoopable long enough. – Nzall May 22 at 10:51

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