Most people call them scoops, but in the restaurant and food service industry they’re called dishers. The important part is that they’re absolutely perfect for portioning foods for the freezer. They come in a variety of sizes, from two teaspoons all the way up to a full cup. They’re often referred to by a number, and the way it goes is the higher the number, the smaller the disher. They have a thumb lever mechanism or a palm squeeze one. Look for them anywhere restaurant supplies are sold to the public, and get yourself as many sizes as you will use on a regular basis.
Dishers obviously provide built-in portion control, but they also make portioning large amounts of foods into individual serving sizes super easy and fast. Many people use them to make their cookies evenly sized because evenly sized pieces or portions of foods always cook/bake more evenly. You can use dishers for many other things. Meatballs are a cinch with dishers, and you can also take that evenly portioned meat mixture and turn it into patties for the grill. Rice and other grains are perfect when portioned with dishers, whether you’re portioning a whole meal into a larger food storage container or just individual servings of rice in snack-sized baggies like I do.
Like many others, I use smaller sized dishers for portioning cookie dough. You can make a double or triple batch of your favorite cookie dough and portion it into individual cookie-sized amounts for the freezer. Line a cookie sheet or two with parchment (make sure they fit into your freezer) and portion the dough. You don’t even need to worry about shaping them into balls; leave the flat side as is, and place the portions of dough about ½ apart. Since you aren’t baking them, you won’t need to put them so far apart, and you can put more on each sheet. Freeze them a couple hours or so and put them into labeled and dated resealable bags in 1- or 2-dozen batches. Be sure to include baking directions on the label. To bake, take out one batch and place it on a parchment-lined cookie sheet to thaw until soft. Preheat the oven as usual. You may need to add a minute or two to account for the coldness of the dough. If you want to, you can thaw them in the refrigerator overnight or for a day or two.
Here is some basic info for the more commonly used dishers and their uses. A 1″ disher is a Tablespoon, and it makes 2″ diameter cookies. A 1½” disher is two Tablespoons and makes them about 3″ diameter. A 2″ disher (ice cream scoop) is about ¼ cup when scooped level, or about ½ cup when scooped rounded like for ice cream. I would use a 2″ disher for making meatballs. If you scoop the meat mixture level and then shape it into a ball, you come up with meatballs that are slightly smaller than 2″ diameter. Remember that they will shrink during cooking, so by the time they’re cooked they’ll be at least 1½” across, which is a good sized meatball.
One of the best ways to cook large amounts of meatballs at once is on a baking sheet in the oven. Make sure you have a rack that is about the same size as a 1″ deep baking sheet but fits inside it. Load up the rack with your perfectly portioned meatballs, about ½” apart, and bake at 350 °F. for 30 minutes or until cooked through. Let them cool about another 30 minutes and then portion them into batches of the amounts you normally use for sauces or other recipes and freeze. As with most other meats, you can freeze them up to six months. You can freeze them uncooked if you want, as well. You don’t need the rack; just put some parchment on the baking sheet and freeze the meatballs a few hours before putting them into resealable bags in batches as above. Thaw completely before using.
There’s a really popular technique, for lack of a better term, in Meal Prep that involves making a batch of something, portioning it to fill muffin cups, and baking it. Individual serving size meatloaf is one of the more common things to make in muffin cups, but you can make things for every meal of the day including dessert. Sometimes I make a huge batch of oatmeal and portion it in muffin cups, freeze it 2-3 hours, and then remove the portions and put them into a gallon-sized bag and back into the freezer. Take out a couple of portions, put them into a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave it on high power 3-4 minutes or until heated through, stirring halfway through time.
Do yourself a huge favor and resist using muffin cup liners of any type. They don’t do well in the freezer; I learned that one the hard way. Instead, lightly spray or grease the muffin cups before filling them. A 2″ disher is perfect for filling muffin cups, but you may need to lightly press the food into the cup to make sure it goes into all the spaces at the bottom.
The possibilities are almost endless for making muffin pan meals. Anything you usually make in a baking dish can be downsized into muffin cups. Macaroni and cheese or other baked pastas, leftover stuffing from Thanksgiving, mini meatloaves, or breakfast casseroles. Just remember that you won’t need to bake them as long as the original recipe indicates; check them for doneness after about 10-15 minutes.
Whether you call them dishers or scoops, they’re an essential piece of equipment for Meal Prep and portioning foods into evenly sized amounts. You can be assured that you’re always portioning your foods exactly the same each time when you use a disher for portioning. Have any other ideas for how to use dishers in your Meal Prep? Let me know below.