We Tested 15 Ice Cream Makers to Find Ones That Made Creamy, Dreamy Ice Cream and Sorbet (2024)

Table of Contents
Straight to the Point The Winners, at a Glance The Best Ice Cream Maker Cuisinart 1.5-Quart Frozen Yogurt, Ice Cream, & Sorbet Maker The Best Larger Capacity Ice Cream Maker Cuisinart Pure Indulgence 2-Quart Ice Cream Maker The Best Budget Ice Cream Maker If You Want It On Demand Cuisinart ICE-100 Compressor Ice Cream and Gelato Maker The Best Splurge Self-Freezing Ice Cream Maker Breville The Smart Scoop Ice Cream Maker Another Good Compressor Ice Cream Maker Whynter ICM-220CGY 2-Quart Capacity Automatic Compressor Ice Cream Maker An Ice Cream Maker for Those With a Would-be Ice Cream Shop Lello Musso Pola 5030 Dessert Maker The Best Nostalgic Ice Cream Maker Hamilton Beach 68330N Automatic Ice Cream Maker An Overview of Ice Cream and Frozen Dessert Types The Tests What We Learned How Do Ice Cream Makers Work? What Are the Different Types of Ice Cream Makers? What Ice Cream Makers Made the Best Ice Cream? A Well-Designed Paddle Was a Must What Ice Cream Makers Were Easy to Use? Should You Buy a Compressor or a Canister Ice Cream Maker? The Criteria: What to Look for in an Ice Cream Maker Our Favorite Ice Cream Makers The Best Ice Cream Maker Cuisinart 1.5-Quart Frozen Yogurt, Ice Cream, & Sorbet Maker Key Specs The Best Larger-Capacity Ice Cream Maker Cuisinart Pure Indulgence 2-Quart Ice Cream Maker Key Specs: The Best Budget Ice Cream Maker If You Want It On Demand Cuisinart ICE-100 Compressor Ice Cream and Gelato Maker Key Specs The Best Splurge Self-Freezing Ice Cream Maker Breville The Smart Scoop Ice Cream Maker Key Specs Another Good Compressor Ice Cream Maker Whynter ICM-220CGY 2-Quart Capacity Automatic Compressor Ice Cream Maker Key Specs An Ice Cream Maker for Those With a Would-be Ice Cream Shop Lello Musso Pola 5030 Dessert Maker Key Specs The Best Nostalgic Ice Cream Maker Hamilton Beach 68330N Automatic Ice Cream Maker Key Specs The Competition FAQs How long does an ice cream maker need to freeze? Is an ice cream maker worth it? How much is an ice cream machine? Can you make ice cream without a machine? Which is better: An all-in-one ice cream machine or a manual or freezer bowl ice cream machine? Is the Ninja Creami a good ice cream maker? Why We're the Experts FAQs

Straight to the Point

Our favorite ice cream maker is the Cuisinart ICE-21 1.5-Quart Ice Cream Maker. It's effective, easy to use, and a fraction of the price of most ice cream makers. Plus, it churns delectably creamy ice cream and sorbet.

Few culinary techniques feel as magical as transforming raw ingredients into ice cream. A good ice cream machine is all you need to experience this alchemy at home, allowing you to churn up your favorite flavors and swirl in any number of mix-ins (chopped cookies, fresh fruit, dollops of lemon curd).

In search of the best ice cream makers, we tested 15 of them, looking for which ones made the smoothest-textured ice cream, frozen yogurt, and sorbet. We included both canister ice cream makers—which require you to freeze the bowl before churning—and self-freezing models.

After about six years of testing, our favorite ice cream maker (from Cuisinart) holds up. We recently re-evaluated it alongside more models and it still snagged the top spot.

The Winners, at a Glance

This inexpensive model utilizes a pre-frozen, coolant-lined canister to chill the ice cream base, eliminating the need for salt and ice or an expensive compressor. When properly frozen, it was the fastest of all the models we tested. It has one button, a lid that snaps into place, and a small footprint for tight spaces—everything you want and nothing you don’t.

With a slightly larger capacity and a sleek stainless steel body, the Pure Indulgence is a bigger, metallic version of our top pick. It features the same on/off operation with a pre-frozen bowl, and it churns light and airy ice cream that holds onto its smooth texture.

