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Shopping for an Ice Cream Maker?
You’ve come to the right place.
With an ice cream maker in your home, you can make delicious ice cream that’s as good, or even better than, the stuff you buy at the store.
You can also make healthier frozen treats by adding fruits, nuts, and whatever else you want.
You can even make vegan, gluten-free, or keto ice cream.
Ice cream makers are available in a wide range of designs and prices.
They range from low-cost canister- style ice cream makers to pricey self-refrigerating models that can make batch after batch of ice cream on auto-pilot.
Most ice cream makers make different kinds of frozen desserts in addition to ice cream. These include sorbet, gelato, and frozen yogurt.
What’s in This Buying Guide?
In this buying guide, we review and compare the top 10 ice cream makers in the market.
We also explain the different types of ice cream makers, how they work, and how to choose the right ice cream maker for your kitchen.
If you are looking for more appliances to make family treats or jazz up your home parties, please check out our reviews of the best margarita machines and the best blenders for making frozen drinks and smoothies.
Best Ice Cream Makers
Disclaimer: All links below go to Amazon.com
- Best Overall: Cuisinart ICE-30BC 2-Quart Pure
- Best Old-Fashioned : Nostalgia WICM4L 4-Quart
- Best Old-Fashioned : Immergood 6-Quart Stainless-Steel Ice Cream Maker
- Best Self Refrigerating : Whynter ICM-201SB 2-Quart
- Most Affordable Self-Refrigerating: Whynter ICM-128BPS 1.2-Quart
- Best Budget: Maxi-Matic EIM-1400R 1.5-Quart
- Best Personal: DASH My Pint 0.4-Quart
- Best Quality: Lello 4080 Musso Lussino 1.5-Quart
- Best 6-Quart Electric Ice Cream Maker: Nostalgia Electric Bucket Ice Cream Maker
- Best Ice Cream Maker for Kitchen Aid Stand Mixers: KitchenAid 2-Quart Ice Cream Maker Attachment
|Ice Cream Makers||Best For||Type||Capacity||Dimensions||Weight||Warranty|
|Cuisinart ICE-30BC||Best overall||Freezer bowl||2qt||8.35D x 8.00W x 11.3H in||12lbs||3yr warranty|
|Nostalgia WICM4L||Best old-fashioned electric||Ice & salt||4qt||12W x 12D X 16H in||8.4lbs||1yr warranty|
|Immergood||Best old-fashioned manual||Ice & salt||6qt||13W x 13D X18H in||17.9lbs||3yr warranty|
|Whynter ICM-201SB||Best self-refrigerating||Compressor||2qt||10.8D x 12.5W x 14.3H in||24.2lbs||1yr warranty|
|Whynter ICM-128BPS||Affordable self-refrigerating||Compressor||1.2qt||10.8D x 9.8W x 13.8H in||24lbs||1yr warranty|
|Maxi-Matic EIM-1400R||Best budget||Freezer bowl||1.5qt||11.2D x 8.9W x 7.9H in||5.9lbs||1yr warranty|
|DASH My Pint||Best personal||Freezer bowl||0.4qt||5.3D x 4.1W x 8.4H in||2.2lbs||1yr warranty|
|Lello 4080 Musso Lussino||Best quality ice cream/most durable||Compressor||1.5qt||18D x 12W x 11H in||38lbs||1yr warranty|
|Nostalgia 6qt||Best 6 quarts||Ice & salt||6qt||13 x 13 x 19.75 in||12.8lbs||1yr warranty|
|KitchenAid||Best for KitchenAid mixers||Freezer bowl||2qt||10.3X 10.3W x 10.9H in||6lbs||1yr warranty|
1. Best Overall: Cuisinart ICE-30BC 2-Quart Pure
We think the Cuisinart ICE-30BC is the best ice cream for most homes. It makes enough ice cream for the average size household, it’s easy to use, and it’s not too expensive.
We also like that it takes up very little space on the countertop.
- Easy to use.
- Compact design.
- Makes enough ice cream for most families.
- Easy to clean.
- Long warranty.
