For someone who doesn't eat much ice cream, I sure use my ice cream scoop an awful lot. As a baking tool, a few different sized scoops are essential—there's no faster or more consistent way to get cookie dough from the bowl to the baking tray. Muffins and cupcakes benefit too, making filling up the wells quick, even, and mess-free.
What about for meat eaters? You're not left in the dark!
I use a portion scoop to divide my fresh ground beef into perfectly sized 1 1/2 ounce sliders whenever I have to cook off a few dozen. It saves time and keeps my hands (and therefore my kitchen) neat and clean. Just the other night I was testing a whole slew of meatballs. I don't know where I would have been without my trusty scoop.
When it comes to ice cream scoops, there are two real options—those that rely on heat and conductive metal to keep the ice cream from sticking (like the kind you see in more ice cream shops), and those that have a mechanical bail that slides in between the ice cream and the scoop, separating it.
While the former is far better for getting nicely shaped ice cream scoops, the latter is much more versatile, allowing you to work with hot or cold ingredients, solid or sticky.
Of the latter variety, you'll again find two distinct models. The first has a little trigger by the thumb, while the second uses the entire handle as the trigger mechanism. I prefer the second again, as the thumb-trigger from the first type can get sticky/slimy/slippery with use, and I'd rather not fumble around with it when I've got meatballs to cook.
The Medium Scoop by OXO ($13.99) is the best constructed I've seen (many have gear teeth that slip out with extended use), is attractive, modestly priced, and has their signature black grippy trim, making it easy to hang on to even when you've got ice cream dripping down your fingers.
Though the OXO lists their scoop sizes in tablespoons, much more common is to simple have a number representing the number of level scoops you get per quart. So, for example, a #40 scoop will get you 40 scoops per quart, making each one about 1.6 tablespoons. A #16 scoop will measure in quarter cups, etc. I recommend adding at least a #40 scoop and a #20 scoop to your collection. The #40 is perfect for sliders, meatballs, small cookies, and tasting-sized portions of ice cream or sorbet. The #20 you'll use for large cookies, muffins and cupcakes, or full-sized ice cream scoops.
Your purchase on Amazon helps support Serious Eats.