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A quick and versatile machine. Dishwasher safe making it simple to clean. Our tester notes that it's more "refined and streamlined" than other ice cream makers they've used. Allows experimental chefs to get creative with a variety of ingredients.
Takes 24 hours to fully set ice cream forcing you to plan ahead.
Mixing paddle and powerful motor make ice cream and frozen treats in as little as 20 minutes. Double-insulated bowl doesn't need ice to keep contents cool while operating. Transparent lid allows you to keep an eye on the process. Makes 1.5 quarts.
Not the biggest capacity. Bowl needs to be pre-frozen before operation.
Extremely durable and consistent. Heavily insulated freezer bowl requires no ice. Operation is straightforward and totally user-friendly. Given its compact design, it's easy to store in cupboards or pantries.
We recommend a longer freezing time than the manufacturer suggests.
Reliable results with 12 hardness settings for making everything from gelato to frozen custard. Sensors maintain optimal firmness of contents for up to 3 hours. Has both automated and manual settings.
Some don't like its noisy operation. Included scooper is on the short side.
Makes roughly 2 quarts of ice cream in 20-30 minutes. Enjoy delicious homemade ice cream quickly without the use of ice and salt. Attachment comes with a range of recipes. Attachment fits majority of KitchenAid stand mixers.
Mixing bowl must be stored in the freezer for 24 hours prior to use.
After going through an intensive research process to narrow down our short list of top products in this space, we tested most of our top five to be sure that these products are worth your time. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter and test to verify manufacturer claims.
Ice cream makers are fun to use and great for kids’ parties, family gatherings and other get-togethers. Making your own ice cream lets you create flavors and combinations that are limited only by your imagination, without preservatives, additives or artificial ingredients.
Making ice cream at home used to entail a bucket of ice, a box of salt, lots of elbow grease and plenty of time. Fortunately, ice cream makers no longer require that kind of effort. You can find machines that use a prefrozen bowl or devices that freeze the mixture as they work. Many stand mixers have an optional ice cream maker attachment. Even ice cream makers that still use ice and salt now have motors to do the churning for you.
We researched ice cream makers and put some popular models to the test in the BestReviews Testing Lab. Based on our findings, we recommend the innovative online favorite Ninja Creami Ice Cream Maker as the fastest and most versatile one you can find.
Ninja’s entry into ice cream makers, the Creami, is widely popular on social media, and we can see why. We can’t think of another kitchen appliance we’ve tested that can accomplish what the Creami does as simply and quickly. Rather than a liquid mix churned slowly for up to half an hour as with other ice cream makers, the Creami starts with a frozen mix that a powerful paddle churns and whips. We made a frozen base with fruit, water and a little coconut milk, and the Creami turned out a delicious sorbet in a few minutes. The device has seven presets for speed and hardness, including ice cream and sorbet as well as milkshakes and smoothie bowls. As a convenience, the paddle, bowls and lids are all dishwasher safe.
Cuisinart has a range of well-regarded ice cream makers of different sizes and capabilities, and the Cuisinart ICE-21 represents the best bang for your buck. It’s easy to use, it consistently produces great results and it is affordably priced. To use the ICE-21, you must freeze its bowl for 16 to 24 hours before use. The fully automated process takes less than 20 minutes to churn 1.5 quarts of fresh ice cream. And it’s easy to add flavorings and extras through the wide spout on the clear lid. This model comes in three colors too. About the only drawback to the ICE-21 is that the bowl takes up space in the freezer, but that is true of all ice cream makers of this type.
The Cuisinart ICE-30 is the larger sibling of the ICE-21, with a 2-quart bowl for making half a gallon of ice cream or frozen yogurt at a time. We like its larger capacity combined with the simple operation and large mix-in spout, similar to that on the ICE-21. In our tests, we found that freezing the bowl for at least 24 hours produces the best texture, and freezing it for less time produces very soft ice cream. We tested various recipes, including plain vanilla, cookies and cream, blueberry sorbet and vegan ice cream with coconut milk, all with excellent results. The ICE-30 has a simple on/off dial in front, most of the parts are dishwasher safe and the brushed metal finish looks good on the kitchen counter.
The Smart Scoop is a compressor-type ice cream maker, which means you don’t need ice and you don’t have to freeze the bowl before you begin. The compressor chills and freezes your homemade ice cream while it churns, so you can make a batch with a lot less prep time. The Breville boasts 12 individual hardness settings, so you can make not only ice cream and sorbet but also smoother, denser, lower-fat gelato. The Breville is completely automated, with an alert tone that lets you know your mix is ready. Thanks to the compressor, it can also keep your ice cream cold for up to three hours.
If you’re one of the many home cooks who has an iconic KitchenAid stand mixer, you can make ice cream with this attachment that fits nearly all of Kitchenaid’s Tilt-Head and Bowl-Lift stand mixers. This ice cream maker consists of a 2-quart freezer bowl with a dasher and adapter for the mixer. The freezer bowl must be frozen for 24 hours for the best results. Like other freezer bowl ice cream makers, this one takes about 30 minutes to produce ice cream. All three components are designed for quick installation and easy use and can be cleaned in warm water.