- The freezer bowl needs to be pre-frozen for several hours.
- Not suitable for large families or parties.
The Cuisinart ICE-30BC is a compact electric ice cream maker that takes up little space on your countertop.
It makes up to 2-quarts of ice cream, which is adequate for most families.
The Cuisinart ICE-30BC uses a freezer bowl to freeze your ice cream custard or mixture.
That means you have to pre-freeze the bowl for several hours before you can make ice cream. The upside is that you don’t need to bother with ice, and rock salt.
The freezer bowl measures 7.5″ wide and 6.5” deep, so should fit even in a compact freezer.
Once the freezer bowl is cold enough (set your freezer to 0F for best results), the ice cream maker will have your ice cream ready in a quick 25 minutes.
You can enjoy it immediately if you love your ice cream soft, or let it firm up in the freezer if you like it firmer.
The Cuisinart ICE-30BC doesn’t just make ice cream. You can also prepare Italian-style gelato, sorbet, and even frozen yogurt. Use the included instruction book to get recipe ideas.
A hole on the lid lets you easily add ingredients to the bowl, whether it’s fruits, nuts, chocolate, or whatever you want.
Cleanup is easy and quick.
As for build quality, we haven’t seen any complaints about the Cuisinart ICE-30BC breaking down prematurely. The 3yr warranty tells us this is a well-made appliance that will last a long time.
Issues & Limitations
While the Cuisinart ICE-30BC is ideal for most families, large households with lots of kids may find the 2-quart capacity too little.
Similarly, the Cuisinart ICE-30BC will struggle to keep up with demand at a party or large gathering.
In either case, we recommend getting a larger capacity ice cream maker (a 4 or 6-quart ice cream maker is perfect).
Alternatively, buy extra freezer bowls and freeze them all at once. This allows you to make several batches of ice cream at a go.
The Cuisinart ICE-30BC is a great choice if you are looking for an easy-to-use and not too expensive electric ice cream maker that makes excellent ice cream, gelato, and sorbet.
2. Best Old-Fashioned: Nostalgia WICM4L 4-Quart
Old-fashioned ice cream makers have received an upgrade. They still need ice and salt, but you no longer need to work a hand crank. The Nostalgia WICM4L comes with a powerful motor that churns the ice cream for you.
With a 4-quart capacity, it’s a better value for money than freezer bowl ice cream makers.
- Large capacity – great for large families.
- Easy to use – no hand cranking.
- Beautiful wood finish.
- No pre-freezing required.
- Requires rock salt and ice.
- Takes longer to make one batch of ice cream.
The Nostalgia WICM4L is old-fashioned in that it uses a mixture of ice and rock salt to freeze the ice cream mixture.
But you don’t need to hand crank it like classic ice cream makers. Once you put your ice cream mixture in the aluminum canisterand add ice and salt around it, the motor does the rest.
It takes about 30 minutes to have the ice cream ready. It doesn’t come out firm like store-bought ice cream; it’s more like a soft-serve ice cream.
But you can firm it up in the freezer or by leaving it in the ice cream maker for a while longer (with the ice cream maker turned off).
The Nostalgia WICM4L makes 4 quarts of ice cream per batch, making it perfect for large households.
And because you can make batch after batch, since you don’t need to pre-freeze the bowl, it’s also great for large parties and gatherings. Just make sure you have plenty of ice and salt at hand.
After you are done, the metal canister is easy to clean. You can just wipe the bucket’s plastic interior dry.
Talking of the bucket, we love the warm wood finish. It’s actual wood, not some faux wood plastic.
Build quality seems good. The only concern for many customers is that the paddle feels a bit flimsy. But since the ice cream never gets firm, it’s unlikely to snap.
Issues & Limitations
The Nostalgia WICM4L takes 5-10 minutes longer to make a batch of ice cream compared to freezer bowl ice cream makers. But that’s not a big deal for most people.
What you might find a little inconvenient is that you need to have ice and rock salt to make ice cream.
If you make a lot of ice cream, consider investing in an ice cream maker instead of buying bags of ice at the store.
