Kitchen envy, Tour de France style

See the mobile kitchens accompanying the cycling teams at the Tour de France.

Team Garmin-Transitions built up a custom kitchen from the back end of a van. This is better than my home kitchen.

But Team Saxo Bank's kitchen puts them to shame by taking up an entire semi trailer.

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Fried butter

Yikes, as if state-fair food doesn't already suffer from a terrible fat- and sugar-laden reputation, now comes deep-fried butter.

Now I have to go ride my bike.

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Left-handed dishers (ice cream scoops)

Photo of dishers held by left and right hands

From looking over this blog's (brief) history, I guess it must be nearly impossible for me to write a post without making a follow-up to it. So, well, here's another one.

After giving dishers some more thought, it occurred to me that some types would be unsuitable or at least inconvenient for left-handed people to use. Basically, the sweeper in the scoop can be actuated in one of two ways, either by squeezing the entire handle or by pressing a thumb lever. Squeeze-handle dishers are actually ambidextrous, but to my knowledge thumb-lever dishers are only made for right-handed use. For the dishers listed in my previous post, I've made a chart of which ones are left-hand friendly:

Size Adcraft (metal) Adcraft (plastic) Fox Run Hamilton Beach Johnson Rose Norpro OXO Vollrath (metal) Vollrath (plastic) Zeroll
6 No No No No Yes
8 No Yes No No Yes No Yes
10 No No No Yes No Yes
12 No No No Yes No Yes
16 No Yes No No Yes No Yes
20 No Yes No No Yes Yes Yes No Yes
24 No No No Yes No Yes
30 Yes No No No Yes Yes No Yes
40 Yes No Yes No No Yes Yes No Yes
50 Yes Yes Yes Yes
60 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
70 Yes Yes Yes Yes
100 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes


If you're left-handed, give squeeze-handle dishers (ice cream scoops) your top consideration. To learn more about disher sizes, see my previous post.

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Disher (aka ice cream scoop) sizes

Update: Also see my post on dishers for left-handed use.

To ensure that cookies, cupcakes, and muffins bake evenly, one of the steps should be to divide the dough or batter into uniform quantities. For the best way to do this, the common advice is to use portion-control tools. These are known as dishers in the food-service industry, although to the rest of us they look like ice cream scoops. In addition to their use in baking, dishers can also ensure consistent portioning of meatballs or hamburger patties. You can buy them at your local restaurant-supply store.

In the US, commercial-grade dishers are denominated in sizes (numbers) that represent quart fractions—for example, a No. 12 disher should hold 1/12 of a quart (in other words, it takes 12 scoops to fill a quart), a No. 16 holds 1/16 quart, etc. Using this standard, we can create a chart of disher sizes and their equivalent nominal volumes, in both US customary and metric units:

* Color codes are only available on dishers with plastic handles.
Size Color* fl oz tbsp cup  (fraction) mL
6 White 5.33 10.7 0.667  (2/3) 158
8 Gray 4.00 8.00 0.500  (1/2) 118
10 Ivory 3.20 6.40 0.400 94.6
12 Green 2.67 5.33 0.333  (1/3) 78.9
16 Blue 2.00 4.00 0.250  (1/4) 59.1
20 Yellow 1.60 3.20 0.200 47.3
24 Red 1.33 2.67 0.167 39.4
30 Black 1.07 2.13 0.133 31.5
40 Orchid 0.800 1.60 0.100 23.7
50 Rust 0.640 1.28 0.0800 18.9
60 Pink 0.533 1.07 0.0667 15.8
70 Plum 0.457 0.914 0.0571 13.5
100 Orange 0.320 0.640 0.0400 9.46

You'll notice there are gaps between sizes. As far as I know, these are the only ones available for the US food-service market, and not all manufacturers make this entire size range. But that's not the problem. The real problem is that the quart-fraction standard is only followed loosely, and actual disher capacities vary both from the nominal size and among different manufacturers. How far off are these scoop sizes, you ask? Let's look at the numbers.

The following table contains a semi-random sampling of product lines and shows how much the scoops' specified capacities deviate from nominal sizes. These calculations are based on the manufacturers' specifications, which I've collected into a spreadsheet you can either view online (HTML) or download (Excel, with formulas). The file is also available in Google Spreadsheets format if you're logged in to a Google account. In addition to the manufacturers' specifications and my calculations, the spreadsheet also contains details such as the dishers' scoop diameters shown in both inches and centimeters.

