Allow us to let you in on a little secret. Making ice cream at home is much easier than it sounds. There are tons of recipes available and modern ice cream makers are a far cry from the clunky, hand-crank models you might have had as a kid. And once you start making ice cream at home, we guarantee you’ll be more popular than you ever imagined.
When you’re shopping for an ice cream maker, there are a couple of questions to answer. Do you prefer traditional ice cream or soft serve? How much are you... willing to spend? How good are you at planning ahead? (Some ice cream makers require you to freeze the bowl for at least 24 hours before you’re ready to use it.) And how much space do you have? To help you answer those questions and find the right ice cream maker for you, here are the seven best machines currently available.
01 of 07
Cuisinart has long been the leader when it comes to home ice cream makers. Their models produce reliably good ice cream and are very user-friendly. This model is smack dab in the middle of their product range, making it the winner for value and usability. The unit consists of a freezer bowl, churning dasher to mix the ice cream, and the actual machine that spins the ice cream until it freezes.
To use it, you’ll need to freeze the bowl for at least 24 hours before churning your ice cream. If you... plan to make ice cream frequently, it’s a good idea to just keep the bowl in your freezer. Once you’ve made your ice cream base, simply pour it in the freezer bowl, put the mixing arm in, lock the lid, and in about 35 minutes you’ll have ice cream. When the ice cream is finished churning it will be the consistency of soft-serve. For traditional ice cream, stick the churned ice cream in the freezer for a couple of hours to allow it to harden.
This model also gets points for its sleek, stainless steel design. It’s also available with red accents if you prefer. The only drawback to models that have the freezer bowl is that you’ll have to re-freeze completely it in order to make your next batch.
02 of 07
If ice cream is a passion, or if you regularly need to make multiple batches of ice cream, one after the other, an ice cream maker with a compressor is exactly what you need. This one has a 1 1/2-quart capacity and a commercial-quality compressor. Even better, it comes with separate paddles for making either ice cream or gelato.
It operates with a touchpad and has a blue LCD display for the 60-minute countdown timer that can be set for 10 to 60 minutes. If you step away and the ice cream is... finished, the machine has a keep-cool feature that will keep the ice cream from melting for 10 minutes after churning. If you need to stop the machine before the set time, the start/stop button will stop both the mixer and the timer. Just press again to start the churning again.
If you want to make a second flavor or you need a double batch, you can simply empty the container and start churning your new batch without waiting. The see-though lid lets you check the process of your dessert and the mix-in opening lets you add extra ingredients towards the end of the churning time without stopping the machine.
The mixing bowl has a handle for easy removal, and it doesn’t need to be chilled prior to churning.
While it’s convenient to have a compressor-chilled ice cream machine, it is also much larger and heavier than those that use a freezer bowl, so it will take more counter space and more storage space when it’s not in use.
03 of 07
If it just doesn’t seem like homemade ice cream without spending time turning a crank, then you’ll want this manual ice cream maker from Doniver. Similar to the Cuisinart model, this one has a freezer bowl, but it only needs to be frozen for about seven hours before you make your first batch. Once the bowl has frozen completely, simply pour in your ice cream base and turn the crank for 15 to 20 minutes to get soft-serve style ice cream. Want your scoops to be a little harder? Simply transfer the... dessert to a freezer-safe container and allow it to chill for a few hours.
While this model might reignite some of your nostalgia, you won’t have to stock up on ice or rock salt, which makes this a winner in our book. The maker comes in three colors—white, green, and pink—and makes one quart of ice cream at a time. The aluminum freezer bowl is easy to clean, but be gentle with the plastic paddle, as it has been noted to be on the fragile side.
04 of 07
If you’re ready to get serious about making ice cream, this might be the model for you. Yes, it does come with a steep price tag, but it also has quite a few benefits. The 1 ½ quart ice cream maker contains a compressor, just like a window air conditioner, that freezes the ice cream while it churns. That means you don’t have to worry about freezing and refreezing a bowl between batches. This model can churn them out one after the other.
The other benefit of this model is that it has 12... specifically calibrated settings for different levels of softness. You won’t end up with rock hard sorbet or gelato or soft-serve when what you really want is a scoop of vanilla that will hold its own in a root beer float. A pre-cool setting preps the machine to start churning immediately and internal thermometers make sure the temperature stays just right. Reviewers note that you should follow the filling instructions and don’t over fill it unless you want to clean up a mess of melty ice cream.
Keep in mind that this investment piece takes up a lot of room, so it might not be ideal for those with small kitchens, and the compressor makes it the heaviest ice cream maker on the list at a whopping 30 pounds. But at least you’ll get a workout before you enjoy your dessert.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07
While most of our ice cream maker picks can dish up a decent soft-serve, this machine excels at it. Plus, it has a few bells and whistles that make hosting an ice cream social even more enjoyable. The soft-serve maker is fully automatic and can make 1 ½ quarts of ice cream, or about 10 to 12 servings at a time. Like the other Cuisinart model on our list, you will need to freeze the inner bowl before making your soft-serve, which means if you want to make two different flavors, you’ll have to... have two different freezer bowls.
The best part of this model comes when it’s time to serve up your ice cream. It basically turns your kitchen counter into an ice cream parlor with a cone holder that fits both flat-bottomed wafer cones and pointy sugar cones. To serve simply press on the lever just like you would a commercial soft serve machine. You can also add-in your favorite toppings and mix-ins thanks to the three dispensers on the side.
Finally, once you’re done dishing up your soft-serve, this model is easy to clean with a removable drip tray. Just be warned that it is a bit on the heavy side at 15 pounds, so you’ll want to be careful when moving it around.
06 of 07
Want homemade ice cream immediately? Our budget pick, the Zoku Instant Ice Cream Maker, will deliver in less than 20 minutes. This manual ice cream maker is a freezer bowl, that just takes a bit of stirring in order to deliver a single serving of ice cream. Simply pour your ice cream base into the frozen bowl, and stir it to add air, and churn it into your favorite flavor.
The stainless steel bowl can be stored in the freezer so it’s always ready to make a fresh batch. Reviewers have noted that... it takes some time to master the stirring technique and avoid the edges freezing solid. They recommend continually scraping the sides of the bowl and stirring toward the center to make sure the milk and sugar mixture freezes evenly. You can also make frozen yogurt, vegan ice cream, or sorbet with this bowl. The plastic on this model is BPA-free and comes in six bright colors. At less than half the price of other ice cream makers, this kitchen gadget is an inexpensive way to dish up homemade frozen treats.
07 of 07
If you already have a KitchenAid stand mixer and don’t want to add yet another appliance to your kitchen, this might be the ice cream maker for you. Compatible with both tilt-head and bowl-lift style mixers, this ice cream attachment consists of a freezer bowl similar to the Cuisinart model and a dasher that spins just like the paddle attachment for the mixer.
The two-quart bowl should be fully frozen for 24 hours before use to ensure that your ice cream freezes properly. You can store it in... there to make sure it’s always ready to go, and keep it toward the back if possible where temperatures are more stable.
Keep in mind that if your kitchen is warm, this bowl will warm up fairly quickly and start to sweat, so it’s not a bad idea to keep a kitchen towel underneath to catch the drips. Your ice cream should take about 30 minutes to churn, and will need to be frozen afterward if you prefer a harder, scoopable consistency. Soft-serve fans can enjoy it directly from the freezer bowl. One drawback with this model is that there isn’t an automatic shutoff like some of the dedicated machines have, so you’ll have to keep an eye on it while it’s churning.
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