As for rock salt, you can get a large bag for cheap.
The Nostalgia WICM4L is a great choice if you want an electric ice cream maker that makes a lot of ice cream in a short time, and doesn’t cost a lot of money.
It’s also a great choice if you don’t want to pre-freeze a bowl before making ice cream – the Nostalgia WICM4L is ready to use anytime.
3. Best Old-Fashioned: Immergood 6-quart Stainless-Steel Ice Cream Maker
If you want a genuine old-fashioned ice cream maker, complete with a hand crank, we recommend the Immergood 6-quart ice cream maker.
The Immergood ice cream maker is built to last several generations. It’s all stainless-steel, including the crank, gears, and dasher. Only the housing is heavy-duty plastic.
On the downside, it costs as much as a high-end compressor-cooled ice cream maker.
- Made to last a generation or two.
- Extra-large 6-quart capacity.
- Doesn’t require power, thus can be used anywhere.
- Smooth rotation.
- Manual operation.
The Immergood ice cream maker is as old-fashioned as it gets. There’s no motor or anything electric in the bucket.
You do all the work yourself by turning the hand crank. But don’t worry about working up a sweat.
The crank is surprisingly easy to turn, thanks to the smooth gears. And because you don’t need to plug it in, you can use it anywhere.
The stainless-steel can hold about 4-quarts of ice cream mixture. Once you whip and turn it for about 30 minutes, it expands to about 6-quarts of delicious ice cream, enough for a large family.
The texture of the ice cream is soft, but you can leave it for longer to set and firm up.
Note that you’ll need plenty of ice and rock salt to make the ice cream. The plastic bucket has foam insulation to ensure the ice doesn’t melt too quickly.
In fact, the insulation is so good that you can use the bucket as a freezer to store the ice cream for a few days.
Just get the Immergood TUB COVER, and store the ice cream as directed (drain bucket then add 5 parts ice, 1 part salt). The cover is also handy if you want to travel with the ice cream.
One of the best things about the Immergood ice cream maker is its build quality. The outer bucket is heavy-duty plastic, while all other parts are stainless-steel.
Even the gear mechanism is stainless-steel and doesn’t need any lubrication, making the machine low maintenance.
Another design feature we love is the drainage hole on the side of the bucket. It makes it so much easier to drain away the cold saltwater without having to tip the heavy bucket all the way.
The Immergood ice cream maker comes with a 3-year warranty, but it’ll last much longer than that. It’s the kind of stuff you pass onto your kids.
Issues & Limitations
Unless you really want an old-fashioned ice cream maker that will last a lifetime, most families are better off getting a modern electric cooler.
You can get a high-end self-refrigerating ice cream maker for less money than what the Immergood ice cream maker costs.
With an electric ice cream maker, you also don’t have to spend half an hour turning a hand crank. You simply set up the ice cream maker, and then leave it to make ice cream.
If you really want the Immergood ice cream maker but don’t fancy turning the hand crank, the company sells battery-powered versions, though they are pricier.
The Immergood ice cream maker is a great choice if you love the reliability and longevity of old-fashioned hand crank ice cream makers.
It’s also great if you find these ice cream makers fun to use, or want your kids to experience a taste of traditional farm life. They’ll have fun turning the crank and getting a delicious reward afterward.
4. Best Self Refrigerating: Whynter ICM-201SB 2-Quart
With a self-refrigerating ice cream maker like the Whynter ICM-201SB, you don’t need ice and salt, nor do you need to pre-freeze a bowl overnight.
The Whynter ICM-201SB has a built-in compressor that freezes the ice cream mixture as it churns it around. The only downside is the relatively high price tag.
- Built-in compressor.
- Easy to use digital control panel.
- Easy to clean.
- Compact upright design.
For those who want the utmost convenience, a compressor-cooled ice cream maker is the best choice. The Whynter ICM-201SB doesn’t need ice and salt, or pre-freezing anything.
You plug it in, turn it on and it’s ready to make ice cream.