This self-freezing ice cream maker allows you to make ice cream without having to freeze a bowl, churning batch after batch without loss in quality. Its minimalist design is easy to use and it’s one of the smaller compressor units we tested (a boon for storage).

The Breville also features a compressor that chills the ice cream, so all you have to do is pour in your cooled base and press a button. What sets it apart is its 12 hardness settings and pre-cool and keep-cool options. This might seem overwhelming, but a complete ice cream beginner can choose one of these settings and get great results. Additionally, the Breville has an ice cream truck jingle when it’s finished churning—fun!

This model from Whynter costs just a couple of bucks more than the Cuisinart and is a half-quart larger. Though, honestly, both are great. We liked its bright, digital control panel and clearly labeled buttons.

This is one expensive, heavy ice cream maker. Its ice cream’s texture was phenomenal, though, striking a nice balance between creamy and dense. For those incredibly serious about ice cream, it could be worth considering.

This salt-and-ice-chilled unit may as well be a time machine. With the modern twist of a motorized churn, you can experience all the fun of traditional ice cream making without breaking a sweat. It’s inexpensive and holds up to a gallon of ice cream base in its canister, which is then surrounded by layers of salt and ice that rapidly drop the temperature.

An Overview of Ice Cream and Frozen Dessert Types

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Because we’ll mention many of these ice creams and frozen desserts below, let’s briefly go over what they are. While churned the same, they have different textures thanks to their base ingredients.

  • American-style ice cream: This is rich and high in fat. American-style ice cream can be made with just milk and cream, as with Philly-style ice cream, or it can also have whole eggs or yolks, like New England–style frozen custard. Its unique ratios, distinct from crème anglaise, give it a high percentage of overrun, making the ice cream lighter. This style is also held at a cooler temperature than gelato, so it’s firmer, for nicely formed scoops.
  • Gelato: An Italian style of ice cream made with just milk and some cream, yielding a relatively lower-fat product. It also has less overrun, which makes it feel dense and rich. Gelato is served at a higher temperature than ice cream, between 8°F and 10°F (-13°C and -12°C), to emphasize its creamy texture.
  • Sorbet: This contains no dairy, owing its texture to sugar and the pectin and starches from fruit purées. Sorbet is dairy-free and can be made with any kind of fruit (strawberries, mangoes, plums).
  • Sherbet: Akin to sorbet, but often made with milk or cream for a velvetier texture.
  • Frozen yogurt: While frozen yogurt is mostly yogurt, it typically contains milk or cream. Still, it’s lower in fat than ice cream and has an icier texture because of this.

The Tests

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  • American-Style Vanilla Ice Cream Test: With each model, we made the double vanilla ice cream recipe from Stella’s cookbook, BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts. This ice cream base contains egg yolks, is high in fat and sugar, and is meant to have a high percentage of overrun so it’s light and easy to scoop from the freezer. We churned two quart-sized batches in each machine and measured the amount of overrun and the time it took to churn each batch, then evaluated the texture. The ice cream was tasted both immediately after churning, while at the soft-serve stage, and after being in the freezer overnight.
  • Frozen Yogurt Test: We made a simple frozen yogurt to see how the ice cream makers handled a lower-fat frozen dessert.
  • Pineapple Sorbet: To channel some vacation vibes, we made pineapple sorbet. Kidding! It was to see how the ice cream makers did with something dairy-free.
  • Mix-Ins Test: We made a second batch of American-style vanilla ice cream, but added peanuts and ribbons of caramel to the ice cream right before it finished churning to see how evenly distributed they were.
  • Usability and Cleanup Tests: Throughout testing, we evaluated how easy it was to set up, how simple its control panel was to navigate, and what cleanup was like.

What We Learned

How Do Ice Cream Makers Work?

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All ice cream makers produce ice cream the same way: First, the ice cream base is poured into a canister fitted with a paddle. Then the cold canister chills the base from the outside, freezing it, while the paddle turns, scraping the frozen bits up and stirring them evenly throughout the remaining ice cream base. This distributes and keeps the ice crystals small while incorporating air into the mix.

What Are the Different Types of Ice Cream Makers?