Another of our favorite compressor-type ice cream makers, and endorsed by Andrea Boudewijn, our cooking and baking expert, is this 2.1-quart model from Whynter. It has a smaller footprint than the Breville, making it a better fit for a small or crowded kitchen counter, although it’s a few inches taller. We particularly like the flexibility of this model. You can set it to freeze only or churn only, as well as make ice cream automatically. With the various settings, it can make smooth gelato or refreshing sorbet as easy as ice cream or frozen yogurt, and it can keep the contents cold after churning is complete.
The old ice-and-salt method of making ice cream at home has never really gone away, especially since it’s one of the most efficient ways to make a large batch. The Hamilton Beach ice cream maker uses ice and rock salt to make up to a gallon of fresh ice cream, but don’t worry — you don’t have to crank it by hand. The powerful motor and paddle take care of the churning for you. It’s easy to add flavorings and mix-ins, and the straightforward design means you don’t have to pre-freeze a bowl or any ingredients. Just have enough ice and salt handy, and you’re good to go.
After researching ice cream makers, we tested the Ninja Creami and Cuisinart Pure Indulgence to see how they performed.
There are three basic types of ice cream makers for use at home, plus a few specialty types.
Traditional: This is the old-fashioned ice cream maker you might remember from childhood. It consists of a bucket you fill with a mixture of rock salt and ice, which acts as a refrigerant to freeze the ice cream while you work. A container inside the bucket of ice holds the ice cream ingredients. Traditional machines crank out a large quantity of ice cream, often a gallon or more at a time, making one a good choice for a large family or group. No components need to be frozen ahead of time. This is the least expensive type of ice cream maker.
However, you do need to have plenty of rock salt and ice on hand, and this type of machine can be messy. Also, cranking a manual machine can be tiring!
Frozen bowl: This type of ice cream maker is the most popular thanks to its affordability and ease of use. After freezing the empty ingredient bowl overnight, you add your ingredients and place the bowl in the machine. The machine churns the ingredients until the ice cream is ready. There is no fussing with rock salt and ice, no cranking by hand and no mess to contend with. Very little cleanup is required with this type of machine.
One downside is that you need to freeze the bowl in advance. These machines also don’t make a lot of ice cream per session, usually 2 quarts or less. You also can’t make ice cream on a whim. You need to freeze the bowl in advance, usually overnight. You can solve this problem by storing the bowl in the freezer between uses, but this takes up quite a bit of space.
Compressor: These ice cream makers have their own built-in freezer, so there’s no need to pre-freeze any of the components. Just add your ingredients, flip the switch and the machine takes care of the rest. Compressor ice cream makers keep the ingredients consistently cold throughout the entire process, so they tend to produce the creamiest results with the least risk of ice crystals or coarse texture. These machines generally have features like a digital countdown timer, a “keep cool” function and various settings for different types of frozen desserts, such as sorbet, frozen yogurt and gelato.
On the downside, these machines take up a lot of storage or counter space and are significantly more expensive than other types of ice cream makers.
Other: Aside from the Kitchenaid stand mixer attachment and the Ninja Creami, you can find other gadgets for making ice cream, such as small balls in which you manually churn the mix, or frozen trays with paddles that allow you to mix and fold ice cream in sheets like in ice cream parlors.
Here’s how to make a basic yet flavorful vanilla ice cream at home.
A. The price of ice cream makers ranges from as low as $40 to as high as $700 for high-end gourmet machines. Freezer-bowl types usually cost between $40 and $150. Manual or electric ice-and-salt churners cost around $50 to $60. Compressor machines cost $250 and up.
A. Ice cream is usually made of a mixture of cream, milk, and sugar, and may contain eggs or egg yolks (also known as frozen custard). Gelato, often known as Italian ice cream, is made only with milk and sugar. It has less air churned into it than ice cream and has a stronger flavor. Since it isn’t typically made with cream, it tends to have less fat and fewer calories than regular ice cream.
A. Homemade ice cream has fewer ingredients and no additives like fillers or stabilizers unless you put them in. Homemade ice cream has a softer, creamier texture out of the machine that you can make firmer to your preference. You control the recipe of your homemade ice cream, allowing you to experiment with ingredients and combinations that major ice cream manufacturers don’t have.
However, if you have a specific flavor and brand of store-bought ice cream you love, you may have trouble recreating it at home. Because it contains no preservatives, homemade ice cream also doesn’t last as long as store-bought ice cream. It can last up to two weeks in the freezer with optimum flavor and texture, but you might notice excessive ice or difficulty scooping and other texture problems after a week. Homemade ice cream is best served soon after it’s made.
A. Homemade ice cream tends to freeze harder than store-bought ice cream because it is denser, containing no stabilizers like carrageenan and less fat and sugar. The more air churned into ice cream, the softer and fluffier it is, and since fat doesn’t freeze, a higher fat content will also produce a softer texture. To soften hard homemade ice cream, let it soften for several minutes in the refrigerator before scooping.
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