Add your ice cream mixture to the 2-quart mixing bowl and set the timer. The default timer setting is 60 minutes, but you can adjust it to the setting recommended in your recipe (40-45 minutes is adequate for most types of ice cream). Once the set time elapses, the unit will alert you.
In addition to setting the timer, the digital control panel also lets you select an operation mode (cooling only, mixing only, and ice cream), and pause the ice cream maker in case you want to add ingredients to the bowl.
Once the ice cream is ready, you can eat it immediately or leave it in the ice cream maker (select cooling mode). There’s no need to transfer it to your freezer.
Cleaning the Whynter ICM-201SB ice cream maker is easy. All parts that come into contact with the ice cream are easy to remove and hand wash.
As for build quality, it’s pretty good for the price. It comes with a 1-year warranty, so it probably won’t last as long as the Immergood manual ice cream maker.
We love its compact design, though. Most compressor ice cream makers are big. The Whynter ICM-201SB has a compact upright design that takes up minimal space on your countertop.
Issues & Limitations
If you are shopping on a budget, your best bet is a non-compressor ice cream maker. The Whynter ICM-201SB self-refrigerating cooler is more than three times expensive as a similar-capacity freezer bowl ice cream maker.
Though pricey, the Whynter ICM-201SB is the best choice when it comes to convenience. You can make batch after batch of homemade ice cream without using ice or pre-freezing a bowl.
5. Most Affordable Self-Refrigerating: Whynter ICM-128BPS 1.2-Quart
If you are looking for a cheaper compressor ice cream maker, check out the Whynter ICM-128BPS. It makes less ice cream (1.2-quarts), but it’s significantly cheaper than the 2-quart model. In any case, you can make batch after batch of ice cream, so the low capacity is not an issue.
- Digital control panel.
- Compact upright design.
- Still costs more than a non-compressor ice cream maker.
- Limited capacity.
The Whynter ICM-128BPS is a cheaper and lower-capacity version of the Whynter ICM-201SB. It has a built-in compressor, so you don’t need to pre-freeze anything or add ice and salt to the bucket.
Once you plug it in, you just need to add your ice cream mixture and set the timer. The machine will churn and freeze the ice at the same time.
The digital control panel lets you pause the process midway through to add ingredients.
You can also switch to a mixing-only mode when folding in nuts or chocolate into the ice cream, or a cool-only mode to keep the ice cream frozen.
The capacity (1.2-quarts) is on the lower side, but should still suffice for most families. If you want more ice cream, you can make another batch right away (something you cannot do with freezer bowl ice cream makers).
The Whynter ICM-128BPS has the same compact upright design as its bigger sibling. But it’s more stylish. It has a plastic pink finish with black accents.
Issues & Limitations
While significantly cheaper than the 2-quart Whynter ice cream maker, the Whynter ICM-128BPS is still a fair amount pricier than a similar capacity non-compressor ice cream maker. It may not be the best option if you are shopping on a tight budget.
The Whynter ICM-128BPS is a great choice if you want the convenience of a self-refrigerating ice cream maker without spending a lot of money.
6. Best Budget: Maxi-Matic EIM-1400R 1.5-Quart
The Maxi-Matic EIM-1400R is one of the cheapest electric ice cream makers in the market. It has a decent 1.5-quart capacity that is adequate for most families.
This is a freezer bowl-style ice cream maker, so you need to prepare well ahead of time.
- Decent capacity.
- No ice or salt needed.
- Easy to clean.
- Light and compact.
- Requires pre-freezing the bowl.
- Not suitable for large families.
The Maxi-Matic EIM-1400R is a great choice if you want the cheapest ice cream maker you can get that’s easy to use and makes high-quality ice cream.
You have to sacrifice when it comes to capacity, but the 1.5 quarts of ice cream the Maxi-Matic makes is enough to serve everyone in the family a couple of scoops.
The only inconvenient part of using the Maxi-Matic EIM-1400R ice cream maker is that you have to freeze the bowl for 24 hours.
Once that is done, you simply place the bowl into the ice cream maker, add your ice cream mix, and put the lid on. Your ice cream will be ready in about 30 minutes.