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Exactly how a given machine chills the canister differs depending on the style. There are three main types of ice cream makers (our testing lineup included all of them):

  • Canister-Style: This style of ice cream maker comes with a removable coolant-lined canister that needs to be frozen solid at 0°F (-18°C) before use. Once frozen, the canister is cold enough to freeze the ice cream base. They do require more forethought; in addition to chilling your ice cream base in advance (which is recommended), you also have to freeze the bowl that inserts into the machine ahead of time. Because of the added step of freezing the bowl, canister ice cream makers are often cheaper than compressor ice cream machines.
  • Compressor-Style: These units are self-chilling, getting down to a below-freezing temperature without requiring ice or pre-freezing any parts. They can get as cold as -22°F (-30°C); however, it can take a while for compressor models to reach such chilly temps. A fully frozen coolant-lined canister will start out cold, resulting in a faster churn time. That said, they're often more expensive since they include a built-in chiller.
  • Salt-and-Ice-Chilled: Adding salt to ice lowers its freezing point, which creates a solution that hovers around 8°F to 12°F (-13°C to -11°C), which is cold enough to freeze ice cream. Today’s models mirror the design of old hand-cranked salt-and-ice ice cream makers but instead come fitted with a motor that turns the paddle.

What Ice Cream Makers Made the Best Ice Cream?

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There’s more to making ice cream than just freezing sweetened milk and cream. Ice cream’s smooth and melting texture is the result of countless tiny air bubbles worked into the base, and a mix of fat and ice crystals too small to detect on the tongue. The smaller these ice crystals, the smoother the texture of the ice cream, while air keeps the mixture from freezing as hard as a rock. The amount of air churned into an ice cream base is called "overrun." Overrun is the percentage increase in the volume of the base after churning, and it determines the final texture of an ice cream or frozen dessert.

Other factors besides the machine itself affect the texture, such as fat and sugar content, as well as the viscosity of the base. Even so, a perfectly made ice cream base won’t go far in a bad machine. A properly churned ice cream base should look thick and dense, requiring you to scrape it out of the bowl, without any signs of greasiness or visible ice crystals. If the base is pourable, either it was improperly made to begin with, or it hasn’t been frozen in the machine for long enough.

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This leads us to our first point: the two main features we look for in a great ice cream maker are, first, that it gets cold and stays cold, and, second, that it’s fitted with a paddle that evenly scrapes and blends the base. Proper ice crystal formation in the base is a secondary method of building structure and is key to ensuring sufficient overrun. If an ice cream maker doesn’t get cold enough, then the ice cream base won’t have sufficient air incorporated into it, resulting in a mixture that freezes hard and icy.

When we made American-style vanilla ice cream, the machines took anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour to freeze one quart. We expected the models that took longer would have poorly textured ice cream with large ice crystals. This was true of the ice cream makers that took over 50 minutes to churn, but we found that all the ice creams that spun in under 50 minutes were the same, regardless of whether they took 20 or 45 minutes.

Outside of the units with longer churn times, one model struggled to churn an evenly textured ice cream due to the shape of the paddle, which failed to combine and distribute the base evenly.

A Well-Designed Paddle Was a Must

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We already mentioned this, but it’s worth reiterating that an ice cream maker must have a good paddle. When we made frozen yogurt and sorbet, we found that asymmetrical paddles were better at churning these bases in an even swirling motion, incorporating more air. This resulted in a slightly higher overrun and softer texture.

Our mix-ins test further illustrated paddle design. Once again, the paddles with an asymmetrical design more evenly distributed the mix-ins. Others took so long to incorporate the peanuts that the caramel over-mixed into the ice cream, losing its distinct ribbons.

What Ice Cream Makers Were Easy to Use?

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As with any appliance, we wanted ice cream makers that were easy to use, with parts that were clearly marked and quickly assembled, and that featured a user-friendly interface. Effortless cleanup was a must, too. Only one of our winners (the Musso) had a base that wasn’t removable. Otherwise, all of our top picks have bowls and paddles that come out for easy cleanup.

We also made sure our favorite models had warranties of at least a year (some of our top picks have three years), considering many ice cream makers are rather expensive.

Should You Buy a Compressor or a Canister Ice Cream Maker?

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A compressor ice cream maker allows you to make ice cream whenever you want (as long as you have time for your base to cool, you're golden). It also means you can churn back-to-back quarts of ice cream in a single day. Of course, this type of ice cream maker is expensive, heavier, and bulkier to store.

