To be perfectly honest, most nights that I enjoy ice cream, I don’t even bother with bowls or cones. It’s just me, Nextflix, my pint, and a spoon. I tell myself I'll only have a spoonful or two. But my ice cream keeps vanishing. It a mystery!
But I’ve been told we live in a society, and eating out of the tub at an ice cream party might horrify friends and family. I’ve also been told that if you learn something, learn to do it well. So I looked for the best ice cream scooper Instagram had to offer. That’s when I found Dennis Chen, Shift Leader at New York City ice cream shop Ice and Vice, and one of the forces behind its uniquely over-the-top cones. Fans catalogue Dennis’ multi-scoop creations with the hashtag #scoopedbydennis, with posts garnering thousands of likes. Here, Dennis shares 7 tips and tricks to scoop the perfect scoop. (Instafame tips not included.)
High sugar content won’t freeze as much as less sugary ice creams. Before scooping, Dennis lightly runs his scooper down the middle of the carton. “If it’s really soft, I need to use less force because the scoop goes deeper and it won’t come out in a perfect scoop,” he says. For home scoopers, Dennis recommends poking a spoon into your pint. “If the spoon goes in easily, you should scoop with less pressure. The more pressure you put in soft ice cream, [the more it] makes it melt every time you scoop.” On the opposite end, sorbets and low-sugar ice creams can get rock hard in the freezer. Dennis has a simple fix: To bring sorbet and ice cream to a scoopable temperature, most pints only need two minutes on the counter.
Dip your ice cream scoop in room temperature water to keep frozen desserts from sticking to metal scoops, making them easier to deposit into cups and cones.
It seems counterintuitive, but you’ll never scoop the perfect scoop by working straight down. You won’t get a full rotation, and the sides of the scoop will be messy. Instead, you should scoop around the edges of the container, using the wall to reinforce and mold your sphere. Because pint containers are tight spaces, Dennis dips the scoop a little bit further down the edges of the container than he does at Ice and Vice, then works his way around 3/4 or a complete rotation. Just before he removes the sphere from the container, he dips his scoop in water one more time, then works it back under the sphere and lifts up. This keeps the sphere from sticking to the container or metal.
Dennis likes The Konery waffle cones used at Ice and Vice because they have a back to rest scoops on. But you can still build impressive scoops on sugar cones. “Definitely consider what the ice cream consistency is and put harder ice cream on the bottom.” As you add more scoops, softer ice cream will sink in. With a sugar cones, you’ll have to apply some pressure to get scoops to stick. “I’d recommend applying about 25 percent of your maximum force when putting it on the cone, then apply less pressure as you’re putting second and thirds scoops.” If you don’t have a cone holder, Dennis recommends using the top of an empty, clean milk gallon.
When employees first start out at Ice and Vice, Dennis trains them to use their shoulders and elbows, rather than wrists, to scoop. It uses less energy and reduces chance of injury. “Your shoulder is a bigger muscle,” he says. “I rotate my whole arm forward without moving my wrist.”
To keep scoops from rocking or tilting, use the back of your scooper to create a light imprint for the next scoop to sit in.
“One mistake that some employees make is they continue to build on a messy first scoop. The more you work the scoop, the less moist it is, and water no longer separates the ice cream from the metal. Or the ice cream begins to melt.” Instead, when Dennis feels a scoop isn’t perfect, he’s learned to dip his scooper back into water to reshape and smooth it out again.
For more ice cream recipes, tips, and saves for when things go awry, check out Ice Cream & Friends, our cookbook dedicated to ice cream and all its pals: pops, gelato, milkshakes—sprinkles, cones, and so much more.