You can eat it as is, or let it firm up in the freezer.
Cleanup is also easy. The bowl, paddle, and lid come apart easily for cleaning. The bowl’s interior is non-stick, making it easy to scoop out all the ice cream.
One upside of having an ice cream maker this small is that it fits perfectly on a small or crowded countertop. You can also easily carry it with you.
Issues & Limitations
The main downside of ice cream makers like the Maxi-Matic EIM-1400R is that you have to prepare well ahead of time before making ice cream. That’s because you need to freeze the bowl for 24 hours.
This also means you cannot make multiple batches at the same time. One batch then you have to freeze the bowl again.
This can be inconvenient for large families or during a home party when you need lots of ice cream. In that case, an old-fashioned salt and ice cream maker or a compressor ice cream maker would be a better choice.
The Maxi-Matic EIM-1400R is a great choice if you are shopping for good quality, and easy-to-use electric ice cream maker on a budget.
7. Best Personal: DASH My Pint 0.4-Quart
Even smaller than the Maxi-Matic is the DASH My Pint ice cream maker. With a capacity of just 0.4- quarts, it’s perfect as a personal ice cream maker. It makes just enough ice cream for 1 or 2 people.
- Perfect for 1-2 people.
- Compact – great for small spaces.
- Easy to use.
- Limited capacity.
- Requires pre-freezing the bowl.
The DASH My Pint ice cream maker resembles a to-go mug more than it does an ice cream maker. It’s the smallest ice cream maker we’ve seen so far.
But it works just as well as bigger ice cream makers. It’s a freezer bowl-style ice cream maker, so you need to put the small bowl in the freezer for at least 24 hours. After that, it takes about 20 minutes to get your ice cream ready.
Several users recommend pre-chilling your ice cream mix before adding it to the DASH ice cream maker. This will speed up the freezing process, and ensure you get good quality ice cream.
The DASH My Pint ice cream maker includes a spoon for mixing nuts, fruits, and other ingredients once the ice cream is ready. You can also use the spoon to eat the ice cream right from the bowl.
The ice cream comes out a bit too soft for most people’s liking. You’ll need to pop it in the freezer for a couple of hours to get a good scoop-able consistency.
The compact design of DASH My Pint makes it a great choice for small kitchens, apartments, dorm rooms, and RVs.
If you have a portable freezer in your vehicle, you can also carry it with you and enjoy ice cream on the road.
Issues & Limitations
The main issue with the DASH My Pint ice cream maker is how much time preparations take. The actual ice cream making process takes just 20 minutes.
But you need to freeze the mixing bowl for at least 24 hours, chill your ice cream mixture for about a couple of hours, and freeze the finished ice cream for a few more hours to firm it up.
What most users do is pop the bowl right back into the freezer once they make a batch of ice cream. That way, it’s ready to use again tomorrow.
DASH My Pint is a great choice if you want a cheap ice cream maker that makes just enough ice cream for you and maybe one other person.
8. Best Quality: Lello 4080 Musso Lussino 1.5-Quart
On the opposite side of the scale is the Lello 4080 Musso Lussino, a luxury 1.5-quart ice cream maker. Even the name sounds expensive.
The Musso Lussino will cost you double the price of a compressor-cooled ice cream maker, but it makes some of the best ice cream you’ll ever taste.
It’s also one of the most durable electric ice cream makers, with many people using theirs for well over 10 years.
- Best quality homemade ice cream.
- Compressor-cooled – no need to pre-freeze or use ice and salt.
- Easy to operate.
- Includes timer.
- Stylish and well made.
- Short warranty, considering the price.
What most users of the 4080 Musso Lussino ice cream maker like most about it is that it makes consistently great ice cream.
It churns and freezes the ice cream mixture to produce perfect results. It works great with any kind of ice cream as well as other desserts like sorbet and gelato.
The best part is that you don’t have to bother pre-freezing a bowl or filling a bucket with ice and salt. The Musso Lussino has a built-in compressor, so it’s ready to make ice cream right away.