For those who churn only a few quarts every week, canister units are more than up to the task. However, you do have to remember to pre-freeze the canister (in our experience, a solid 24 hours is often necessary) and find the space in your freezer for that. We recommend shaking the canister before using it. If you hear the coolant sloshing around at all, it’s not ready to make ice cream.

The Criteria: What to Look for in an Ice Cream Maker

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We obviously wanted to pick winners that made the smoothest and creamiest ice cream, sorbet, and frozen yogurt. Since many models performed equally well in those regards, we narrowed the list down by taking into account factors such as ease of use and cleanup, price point, and additional features.

We found that these seven winners were the easiest to operate, with wide openings for pouring in the base and toppings and clear buttons and interfaces. We also took into account each model’s weight and footprint. Although we have one top pick, the best unit for you depends on many factors, such as how avid of an ice cream maker you are and how much space and money you can commit in exchange for added convenience.

Our Favorite Ice Cream Makers

What we liked: The small, lightweight model freezes the ice cream base with the assistance of a coolant-lined canister. The canister must be frozen solid before it's set onto the motor’s housing, which spins the canister while a stationary paddle scrapes the sides of the bowl and churns the ice cream.

It has one of the fastest churn times, at an average of 20 minutes, resulting in a smooth-textured ice cream. The Cuisinart also had a high overrun, at about 30% for American-style ice cream bases. The asymmetrical style of the paddle promotes even folding and mixing, leaving minimal un-scraped base frozen along the canister walls. It features a simple one-touch operation with a wide opening for a full view of the churning action, and so you can easily add mix-ins of any size. The canister has a one-and-a-half-quart capacity; however, for ice creams with a lot of overrun, we don’t recommend churning more than a quart of base at a time.

What we didn’t like: The canister should be frozen until fully solid; the manufacturer recommends a minimum of 16 to 24 hours in a freezer set to 0°F (-18°C). It’s also important to keep in mind that all freezers go through thaw cycles, so if you attempt to churn ice cream immediately after a thaw cycle, it’s possible the canister is not chilled enough, regardless of how long it’s been in the freezer.

Key Specs

  • Stated max capacity: 1.5 quarts
  • Canister pre-freeze requirement: 16 to 24 hours
  • Average churn time: About 20 minutes
  • Dimensions: 9.5 x 9 x 11.25 inches
  • Colors: White, pink, red
  • Included components: Motor, lid, blade, bowl
  • Warranty: 3-year limited

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What we liked: If you’re looking for a slightly larger, sturdier version of our top ice cream maker, the Pure Indulgence has a two-quart capacity and a stainless steel body. It uses the same pre-frozen bowl setup to freeze your liquid base, and it was able to churn creamy, airy, ice cream in around 30 minutes. Even after some time in the freezer, the ice cream’s texture held up well in taste tests, with only a slight loss in its creaminess. To top it off, all of its parts are easy to assemble and hand-wash, and the stainless steel body can be quickly wiped down with a damp cloth.

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What we didn’t like: Like any ice cream maker with a pre-frozen bowl, you really need to make sure it’s frozen solid before attempting to make ice cream. This machine also produced a lot of overrun, so if you’re planning on adding mix-ins you might want to limit your liquid base to just a single quart.

Key Specs:

  • Style: Canister
  • Stated max capacity: 2 quarts
  • Canister pre-freeze requirement: 16 to 24 hours
  • Average churn time: About 30 minutes
  • Dimensions: 8.25 x 8 x 11.25 inches
  • Colors: Stainless steel
  • Included components: Motor, lid, blade, bowl
  • Warranty: Limited 3-year warranty

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What we liked: This model from Cuisinart has a compressor that chills the ice cream base without the need to pre-freeze an insert or use a mixture of salt and ice. That means you can churn back-to-back batches of ice cream without needing to chill a canister. A batch of ice cream takes 40 minutes on average to churn, and there is also a "Cool" function that will hold the ice cream for up to 10 minutes.

Just like the canister model from Cuisinart, this one features a minimalist design and simple operation. The interface includes three buttons: one to turn the unit off and on, one to set the churning time, and another to start churning. By default, the timer is set to 60 minutes, but it’s easily adjustable to your desired churn time, and churning can be stopped at any time. The locking lid has clearly marked arrows, making it quick to attach and remove.

The bowl where the churning action happens has a wire handle, which allows you to lift it out. Once the bowl is emptied and washed out, you can immediately churn the next batch without delay—just be sure to thoroughly dry the sides, or the water can freeze the bowl to the unit.

