Maximizing the Flavor of Ice Cream

Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream with Metal Ice Cream Scoop | Taste As You Go

Updated: February 22, 2022

Leave it to Josh Friedland of The Food Section to give me a reason to stop and think about ice cream. On November 3, Friedland posed the following question:
"Does ice cream taste better licked from a cone or eaten with a spoon?"

Before continuing on with the rest of Friedland's article, I thought about my own ice-cream-eating habits. I definitely prefer eating ice cream piled on top of a cone than I do eating it from a bowl (or directly from the carton!) with a spoon. 

Eating ice cream on a cone makes me think of summer and conjures up memories of my family's first trip to Disney World. I can remember my parents buying me a cone with three scoops of ice cream. I had begged incessantly for three scoops and promised I'd be careful not to get any ice cream on my clothes, so my parents gave in. We sat on a curb along Main Street, and as soon as I gave my ice cream its first lick, the top two scoops fell off and landed with a splat on the hot pavement. Despite that traumatic experience (losing ice cream to the ground is traumatic for any kid), I still love ice cream on a cone the best. 

But I digress.

As I thought about Friedland's flavor question, it occurred to me that, when I did eat ice cream with a spoon, I had a peculiar way of doing it. Back in high school, someone told me that the best way to eat ice cream with a spoon was to turn the spoon over so it was upside-down. This way the ice cream hit your tongue and the spoon protected the roof of your mouth from the cold, thus preventing the possibility of "brain freeze." I've been eating it that way ever since. But was I cheating myself on the flavor of the ice cream by eating it that way?

According to Kay McMath, an expert in food technology at Massey University in New Zealand, "Flavor in ice cream is only released when the fat content - which carries the flavor - is warmed in the mouth to at least body temperature. During licking, the tongue is coated with a thin layer of ice cream which is more quickly warmed, and the flavor is detected by the large surface area of the taste buds present on the tongue." Using a spoon decreases the active surface area on the tongue, so you don't experience the full flavor of the ice cream. Aha! So, if you want to maximize the flavor of your ice cream, it is better if you lick it than if you use a spoon.

After reading the entire article, I'm still not sure whether my method of eating ice cream with a spoon (upside-down) helps bring out more of its flavor than the traditional method. It sounds like I'm just going to have to go out and buy a pint of coffee ice cream (my favorite!) and conduct a little flavor experiment of my own.

So, tell me, what's your favorite ice cream and how do you prefer to eat it?

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David said…
My favorite is Ben & Jerry's Mint Chocolate Chunk (NOT to be mistaken for Mint Chocolate Cookie). The local store Sebastian Joe's also has an excellent Mint Choc Chip, but it is a rare find in their parlour as customers unanimously prefer their original, Raspberry Choc Chip.

Yes, always from a waffle or wafer cone. The brown sugar cone reminds me of eating soggy cardboard.
David - I am embarrassed to say that I haven't tried Ben & Jerry's Mint Chocolate Chunk before. I'm going to have to look out for it! Based on your other suggestions, it sounds like you prefer having a chocolate chip or chunk of some sort mixed into your ice cream. Love it!

And, I totally agree about the brown sugar cone. Waffle cone for me, all the way.
David said…
It's something about mint and chocolate together that my taste buds love. And who doesn't like chocolate? I am a milk-chocolate person, so chocolate + dairy also works. Those who prefer bittersweet dark choc. may need to look for something else.
David - Mint and chocolate are so good together. I think that's why I love the mint Milano cookies from Pepperidge Farm so much!

And, thanks for giving those who prefer bittersweet dark chocolate a head's up. Personally, I'll eat every kind of chocolate with equal enthusiasm. :)
Joie de vivre said…
A scientific reason why ice cream tastes better from a cone. Brilliant! I will have to try your upside-down spoon trick.
Joie de vivre - Isn't it amazing? Let me know if you notice a difference between eating ice cream with the spoon upright and with the spoon upside-down!
I'm pretty much an equal opporutnity ice cream eater - any flavor is a good flavor for me. If I had to choose one, it would be mint chocolate chip. And my preferred way to eat ice cream is in large quantities. :) - John
John - Welcome! Seems that the mint/chocolate combination is a popular one! I'm with you, though. While coffee ice cream is my favorite flavor, especially if it's given to me in a waffle cone and topped with chocolate sprinkles, I'll eat any ice cream that's put in front of me, regardless of flavor. :-)

Thanks for stopping by!
Matt Casey said…
This post just reminded me that I had a half gallon of unopened french vanilla in the freezer... getting some of that now :)

Yeah, I know, vanilla is synonymous with boring, but that's fine by me.
Matt - I hope you didn't eat the entire half gallon of ice cream after realizing it was hiding out in your freezer!
Eudora said…
Matt - you don't have to consider vanilla boring. How about classic? And French Vanilla, well, you could view that as sophisticated and chic.