Add your mix to the stainless-steel bowl, attach the metal scrapper, and put it on the lid. There are two buttons at the front, one for churn and another for chill. Press both when making ice cream, and set the timer dial to the number of minutes recommended in the recipe.
The timer works as a mechanical oven timer. It counts down from the set number of minutes. When it gets to zero, it makes a loud pop to alert you, and the machine stops churning and chilling.
If you want to add a few final ingredients like fruits, press the churn/mix button only. If you want to keep the ice in the bowl for longer to firm it up, press the chill button only.
The MussoLussino makes 1.5-quarts of ice cream at a time. If you want more than that, you can start on another batch right away.
Cleanup is easy. The lid and scrapper come off easily. The metal bowl stays permanently in place, but it’s easy to wipe it clean thanks to its shallow and rounded shape.
As for build quality, you won’t find an electric ice cream maker that lasts as long as the Musso Lussino. Don’t let the 1yr warranty fool you – some people have had theirs for 10 and even 15 years.
Issues & Limitations
The Musso Lussino ice cream maker is expensive, but that’s because of its build quality and consistent performance. Also, don’t forget it has a built-in compressor.
On the downside, the compressor and high build quality make for a heavy appliance. The Musso Lussino ice cream maker weighs 38lbs. We suggest you don’t move it around too often.
Though pricey, the Lello 4080 Musso Lussino is the best choice if you want an ice cream maker that makes premium quality ice cream, looks elegant and will last a long time.
9. Best 6-Quart Electric Ice Cream Maker: Nostalgia Electric Bucket Ice Cream Maker
So far, we’ve featured only one 6-quart ice cream maker – the pricey Immergood hand crank ice cream maker/freezer. If you want a cheaper 6-quart ice cream maker that’s electric, we recommend the Nostalgia Electric Bucket Ice Cream Maker.
It’s a great pocket-friendly option for large families and home parties.
- High capacity at an affordable price.
- Beautiful real wood finish.
- Easy to clean.
- No pre-freezing needed.
- Needs ice and salt.
- Fair build quality.
This is a bigger version of the Nostalgia WICM4L 4-Quart ice cream maker we reviewed above. It works the same way.
You fill the metal can with your ice cream mix, close it with the lid, and put the canister in the bucket. Then you pack the bucket with ice and rock salt. Lock the motor unit on top and turn it on.
It takes between 20 and 40 minutes for the ice cream to freeze depending on the temperature of your mix (pre-chill the mix to quicken the process), and how much ice cream you are making.
Unlike freezer bowl models, the Nostalgia 6-quart ice cream maker lets you make batch after batch as long as you have enough ice and salt. This is especially handy if you are holding a party and need lots of ice cream.
The ice cream maker has the same unique style and finish that Nostalgia products are known for. It has a real wood finish on the outside, giving it an old farmhouse feel.
Inside, the bucket is plastic to make it easy to clean.
Issues & Limitations
While you don’t need to pre-freeze a bowl, the Nostalgia ice cream maker is still not as convenient as a compressor-cooled model. You need to keep ice and salt around and drain the water after making the ice cream.
Another issue with the Nostalgia 6-quart ice cream maker is the build quality. It has too many plastic parts that may not last very long. Several customers say they’ve already had to request a new paddle from the manufacturer after the first one broke.
The Nostalgia Electric Bucket Ice Cream Maker is a great choice if you are looking for an affordable electric ice cream maker that can make lots of ice cream (at least 6-quarts).
10. Best Ice Cream Maker for KitchenAid Stand Mixers: KitchenAid 2-Quart Ice Cream Maker Attachment
If you already have a KitchenAid stand mixer in your kitchen, you don’t need to buy a new ice cream maker. What you need is an ice cream maker attachment.
The 2-quart attachment is cheaper than buying a whole new 2-quart ice cream maker, and it doesn’t take up any extra space on your countertop.
- Attached to most KitchenAid stand mixers.
- Cheaper than buying a similar capacity complete ice cream maker.
- You don’t have to give up any counter space.
- Large capacity mixing bowl.
