This Scoop Will Set You Free

So, you’re a good cook. Your food tastes amazing, its properly seasoned, and your friends and family gush over you. So why do your dinners look different from restaurant meals? Why is one meatball undercooked while another on the same tray is overcooked? What it all comes down to is consistency, especially in portioning. All your food will not only look the same but will cook at the same time. There are many ways to do this. A kitchen scale is a must as I often scale to equal weights. But when you need to portion mass quantities quickly, the pros look to the cookie scoop.

Though the name implies a single purpose, cookie scoops, known sometimes as dishers, are wonderful for many other household staples. Measuring meatballs easily and evenly, moving cake batter into a pan, equally distributing muffins into tins, portioning pancake batter on a griddle, or severing up tuna salad for weekday family lunches are all other great applications. Since they come in many sizes with a strange color and number coding system, shopping for scoops can feel overwhelming. Let’s first break down how scoops are classified and which you may want to have in your home.

Scoops are classified by number. You may hear some chefs talk about using a #6 scoop or #20 scoop. This number has nothing to do with the weight they scoop. Instead, they correspond to how many scoops of cookie dough it would take to fill a quart container. This number is relatively useless except to recognize that the lower the number, the bigger the scoop. Each scoop also has a color associated with it. A #12 scoop always has a green handle, and a #20 scoop always has a yellow handle. These are all helpful ways to shop for or quickly identify scoops but what we really care about is how much one scoop of food will weight.

Weight is measured in fluid ounces as all liquids will fill the scoop equally. This means that weight can vary slightly depending on how densely packed solid food is. But generally, the fluid ounce weight should be close to anything else you measure. As you can see, this is a little complicated and there are many different sizes out there to fit many needs. Have no fear, you only need a few scoops in your home to do most tasks.

Starting with the largest, I like to keep a #8 (grey handled) scoop on hand. This scoop holds about 4 oz or ½ a cup. This is useful for quick measurements of ingredients you’ve already prepped, like a fast scoop of half a cup of chopped onions to start a dish. This size is also great for large cookies or for tasks like moving large quantities of cake batter to the pan.

Next there is the #12 (green handled) scoop which holds about 2.5 oz or 1/3 of a cup of food. I like these for larger meatballs and hold the perfect amount of batter for muffins or cupcakes.

Below that, I like a #20 (yellow handled) scoop, which holds about 1.8 oz or a ¼ of cup of food. This is a nice meatball size (my preference) and perfect for a medium-sized cookie.

Finally, I always have a #40 (purple handled, or sometimes referred to as orchid colored). This scoop is a little less than one ounce and about one- and one-half tablespoons. These are great for small holiday cookies, mini meatballs for Italian Wedding Soup or that classic Swedish appetizer, or mini muffins and cupcakes.

Depending on your needs, there are many bigger, smaller, or in-between scoops so shop for what works for you. But these four scoops have served me well and have elevated my cooking that much more.