Why buy an ice cream maker?
Simply put, an ice cream maker is a worthwhile purchase if you want to be able to make your own ice cream. If you buy ice cream with any sort of regularity, investing in your own ice cream maker will be a money saver, especially if you need to buy non-dairy or low-sugar ice cream for dietary or health purposes; these types of specialty ice creams are often quite pricey. It’s also extremely convenient; no need to run to the store, worrying if your favorite flavor is in stock or not, or being unable to satisfy a late-night craving that hits you after your local ice cream shop or grocery store is closed.
And while ice cream can’t rightly be labeled as a health food, making your own can be healthier than store-bought options. It won’t have the same amount of preservatives commonly found in store-bought ice cream, and you can control how much or little sugar goes into it. You also get to pick and maybe even create your own flavor(s). If you have kids at home, they’ll likely enjoy the fun of making their own ice cream. And an ice cream maker will make a higher quality and quantity of ice cream than the traditional plastic bag method many people use to create homemade ice cream.
What should you look for in an ice cream maker?
- Functionality: The main purchase factor comes down to the process of making the ice cream. Not all ice cream makers are created equal when it comes to the time and number of steps required. Some machines do all the mixing and freezing for you, while others require hand mixing or pre-freezing. Some are capable of making ice cream sundaes and milkshakes; some aren’t. Some can be used to add extra ingredients like cookies, sprinkles, and candy to the ice cream; some can’t. Be sure to consider which of these features are most important to you.
- Size and Quantity: Think about how much ice cream you need (or just want) to make at a time to determine the size of the maker you will need. Are you making ice cream just for yourself, you and your spouse, a large family, groups of friends, or a few roommates? Or are you buying it for a business or restaurant? Do you want to make larger batches to save in your freezer for days or weeks, or just enough for a serving or two? The quantity of most home ice cream makers will be listed in pints, quarts, or gallons. A capacity of 1.5 to 2.5 quarts is a fairly standard size for most home ice cream makers, but there are plenty of larger and smaller quantity models too. Also consider the actual size of the ice cream maker itself; the bigger and bulkier it is, the more storage space it’ll take up.
- Cleaning: Decide if the cleaning process for the ice cream maker suits your needs. Some are dishwasher safe; others are hand wash only. Obviously, the larger, more complex the machine, the longer and more in-depth the cleaning process will be. The shape of the ice cream maker will affect the cleaning process, especially if it’s not dishwasher safe. Some have hard-to-reach nooks and crannies. And it is important that you wash your ice cream maker after each use, not just to prevent leftover traces of the previous flavor from lingering and mingling with the next (don’t want your mint chocolate chip ice cream getting mixed with orange sorbet) but to prevent bacteria from growing inside the machine and avoid attracting bugs like ants.
Can you use ice cream makers to create other foods?
In some cases, yes. Sometimes, it depends on the ingredients in question; sometimes, it depends on the ice cream maker itself. In most cases, you should, at the very least, be able to make gelato, frozen yogurt, and sorbet in your ice cream maker, as these are incredibly similar to ice cream. Some ice cream makers can also make foods like milkshakes, smoothies, smoothie bowls, slushies, and even margaritas, but not all. The ice cream maker’s listing will usually indicate what foods besides ice cream it can make, so be sure to read it over carefully if you want a more versatile ice cream maker.
Also note that if you want soft serve ice cream, you may have to buy a specialty soft serve ice cream maker. Most home ice cream makers will create only hard ice cream unless the listing says otherwise.
Cuisinart ICE-70P1 Cool Creations Ice Cream Maker
A frozen yogurt, ice cream, and sorbet maker that makes 2 quarts at a time in less than half an hour.
Pros: If you want to make soft serve-style ice cream in the comfort of your own home, this ice cream maker will be right up your alley. It creates delicious soft-serve ice cream in its 2-quart freezer container with an easy-to-read LCD screen and clearly marked buttons. You can make gelato and sorbet in it as well, just by touching the appropriate button. The whole process should only take around 20 minutes. The ice cream maker’s parts are removable for easy cleaning, and it comes with a recipe book and instruction manual. The built-in timer alerts you to when the ice cream is finished and how many minutes are left. You won’t need salt or ice with this machine, which is convenient. A recipe book comes included with your purchase for guidance. And if you want, you can buy this ice cream maker without the timer or with a freezer bowl for storing your leftover ice cream.
Cons: This is a rather pricey home ice cream maker, one that you’ll have to wash entirely by hand since none of the parts are dishwasher safe. Also be careful when filling up the ice cream maker. It has a 2-quart capacity, but it’s a tight 2 quarts. If you fill it up too much, the machine may overflow while making your ice cream. It may take a bit of trial and error to get the amount exactly right.
Bottom Line: No need to make late-night trips through drive-throughs just for one of those ice cream cones. Get a classic soft-serve, gelato, or sorbet without leaving your house with this Cuisinart ice cream maker.
Ninja NC301 CREAMi Ice Cream Maker
This blender-style ice cream maker allows you to make a wider range of desserts.
Pros: This ice cream maker is a bit different than most models. It’s more like a blender than a classic electric ice cream maker, which works in its favor in terms of versatility and functionality. For you can make not just ice cream, sorbet, and gelato in this machine but smoothies, milkshakes, smoothie bowls, and lighter ice cream—a handy addition for diabetics or people trying to cut down on their sugar intake. You can also toss in chocolate chips, chopped nuts, fruit, and other similar mix-ins for a wider range of ice cream flavors and types. The buttons of all these different functions are clearly marked and labeled on the machine for simple use. The containers, lids, and paddles are dishwasher safe for convenient cleaning, and a recipe book with 30 different recipes comes included with your purchase. You also have two different size options to choose from.