- Easy to clean.
- Doesn’t work with all KitchenAid stand mixers.
- Bowl requires pre-freezing.
If you want an ice cream maker but don’t have space or budget for a good quality one that will make enough ice for your family, a KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment is an excellent alternative.
This 2-quart one works with most KitchenAid mixers except 8-quart, 7-quarts, and some 6-quart mixers. If you have an 8-quart mixer, get the KitchenAid KICA0WH attachment. If you have a 6 or 7-quart mixer, contact KitchenAid for advice on the right attachment to buy.
The attachment is easy to set up. First, you have to freeze it in your freezer (at 0F) for at least 15 hours.
Once it’s ready, place it under the mixer head and place the dasher inside. Pour in your chilled ice cream mix, then attach the drive mechanism and turn the mixer on.
It takes about 20-30 minutes to have the ice cream ready. Similar to other ice cream makers, it comes out as soft-serve ice cream, but you can put it in the freezer to get a firmer texture.
Cleaning the attachment is easy. The dasher and drive assembly are dishwasher safe, and you can hand wash the bowl. Put it right back in the freezer so that it’s ready for another batch of ice cream in a day’s time.
Issues & Limitations
This is the kind of ice cream maker where you can’t just decide to make ice cream out of the blue. You have to pre-freeze the bowl first overnight.
Another limitation is that you cannot make more than one batch of ice cream unless you buy multiple attachments.
The KitchenAid 2-quart ice cream mixer attachment is a cheaper and space-saving option if you already have a compatible KitchenAid mixer.
Ice Cream Maker Buying Guide
How an Ice Cream Maker Works
Ice cream has two primary characteristics, other than being delicious. It’s cold, and it’s soft or fairly firm but never rock hard.
So, the goal of an ice cream maker is to chill the ice cream, while incorporating enough air to keep it from becoming too firm.
To do this, an ice cream maker does two things: it chills the ice and churns or mixes it at the same time. As you’ll see below, different types of ice cream makers do this (the chilling part, specifically) differently.
After 20-40 minutes, the ice gets super cold and soft. You can make it firmer by freezing it further.
Types of Ice Cream Makers
Old-fashioned (Ice & Salt) Ice Cream Makers
The traditional way of making ice cream involves surrounding a metal canister with a mixture of salt and ice. The ice keeps the ice cold enough to freeze the ice cream.
Turning a hand crank mixes the ice cream mix to incorporate air into it as it freezes.
There are still some manual ice cream makers today like the Immergood 6-quart ice cream maker we reviewed earlier.
If you don’t want to turn a crank for half an hour, there are electric models as well. These utilize an electric motor and paddle or dasher to churn the ice cream mix.
But the chilling method is the same – ice and salt.
Old-fashioned ice cream makers are affordable, easy to use (especially the electric ones), and you can make batch after batch of ice cream as long as you have adequate ice and salt around.
You’ll also often find these ice cream makers in a range of sizes, including 6, 8, and even 12-quart models.
On the downside, you need to keep ice and salt on hand. And if you get a manual one, get ready to do some work.
Freezer Bowl Ice Cream Makers
Instead of ice and salt, freezer bowl ice cream makers have a liquid inside them. To make ice cream, you first freeze the bowl for 24 hours. This freezes the liquid inside.
Then you transfer the bowl to the ice cream maker and add the ice cream mix. As the machine churns the mix, the frozen media inside the bowl chills and freezes the ice cream.
Freezer bowl ice cream makers don’t have the mess of old-fashioned ice cream makers. On the downside, you have to plan your ice cream making at least 24 hours in advance to leave enough time to freeze the bowl.
Another downside of these ice cream makers is that you cannot make more than one batch of ice cream unless you have multiple bowls in the freezer.
Compressor Ice Cream Makers
Also called self-refrigerating ice cream makers, these are the most convenient ice cream makers. You don’t need ice and salt, nor do you need to pre-freeze the bowl.
The appliance has a built-in compressor, like the one in your kitchen refrigerator. So, it cools the ice cream mix while a motor and paddle churn it.