Deviation of specified capacity from nominal size. Bold indicates sizes accurate to within 2%. Details.
Size Adcraft (PDF) Fox Run Hamilton Beach Johnson Rose Norpro OXO Vollrath (metal) Vollrath (plastic) Zeroll
6 12.5% 12.6% 12.5% 0.0% 12.6%
8 0.0% 0.0% 9.0% 8.3% 0.0% 0.0% 9.0%
10 17.2% 0.3% 14.6% 2.3% 1.6% 0.3%
12 21.9% 4.3% 25.0% 3.1% 0.0% 4.3%
16 37.5% 0.0% 3.5% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 3.5%
20 56.3% 0.0% 10.6% 4.2% 6.3% 6.3% 6.3% 1.6% 10.6%
24 31.3% 11.8% 0.0% 3.1% 0.0% 11.8%
30 17.2% 3.4% 6.3% 6.3% 17.2% 6.3% 3.4%
40 9.4% 6.3% 15.0% 16.7% 6.3% 9.4% 6.3% 11.3%
50 2.3% 0.0% 2.3% 1.6%
60 5.5% 6.3% 37.5% 5.5% 0.6%
70 9.4% 0.6% 6.0% 0.6%
100 17.2% 0.0% 4.2% 17.2% 0.0%

As you can see, disher size accuracy can be way off the mark. In this table, scoops accurate to within 2% of the nominal size are highlighted in bold. If this seems to be too tight of an allowance for size variations, think about it this way: a 12-inch ruler that's off by 2% will be either too long or too short by roughly a quarter of an inch, making for a potential variation of nearly half an inch from one ruler to the next.

While it's possible that dishers are made to match nominal sizes but their true capacities are rounded off for publication formatting (thus calculations based on published specifications will show more deviation than actually exists), seeing that there is no uniformity even within one manufacturer's own two product lines leads me to believe this is not the case, since there is no reason to think different rounding standards would be used here. Moreover, by comparing the ratios between sizes, one is likely to find that manufacturers' guidance for real-world applications (e.g., hamburger patties) further deviate from both the nominal and specified volumes. Makes one wonder which numbers are really right.

Please note, however, that in spite of these discrepancies, inaccurate dishers aren't necessarily defective or inferior. This is because dishers are primarily portioning tools instead of measuring tools, so if you find some that fit your recipes, there's not much point to worrying about whether they match some fixed standard or not. You just need to be aware that size designations are not reliable indicators of actual capacity, and dishers of identical (nominal) size from different manufacturers may hold different amounts of material.

Now, how do you know which dishers will fit your recipes without buying every size and trying them? That's a good question. From what I've seen, recipes generally don't tell you that. At least for muffins and cupcakes, since standard muffin tins have a capacity of 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz., or 8 tbsp) per pocket, we should figure to place only about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of batter in each to avoid overflowing during baking—in other words, #12 and #16 (nominal size) should work in most cases. However, I've also seen recipes that exceed this quantity to deliberately create overflowing muffin tops, so exceptions do exist.


Disher (ice cream scoop) sizes can be inconsistent, so it's better to know their actual (or at least specified) capacities than to rely on nominal sizes. In terms of nominal size, 12 and 16 should, in principle, fit most muffin and cupcake recipes.

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C'mon Max, don't hate

A brief response to Max Fisher's column in The Atlantic's Food Channel, because I don't have time and don't want to get drawn into any potentially long arguments with the other commenters on his post.

Anyway Max, I get the impression you feel that vegans and vegetarians are somehow in a contest to see who is holier than the other. Why do you see it this way? I don't get it. Don't let the hate mail from a vocal minority of angry vegans skew your perspective. It seems to me every time the subject of veganism or vegetarianism—or even a suggestion to reduce meat consumption just a bit—is brought up in the mainstream press, it is invariably met with a torrent of vicious and belittling responses from meat eaters, yet I know from real-life experience that most omnivores aren't rabid foaming-at-the-mouth hate-spewers. Live and let live, you know?

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A quick note

Just to say that I haven't abandoned this blog. This is a quick glimpse into what I'm working on right now.

Yes, it's food-related. Food geeks rejoice. Everyone else cower in fear.

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Was just reading a couple of folks on Twitter who have been foraging. Sounds like fun. Better than Central Market. Better than Whole Foods. Even better than the farmers' market, yes? But how does one learn to separate the food from the poison? No Recipes replies, in two parts: "go at least once with someone who knows what they're doing and take photos and notes," and "ramps look similar to toxic lily-of-the-valley, but they have a distinct garlic smell that the toxic ones don't have." Um, yeah, just what I was afraid of.

Anyway, dear readers, has any one of you in the Dallas area ever foraged? Care to give me some pointers? Or do you know of any resources that I can call up? Thanks.

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