If the title of this post makes you think we're being a little nit-picky, we beg to differ. One may think a ladle is a ladle is a ladle, but if you make a lot of soup, you know that's not true. If the ladle is too short for your pot, it sinks; if it's too long, it can be heavy or awkward. If the handle has no bend in it, it's very hard to get a clean scoop, but if it has too much bend, then it's hard to dip the ladle into a tall pot. So what to do? Consider the following tips:
1. Get a stainless steel ladle. Yes, you can get a heat-safe plastic coated one, but besides the potential BPA concerns, plastic is susceptible to staining (not good if you eat a lot of tomato soup) and it can still melt if the stovetop gets too hot. Also, a metal ladle bowl makes it easier to scoop out chunky ingredients (meat, vegetables) that may have settled on the bottom of the pot.
2. Make sure the bowl is big enough to draw 1/2 cup of soup or more per scoop. This is a decent serving size - not too big, not too small, so you don't overfill in one scoop.
3. Make sure the handle reaches to or slightly above the rim, not below. As a guideline, most ladles with handles under 9" will sink if used with deeper pots, according to Cook's Illustrated. Conversely, if you're using a shallower pot (like a Dutch oven) you'll want to accomodate by using a lighter, shorter-handled ladle, otherwise it could tip out.
4. On that note, get a ladle with a hooked end, and a slightly angled handle. You can get a longer handle to balance the ladle and help keep it from slipping in the stock pot, but as mentioned above, handles longer than 10" in a shallower pot can be cumbersome. The easiest way to prevent this is to just to get a hook. If the ladle is the right size with your pot, it'll sit on the rim comfortably. Also, an angled ladle makes for a cleaner, more ergonomically-correct scoop.
5. If you primarily make stews, a ladle with a wider, shallower bowl is best. Stews are typically heartier soups with lots of chunky ingredients. A shallower ladle bowl means you'll be able to see more of what you're scooping and therefore gauge how well distributed the ingredients are.
6. For an extra special detail, look for a ladle with a pouring rim. This ladle from Rösle (a top pick by Cook's Illustrated) has an all-around pouring rim that helps prevent drips.
Readers, what do you think about ladles? Do you love your ladle or does it drive you crazy? Or have you never really given it much thought at all?
(Image: Goran Bogicevic/Shutterstock)