How to Scoop Ice Cream to Create Parlor-Perfect Balls Every Time

Start planning a neighborhood ice cream social now, because you'll want to show off your new skill. We even suggest a few recipes to practice on.

Ice Cream Scoops
Photo: Danny Kim

Eating ice cream is easy, but using an ice cream scoop to get it out of the carton in nice round scoops? Not so much. Read on to learn how to scoop ice cream to create perfectly shaped orbs worthy of a Victorian ice cream parlor. Whether scooping your own homemade ice cream or a store-bought brand from a carton, follow our five techniques and you'll wind up with the ice cream balls of your dreams every time.

Just in case it takes hours of rigorous practice and countless sundaes (it won't), we also offer a few recipes with which you can avoid monotony while polishing your skills (as if anyone could get bored with ice cream).

01 of 05

Store It Smart

Ice cream stays freshest in the back of your freezer where temperature is typically the coldest and most consistent, as opposed to in a compartment on the door where it fluctuates each time you open it. Temperature changes can lead to partial melting causing icy crystals to form, which damages ice cream's texture and makes it harder to get a clean scoop.

It's also a good idea to place your ice cream container in a ziplock plastic bag with excess air removed, even if it's a new carton. This gives your ice cream an extra layer of protection from air that tries to work its way into the container, and thwarts freezer burn. This trick also helps prevent your ice cream from acquiring the aroma of that bag of diced onions nearby.

02 of 05

Time It Right

For smooth scooping (and less of a bicep workout), remove ice cream from the freezer about 3 minutes before scooping and let it soften slightly at room temperature. But don't forget the clock! If left out for more than 5 minutes, you risk the ice cream turning soupy.

03 of 05

Get in Hot Water

Take a page out of your local scoop shop's playbook and set a bowl or plastic container of room-temperature water within reach. Dipping the scooper between each scoop warms up and moistens the ice cream just enough to prevent it from sticking.

04 of 05

Make an "S" Shape

To form a perfectly round ball of ice cream, create an "s" motion while you scoop. Make a slow and continuous swiveling action, turning your wrist smoothly as you go.

Another trick is to start around the edges and work your way to the center. Because ice cream melts from the outside in, the center of the carton is generally the hardest to scoop.

05 of 05


Now put those skills to use. (Yes, it's a tough job, but...) If you have an ice cream maker, try one of these recipes for inspiration:

No ice cream maker? No problem. Check out these fruit-forward recipes to make ice cream without an ice cream maker:

To go beyond the ice cream ball, scoop up store-bought or homemade ice cream to use in these dreamy, creamy creations:

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