After you've removed the paddle, there is no dowel running through the center of the bowl (something present in many of the other models), so your spatula has clear access to scrape out the finished ice cream. The paddle design is similar to that of the canister-style Cuisinart ICE-21 model and therefore yields ice cream with a comparable amount of overrun and a similar final texture. While most ice cream machines warn you not to fill the canister more than 60%, this model tells you not to fill above the top bar on the paddle—a clearly demarcated max-fill line that reduces user error.

The model comes equipped with two paddles, one for gelato bases and another that is supposed to incorporate more air into ice cream bases. After making batches of high- and low-fat ice cream with both paddles, we found that they created ice creams with equal textures and overrun.

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What we didn’t like: Both paddles had high, squared shoulders in which ice cream would get stuck, which required stopping the machine intermittently and scraping the ice cream back into the bowl for even churning.

Key Specs

  • Style: Compressor
  • Stated max capacity: 1.5 quarts
  • Canister pre-freeze requirement: N/A
  • Average churn time: 40 minutes
  • Dimensions: 16.73 x 12 x 9.33 inches
  • Colors: Black, silver
  • Included components: Bowl, gelato blade, ice cream blade, motor base, recipe booklet
  • Warranty: 3-year limited

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What we liked: Just like the Cuisinart ICE-100, the Breville Smart Scoop has a compressor for self-freezing capabilities, but what sets this unit apart is its fully automated churning. The model has 12 hardness settings, ranging from softer, spun sorbets to hard, scooped ice cream.

The Breville automatically stops churning once the ice cream has reached your selected texture by sensing the level of resistance against the paddle as the ice cream freezes and thickens. Once the ice cream is ready, the unit alerts you with (optional) classic ice cream truck jingles. The churned ice cream can be held at the chosen texture for up to three hours, making it perfect for dinner parties and soft-serve ice cream fans. If you prefer to take control over your ice cream churning, the Breville also has a manual option.

Most bases take an average of 40 minutes to complete churning, but if you choose the 10-minute "Precool" option to chill down the machine before adding the base, that churning time can be cut in half (saving you about 10 minutes in total). This unit also has a maximum capacity of one and a half quarts, but, once again, for high-overrun bases, it’s best to churn no more than a quart at a time.

The bowl on this model is easily removable via its sturdy metal handle, allowing for quick cleanup. The lid is also clearly marked, making it easy and to slide into place. The wide opening on the lid lets you easily add mix-ins and keep an eye on the ice cream’s progress.

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What we didn’t like: The shape of the paddle results in the ice cream spinning along the center dowel, unlike the folding and sweeping motion produced by the Cuisinart’s paddle. This motion resulted in unevenly distributed mix-ins and left a layer of un-spun, hardened ice cream base along the inside of the bowl. This model is also big, heavy, and expensive, requiring an investment of both money and counter space.

Key Specs

  • Style: Compressor
  • Stated max capacity: 1.5 quarts
  • Canister pre-freeze requirement: N/A
  • Average churn time: About 40 minutes
  • Dimensions: 15.75 x 11 x 11 inches
  • Colors: Silver
  • Included components: Cleaning brush, bowl, paddle, motor base
  • Warranty: 1-year limited

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What we liked: Slightly more expensive than the Cuisinart compressor model, the Whynter is a half-quart larger. It made excellent ice cream and sorbet, the quality of which our taste testers thought was better than anything you could buy in a store. We liked its digital control panel that was illuminated in bright blue, its clearly labeled buttons, and its built-in timer.

What we didn’t like: It’s hard to justify its price bump from the Cuisinart unless the 1/2-quart larger capacity will mean something to you. We did like its snazzy champagne color, though.

Key Specs

  • Style: Compressor
  • Stated max capacity: 2.1 quarts
  • Canister pre-freeze requirement: N/A
  • Average churn time: About 39 minutes
  • Dimensions: 11.25 x 16.75 x 10.25 inches
  • Colors: Champagne
  • Included components: Bowl, paddle, motor base
  • Warranty: 1-year limited

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An Ice Cream Maker for Those With a Would-be Ice Cream Shop

Lello Musso Pola 5030 Dessert Maker

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What we liked: All we can say is: Wow, this machine made exceptional ice cream. With just two switches (on and chill), the Lello Musso was easy to use and we liked its well-made, sleek stainless steel construction. It was also about as whisper-quiet as an ice cream maker could be.

