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The best ice cream maker is also the easiest

We often think of summer as high season for homemade ice cream, but really, would anyone turn down a scoop (or two)? Frozen desserts have been around for centuries, and once old-fashioned hand crank churns gave way to more compact countertop versions, which bypass the potential drawbacks of ice cream and rock salt, it was pretty straightforward. to make ice cream – and frozen yogurt, gelato, and sorbets – in small batches right at home.

If you think you aren’t brave enough to try making your own ice cream, listen to the wisdom of the author and ice cream expert. Max Falkowitz. “The truth is, making ice cream is really easy,” he says. While he admits that figuring out which machine to buy can be a big psychological hurdle, once you add yours to your countertop, it will be like a microwave or a toaster. In other words, you will use it. A lot.

Can a home ice cream maker achieve the same quality and flavor that you find in exclusive spoon stores? Without a doubt. And making your own ice cream is fun too, says Jessie Scarola, owner of Vanilla Jill’s ice cream and Elegant Elephant Fine Foods in Eugene, Oregon. “Making homemade ice cream is so much more forgiving than commercial production,” she adds. “It’s easy to make at home, and you know, homemade is always the best. “

Falkowitz agrees: “Most homemade ice cream recipes are pretty foolproof,” he says, because you can control what goes in and what doesn’t. Once you’ve created a few bundles, you’ll get a feel for it, and then you can start playing around with flavors and additions. If you make a few mistakes while perfecting your technique, it doesn’t matter, he adds, “Even bad ice cream is better than most other things. “

Some things to keep in mind


Although single serve and near-industrial electric ice cream makers are available in the market, most home ice cream makers are in the 1 to 2 quart range.

Design and appearance

All of the ice cream machines we discuss here are designed to look great on the counter. You’ll find classic white designs and stainless steel finishes, as well as fun and bold colors to match your kitchen decor.

Freezing mechanism

Ice cream has to be frozen in one way or another, and so all countertop ice cream makers depend on either old-fashioned added ice, a freezer bowl, or a freestanding freezer. Stand-alone ice cream makers with their own compressors are definitely an option, but they come with a steep price tag, so they may not be the first option for beginners.

Child-friendly options

If novelty and fun are important – or if you’re looking for a device to use with kids – an ice cream maker may be exactly what you’re looking for, mimicking the commercial experience right down to the mixes.

Our top picks

Best value for money: Cuisinart frozen yogurt and ice cream maker

This takes the top spot in both categories, thanks to Cuisinart’s quality and thoughtful design. Almost everyone who uses it loves it and the price is reasonable. This machine, which relies on a freezing bowl, is a Falkowitz favorite for many reasons, including its simplicity. “There’s like a moving part,” he says, “and very little can break.” Plus, the design provides easy access to the top of the bowl, which is crucial once the churn has done its job. “You’re in a race against time when the ice cream has finished turning,” says Falkowitz, “because it’s going to start to melt really quickly as you try to put it in the container. Avoid the minimal inconvenience of having to freeze the bowl in advance by keeping the bowl frozen all the time, or at least making sure you put it in the freezer the day before you intend to make a batch. With that little planning and about 20 minutes on the counter, you’ll be rewarded with a quart of homemade ice cream to share. Wrap this Cuisinart with a good ice cream cookbook and it’s a perfect gift for the novice, virtually foolproof.

Ideal for a KitchenAid mixer: KitchenAid Stand Mixer Ice Cream Attachment

If you already own a KitchenAid blender and want to start experimenting with homemade ice cream without adding any to your line of countertop appliances, this special freezing bowl is a great acquisition. This is the machine Scarola started on at home before taking commercial lots at Vanilla Jill’s. Freeze the bowl overnight, attach it to the blender, start churning slowly, add your ice cream base and in less than half an hour you will have two liters of homemade ice cream. Assembly can be tricky for some: As with many KitchenAid accessories and the power of the mixer motor, you need to make sure everything is properly assembled before turning it on. You’ll also want to plan how to add your ice cream base as the bowl moves, pouring around the blender head, but if you’re comfortable with operating your KitchenAid, that will come naturally.

Best Madness: Breville Smart Scoop Ice Cream Maker

Best ice cream makers: Breville

If you want something freestanding – no freezer bowl required – and you’re willing to pay the extra expense of a countertop ice cream freezer, this Breville pick offers the best features, including a controlled temperature that allows up to the user to decide how good the finished ice cream will be. It’s not the most thrifty option and has a larger counter footprint, but this machine allows for more impromptu desserts. Just make sure you’re using a reliable ice cream recipe and follow Breville’s directions.

Ideal for softs: Cuisinart Mix It Soft Ice Cream Maker

Cuisinart’s new soft serve ice cream maker takes a little less planning because the ice cream you make in its freezer bowl is meant to be eaten fresh from the machine. In other words, it’s not cured before serving, so you’re not struggling with the one element that Falkowitz notes are so often overlooked in ice cream making: pint churning speed. As a bonus, it also lets you add mixes as you serve. Amusing.

Best non-electric: Chef’n Sweet Spot Ice Cream Maker

This ice cream maker works on the same principle as rolled ice cream, which has its roots in Asian and Middle Eastern cultures – no electric churning is required. He only makes a few servings, but he does so almost instantly. Spread your ice cream base on the pre-frozen surface, scrape it into rolls and voila! Remember, you should always work from a recipe with the right proportions of fat, sugar, and flavor, because that’s what makes ice cream so creamy and smooth.

Ask the experts

How long does it take to make ice cream in an ice cream maker?

Whether you opt for a stand-alone machine with its own compressor or one that sits on a freezer bowl, an irresistible batch of homemade ice cream can be made in around 20-30 minutes. A dessert maker is faster on the counter, but that’s for instant consumption. In almost all cases, you’ll want to make sure you start with a good recipe that uses the right proportions and have your base mixed, melted, refrigerated, and ready to use before you begin. Should it be cooled overnight? It’s up for debate, says Falkowitz, who adds that while cooling overnight “isn’t strictly necessary, it just does something to the flavor.”

Preparation is important when making homemade ice cream, but don’t let that scare you off. It’s no more complicated than cooling a pie shell before rolling it out. Scarola likens the freezing of the work bowl to the process of making the whipped cream: “You want it to rise faster, don’t you, so you cool the bowl and the mixers first. »Ditto with the bowl of the ice cream maker: just freeze it in advance.

The bottom line is that homemade ice cream is well worth the effort, and certainly not the Olympic business you might think. “Really,” says Falkowitz, “if you can make a canned brownie mix, you can make ice cream.” Grab your spoon and sprinkles, it’s time to start.

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