Cookie Scoops as a Unit of Measure

During December, I made a lot of cookies. In the course of all that cookie-making, I learned something new. A recipe I was following said to use a #40 scooper to portion out cookies. I had no idea scoopers were numbered.

I did a little research and learned the numbers are engraved on the underside of the metal tabs that protrude from the handle.

The numbers refer to how many level scoops of food product are needed to fill a one-quart container. A #20 scoop would give you 20 scoops of ice cream from a quart container. With the #40, it takes 40 scoops to fill a quart container. Posed another way, a cook in a commercial kitchen would know that a gallon container of cookie dough would yield 160 cookies if a #40 scoop were used.

In my kitchen, I have three cookie scoops. Here’s what I learned about them:

I found that when making my Aunt Rose’s Christmas cookies, I could make 78 cookies with the #30 or 105 with the #40. Bonus discovery: because they were uniform in size, they cooked evenly in the oven. Also, if I measured the portions out all at once, it took no time to grab a mound of dough from the tray and shape it into the pretty cookies our family likes to bake during the holidays.

I found I could use the #40 to portion out the sticky, crunchy filling for my grandmothers’ Sicilian fig cookies without having to stop and wash my fingers of the gooey mixture every few minutes. Once the fig mixture was portioned out, I shaped it into logs and then shaped the already portioned out cookie dough around the fig filling.

And why stop there? I used a heaping #30 scoop to make uniformly-sized Italian meatballs. I think a #20 would have been better for the job (it holds a little over three tablespoons of food), but I didn’t have one.

This photo of scoopers comes from the commercial kitchen of The Nashville Food Project where I am a volunteer cook.

There, we use the scoopers to portion out consistent amounts of food like breakfast egg muffins

and the ricotta filling used to make lasagna — when making trays of it to feed 600 people!

I was telling my husband about my cookie scoop discovery, and he explained that the gauge of a shotgun is measured similarly. The gauge represents the number of lead balls, of the diameter of the barrel, it takes to make a pound of lead. A 12-gauge shotgun takes 12 lead balls, and a 20-gauge gun takes 20. The smaller the diameter of the barrel, the higher the gauge of the shotgun. It’s an antiquated way of describing the size of a gun.

Once I started portioning out cookie dough onto sheet pans, it took no time to figure out I could freeze the dough while it was on the tray, place the dough balls in a freezer bag, and store them in the freezer …

until the next time we wanted a few warm cookies fresh out of the oven.

This method yields evenly-sized cookies, a bonus when making cookies for a bake sale or neighborhood gathering.

Related Posts
Italian Sesame Seed Cookies
Italian Ricotta and Lemon Cookies
Oats, Sorghum, Ginger and Cranberry Cookies
Home Ec: How to Measure Ingredients Properly

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23 thoughts on “Cookie Scoops as a Unit of Measure

  1. I have a couple of cookie scoops but didn’t know the origin of the number. Now I am curious about your aunt roses Christmas cookies and your grandmothers fig cookies.

  2. You have taught me so much with this post about scoops. Who would have know. I love the info in the shotgun gauge size. Surgical needles are also gauged that way. A very small needle will have a large number. So next time you have blood drawn, ask what gauge. If it’s a #16 or #18 is tolerable. Anything with a smaller number is going to hurt!!!! Love the post, keep them coming.

    1. Good tip! Yes, IV needles are a good example of the inverse relationship between the diameter of a hole and the number assigned to it. And, like in the kitchen, the needles are color coded! Thanks for writing!

  3. I use a cookie scoop because I love a batch of uniform cookies! I’ll have to check the size; I didn’t know about that system.

    I’m the kind of baker that weighs the bagel dough for uniform bagels, too!

    1. Michelle, I love uniform cookies, too! Figuring out I could measure out the sticky fig mixture was a delightful revelation. And then the meatballs … I know you get it! I have yet to make bagels. Do you have a recipe on your blog? I would love to try making them.

      PS: Loved your post on knitting for Barbie! Thanks for writing.

  4. After all the crumbs were cleared away from Christmas cookies I have been looking at getting some cookie dough scoops. Do you have any recommendations for good ones?

    Michelle I knew you would be one to be precise and weigh just like your knitting – perfection!

    1. I really don’t, Kathy. I did notice each of mine has “NSF” stamped on them. It means they’re certified by the National Sanitation Foundation. I like the grooved handles. They help when your hand start to get slippery from the fat in the dough. Thanks for writing!

    2. My scoops are the kind where you squeeze the two halves of the handle to eject the dough. Judy’s look like you would use your thumb to accomplish that. As a knitter who has knitted her thumbs into arthritis, I prefer mine 🙂 . YMMV.

  5. So, I got here from Mason Dixon Knitting and am obligated to say that yarn numbering systems are also similarly based, but those numbers are no longer used for knitting and crochet yarns. The wildest thing is that it’s a different number for each type of fiber. For cotton, the numbering system is “how many skeins of 840 yards each does is take to weigh a pound”? For linen, the skeins are 300 yards, for wool, it’s 256 yards. So…that’s a random tidbit to add to your day. I think I should quit addiding to the confusion and go make some cookies now.

  6. I did not know that shotgun gauge is related in any way to the a pound of lead – learn something new every day!
    We had one scoop (number unknown) in the kitchen utensil drawer when I was growing up, but I don’t remember using it often because the metal-on-metal noise set my teeth on edge. Either scoops don’t make that noise anymore or else it’s just a sound I’m overly sensitive to. I’ll have to try some next time I’m shopping, because I can see where they can be very helpful. Thanks for the tips!

    1. You should read Amber’s comment about the old yarn numbering system also based on weight. You will like it! And cookie scoops no longer squeak! I hate that sound of metal on metal, too.

  7. I found your great website because I clicked on the link in the Mason Dixon post about pimiento cheese and I’ve spent several happy minutes reading through the recipes and articles. I’m going to make the cheese today, as well as the lemon ricotta cookies, if I have time. You mention Sicilian fig cookies in the post about ice-cream scoops (thanks for explaining those numbers) and I wonder if you would share that recipe.
    Mille grazie.

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