Which ice cream maker is best?

If your family regularly screams for ice cream, you know it’s important to keep the freezer stocked with frozen treats. The best ice cream makers can help you create your own chilly treats so you’ll never run out.

The Cuisinart Pure Indulgence Automatic Ice Cream Maker produces consistent ice cream, frozen yogurt and sorbet. It is easy to use and simple to care for.

What to know before you buy an ice cream maker

Frozen bowl vs. compressor vs. hand-cranked

Ice cream makers come in three common styles: frozen bowl, compressor and traditional.

  • Frozen bowl: This type of ice cream maker requires you to freeze the bowl that holds the ice cream base before you churn. It’s the most common style of ice cream maker available, but the capacity is usually limited to 2 quarts or less.
  • Compressor: There is no frozen bowl required with compressor ice cream makers. The cooling mechanism is inside the machine. While this machine is convenient, it’s much more expensive than others and takes up considerable counter space.
  • Traditional: Traditional ice cream makers freeze the ice cream base with a mixture of ice and rock salt. Most of these use a hand crank to churn, which can be a novelty at first, but a drag as the process wears on. These also get messy with ice and salt.
  • Ball: This is a less common type of ice cream maker where the base goes in a sealed ball surrounded by ice and rock salt. You send the kids outside to play with the ball until the ice cream is ready. The result is less consistent, and it requires lots of playing to get a good texture.

KitchenAid also makes an ice cream bowl attachment that works like a frozen bowl maker. It costs more, but is a good option if you make lots of homemade ice cream and already have a stand mixer.

Capacity

If you’re making frozen treats for a crowd, look for a large-capacity ice cream maker. Look for a capacity of 4 quarts or more if you are feeding a family (but 2 quarts will work for singles, couples or occasional use).

What to look for in a quality ice cream maker

Easy to operate

Making ice cream is not rocket science. The easiest ice cream makers feature simple controls such as an on/off switch. They may also be programmable with an easy-to-read display that tells you when your ice cream is ready to go.

Dishwasher-safe

Making ice cream is sticky business, but dishwasher-safe components help you clean up fast. In general, the frozen bowl is not dishwasher safe and should be hand-washed, but the turning apparatus and any other attachments can usually go straight in the dishwasher. 

Food-safe materials

Any plastic that touches the ice cream base should be made of food-safe materials. The same goes for stainless steel or powder-coated components. 

Included recipes

If you are brand-new to ice cream making, look for a machine that includes recipes specifically tested for that product. Follow them closely to ensure success. 

How much you can expect to spend on an ice cream maker

There is a wide range of prices for ice cream makers, but expect to spend $50-$300.

How to make the best ice cream

  • Start with fresh ingredients.
  • Use full-fat cream and milk.
  • Chill your ice cream base thoroughly before churning.
  • Don’t add too much liquid to the ice cream machine (keep it ⅔ full).
  • Use delectable add-ins in the last five minutes of churning.
  • Remove immediately from the churning bowl.
  • Store ice cream in a short, wide container.

Ice cream maker FAQ

Can you use low-fat milk?

A. While it is possible to use low-fat milk when making ice cream, you will not get the same creamy results as you will get with heavy cream or whole milk.

If you prefer low-fat milk, adding a tablespoon or two of coconut oil into the ice cream base helps create a silky, creamy texture.

What’s the best non-dairy milk to use if you are lactose-intolerant?

A. For luscious vegan frozen treats, use full-fat coconut milk. The fat in coconut milk mimics the fat in dairy milk for the best results.

If you would like to try other non-dairy milks, add a tablespoon or two of coconut oil to reduce ice crystals and create a smoother texture.

What are the best ice cream makers to buy?

Top ice cream maker

Cuisinart Pure Indulgence Automatic Ice Cream Maker

Cuisinart Pure Indulgence Automatic Ice Cream Maker

What you need to know: This ice cream maker produces consistent results every time.

What you’ll love: The freezer bowl is heavy, and operation is simple (off and on). The size makes it good for even small kitchens, and it still produces 2 quarts of ice cream, frozen yogurt or sorbet. It’s available at a good price point.

What you should consider: The bowl needs to be completely frozen to work.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Home Depot

Top ice cream maker for the money

Hamilton Beach Automatic Ice Cream Maker

Hamilton Beach Automatic Ice Cream Maker

What you need to know: It’s affordable and makes large batches of ice cream.

What you’ll love: It makes 4 quarts of frozen treats in 40 minutes. The bowl does not need to be frozen — it uses ice during churning. The instruction manual includes recipes to get you started.

What you should consider: Ice gets messy, and you’ll need a lot each time you make ice cream.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Whynter Incubator Ice Cream Maker

Whynter Incubator Ice Cream Maker

What you need to know: This is an easy-to-use machine that requires no pre-freezing or ice.

What you’ll love: An internal cooling system keeps ice cream frosty as it churns, and the screen is LED and easy to read so you’ll know when your ice cream is ready. It’s stylish and looks good on a counter. It makes 2 quarts and is easy to clean. This even has a yogurt incubator that makes regular (non-frozen) yogurt.

What you should consider: It’s expensive and best for households that eat a lot of ice cream.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

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Suzannah Kolbeck writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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