Cons: Making actual ice cream is a much longer and more unusual process with this machine compared to most ice cream makers. You’ll have to mix together the “ice cream” ahead of time, freeze it for 24 hours, and then whip it into proper ice cream (or gelato or sorbet) in the machine. Also note that the capacity is on the smaller side, regardless of which size you pick; one or two pints (half a quart or a single quart) are your only options.
Bottom Line: If you’re looking for an ice cream maker with a bit more versatility than the average model, this blender-like machine will be right up your alley. Its design allows you to make smoothies and other similar foods in it, essentially serving as a two-in-one device.
Nostalgia Electric Ice Cream Maker
This ice cream maker has plenty of convenient, modern features for making larger batches of ice cream quickly.
Pros: If you’re after a larger-than-average capacity ice cream maker, you’ll love this old-timey-looking machine. It’s comprised of sturdy, durable materials; the large bucket is made out of real wood, with an internal aluminum canister that helps keep your ice cream cold for longer. But unlike traditional, old-fashioned ice cream makers, this one has an electric motor that does all the work for you. It has a convenient carrying handle if you ever want to bring it on the go and a see-through lid so you can check on the mixing process with ease. The bucket has a maximum capacity of 4 quarts, twice the size of the average modern ice cream maker, and it can accommodate add-ins like chocolate chips. There are several different purchase options, allowing you to pick the bucket’s color or the option to buy it with pre-made ice cream mixes.
Cons: Even though this ice cream maker is a more updated version of traditional ice cream makers, it does lack some of the typical modern conveniences. There’s no timer, no specialty buttons or advanced settings, and no on/off button. The motor is also quite loud when in use.
Bottom Line: This large ice cream maker has all the looks and trappings of a classic, old-fashioned model without the tiring hand cranking that those old machines required, thanks to the built-in powerful motor. Make ice cream, frozen yogurt, gelato, or sorbet in this ice cream maker that’s the perfect blend of traditional aesthetics and modern convenience.
Nostalgia Electric Ice Cream Maker with Candy Crusher
This cute ice cream maker comes with a topping dispenser that allows you to mix your favorite candies, nuts, and toppings directly into your ice cream.
Pros: While plenty of ice cream makers allow you to add chocolate chips or fruit or nuts to your ice cream or frozen yogurt, this model offers slightly more advanced options for your favorite add-ins. You can add mix-ins and crush them up so that they blend into the ice cream in smaller bits and pieces. This works not just for the usual candies, fruit, and nuts but for bigger bits like brownies, cookie dough, and full candy bars as well. The ice cream bucket is detachable for easier removing and serving and features a handy on/off button so you can start the mixing process when you’re ready. The machine itself is nice and compact to take up minimal countertop or storage space and is cute and colorful to boot. There are six possible colors to choose from as well.
Cons: If you want to crush up and not just add the candy, it will require some manual effort on your end; you’ll have to hand-crank the candy crusher for it to work. Also note that the pieces of this ice cream maker aren’t dishwasher safe, so you’ll have to hand wash them each time you use it.
Bottom Line: Compact but mighty, this is a great ice cream maker for adding your favorite candies, nuts, and other add-ins to your homemade ice cream. Unlike most ice cream makers with mix-in options, this one actually crushes up the add-ins, allowing them to better blend in with your ice cream, sorbet, gelato, or frozen yogurt.
DASH My Pint Electric Ice Cream Maker
This is an ideal ice cream maker to bring on the go or to make smaller batches.
Pros: This ice cream maker is notable for its smaller, more lightweight size and feel as compared to the usual countertop models. It’s extremely compact, weighs less than a pound, and has a built-in handle for easy carrying. You’ll be able to pack or bring this ice cream maker on the go with ease (though it does still require an electrical outlet to plug into). The smaller size also translates to a lower price tag than the average ice cream maker, and you get good value for your money with all the accessories that come included. You receive not just a recipe book but a cooling bowl, a mixing spoon, and access to a larger recipe database as well. Despite this ice cream maker’s small size, it will work just fine if you add softer condiments like caramel, sprinkles, or chocolate sauce to your ice cream. The entire machine also disassembles to make cleaning and accessing those tight spots that much easier.
Cons: A smaller size means a smaller capacity—just under half a quart, about 1.5 cups in this case. Therefore, this isn’t a great ice cream maker for parties or larger groups. You’ll also have to remember to chill the bowl overnight in your freezer before use; otherwise, your finished product won’t freeze properly. Thus this isn’t a great spur-of-the-moment ice cream maker. And you’ll have to wash the entire device by hand, as it’s not dishwasher safe.
Bottom Line: Most ice cream makers are meant for use in your kitchen at home or on a countertop, but this model is small and light enough to bring on the go. It’s also a great option for dorm rooms, smaller kitchens, ice-cream-loving children, or someone who is simply after a smaller-sized ice cream maker.
A home ice cream maker can be a huge boon for ice cream lovers of all ages. They allow you to control what goes into your ice cream, how large the batch is, what flavor(s) you can create, and when you enjoy it. They’re a great way to keep your kids occupied or satisfy a craving without buying a huge tub of ice cream that’ll do nothing but serve as a temptation in your freezer.