Once the ice cream is ready, you can leave it in the machine to continue setting. The compressor will keep it cold.
The convenience of compressor ice cream makers doesn’t come cheap. They are some of the most expensive ice cream makers, and also tend to be big and heavy.
What to Look for In an Ice Cream Maker
1. Type of Ice Cream Maker
The quality of ice cream from different types of ice cream makers is generally the same. What makes a difference when you choose one type of ice cream maker over another is convenience and ease of use.
Compressor ice cream makers are the easiest to use, while manual old-fashioned ice cream makers are more tedious to operate.
Check out our explanation above of the different types of ice cream makers, and their pros and cons.
Once you decide which type of ice cream maker you want, choose the right capacity for yourself or your family.
If you’ll be making ice cream for just 1 or 2 people, a 1-quart or less ice cream maker will do. We recommend the DASH My Pint 0.4-Quart personal ice cream maker.
For average size families, a 1.5-quart or 2-quart ice cream maker is adequate. For large households or if you plan to serve ice cream at parties, get a 4-quart or 6-quart ice cream maker.
Check if the ice cream maker will fit in the space you have available. If you have a small counter or yours is overcrowded with other appliances, look for a compact model. We especially love the tall slim ones; they take up very little space while offering a high capacity.
A compact and lightweight ice cream maker is also best if you plan to move it around the house or away from home.
4. Build Quality
Finally, check the build quality of the ice cream maker. Models with mostly metal parts are the best. The most durable ice cream makers go as far as using a metal paddle/dasher, but they are pricey.
Cheaper ice cream makers will save you money, but their mostly plastic construction will not last as long.
The length of the warranty will also give you an idea of how well built the ice cream maker is. The cheapest models will have no warranty or a ridiculously short one like 30 days or 90 days.
Get an ice cream maker with a minimum warranty of 1yr. Some higher-priced models have a 3-year warranty.
How to Use an Ice Cream Maker
- Prepare well ahead of time. If you have an old-fashioned model, make sure you have ice and salt. For a freezer bowl model, put the bowl in the freezer.
- Prepare the ice cream mix at least a couple of hours before you make the ice cream. This gives you time to chill it in the fridge. A chilled mix will reduce the ice cream making time.
- Assemble the ice cream maker as instructed in the manual, and add the ice cream mix to the bowl or canister.
- Leave the ice cream maker to work for the recommended amount of time. This will vary based on the recipebut is usually between 20 and 40 minutes.
- Once the ice cream is ready, serve it soft or let it firm up in the freezer.
Important: Do not let the ice cream get firm in the appliance bowl. This can damage the motor or paddle as it struggles to turn the ice. It’ll also make the ice cream too firm.
Cleaning and Maintaining
After making ice cream, remove all detachable parts and wash them. Check which parts are dishwasher safe and which are hand wash only.
If you have a freezer bowl ice cream maker, put the bowl in the freezer so it’s ready to make more ice the next day.
What can I use if I don’t have an ice cream maker?
You can also make ice cream in a blender, a food processor, a stand mixer, or a hand mixer.
How long does an ice cream maker take to make ice cream?
It takes 20-40 minutes to make ice cream in an ice cream maker.
How do I make homemade ice cream soft?
Follow a recipe. How much milk, fat, egg, and sugar are in the ice cream mix can affect its final texture. Look for a good recipe and use the exact amount of ingredients recommended. Also, churn the ice cream for the recommended amount of time.
Why won’t my ice cream freeze?
If your ice cream won’t freeze even after 10-20 minutes churning in the ice cream maker, you may need to freeze the bowl for longer at 0 degrees. If it’s a compressor cooler, check that you’ve turned on the chill setting.
It also helps to pre-chill the ice cream mix before adding it to the bowl or canister. It’ll freeze quicker.
Final Verdict: Which is the Best Ice Cream Maker Sold Today?
We think the Cuisinart ICE-30BC 2-Quart Pure Indulgence is the best ice cream maker for most people. It’s affordable, makes enough ice cream for most families, and it’s easy to use.