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What we didn’t like: There’s no getting around it: This machine is big (at 38 pounds) and expensive. Another huge ding against it is its bowl doesn’t come out for cleanup. Instead, the manufacturer says, “Pour l/4 to l/2 cup of hot water into the empty bowl.” Then, you wait a few minutes and wipe the bowl out with a damp sponge.

Key Specs

  • Style: Compressor
  • Stated max capacity: 2 quarts
  • Canister pre-freeze requirement: N/A
  • Average churn time: About 30 minutes
  • Dimensions: 11 x 12 x 18 inches
  • Colors: Silver
  • Included components: Bowl, paddle, motor base
  • Warranty: 1-year

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What we liked: This unit by Hamilton Beach lets you experience the old-school fun of a hand-cranked ice cream maker, without requiring any elbow grease. The ice cream base is frozen by surrounding it with a solution of ice and salt, while it is churned by a motor that locks into place on the top of the unit.

This model has the largest capacity of all our winners—perfect for summer family fun—with a canister that holds up to a gallon of ice cream, sorbet, or even margarita base if you’re into making frozen co*cktails. The paddle has a metal dowel running through the center for sturdy construction, while the remaining plastic construction keeps it lightweight, allowing for easy storage and use.

This unit was the lowest-priced of all the models at the time of testing, making it a good pick for someone who makes ice cream only occasionally.

What we didn’t like: It had the longest churn time, averaging about one hour, and also gave us icy results. Because this model depends on salt and ice to freeze the ice cream, it can be a messy process, best suited to backyards and patios.

Key Specs

  • Style: Salt and ice
  • Stated max capacity: 4 quarts
  • Canister pre-freeze requirement: N/A
  • Average churn time: 1 hour
  • Dimensions: 15.3 x 12.5 x 11.1 inches
  • Warranty: 1-year

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The Competition

  • Chef’n Sweet Spot Ice Cream Maker: While it’s technically not an ice cream maker, we did test it, and it did work well. Simply pour your base over the pre-frozen bowl, then use the dual spatulas to spread it thinly until it begins to freeze. You can then scrape the ice cream into rolls. We liked the experience (and the texture of the ice cream), but since it’s not introducing air we couldn’t rate it against our winners.
  • Klarstein Sweet Dreams Ice Cream Maker: The Klarstein ice cream machine has a detachable motor located on the top of the unit, rather than housed within it like the others, that rotates the paddle. It can be tricky to set the motor on top and lock it into the paddle—we had to rotate the paddle with tweezers to line up the keyhole to lock the motor into place. Because the motor is on top of the unit, it’s difficult to peer inside the canister to monitor the ice cream churning. The opening for adding mix-ins is very small and located behind the motor, which makes it easy to spill sticky caramel and other mix-ins onto the motor. We worry that the combination of a detachable motor and an opening for mix-ins so close by could make this unit susceptible to breakage.
  • Nostalgia Electric Ice Cream Maker: The Hamilton Beach and the Nostalgia ICMP400 operate identically, with the same paddle, capacity, and churn time. We gave a slight edge to the Hamilton Beach because the plastic paddle has a metal dowel running through it, while the Nostalgia has an all-plastic construction.
  • KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker Attachment: The churning paddle on the KitchenAid stand mixer ice cream maker attachment is square, reaching the very top of the bowl while not fully scraping the bottom. This design led to spillage when adding the base as well as the mix-ins; additions would bounce or pour off the paddle itself. Also, once the base thickened, the paddle appeared to be pushing the ice cream around the bowl, with little scraping or folding motion, rather than the more cyclical, churning motion of other paddles. This resulted in portions of ice cream that appeared both over-churned and greasy, and some that appeared under-churned and icy, at the same time. We didn’t have as obvious of a consistency issue churning lower-fat bases, such as frozen yogurt and sorbet.
  • Ariete Ice Cream Maker: The Ariete Ice Cream Maker by DeLonghi has a similar bowl, paddle, and lid design to the Cuisinart, our top compressor pick, and therefore performs very similarly. We ultimately went with the Cuisinart over this model because we prefer the simplicity of the control panel, smaller footprint, and lower price point of the Cuisinart.
  • Della Ice Cream Maker: The Della Ice Cream Maker is equipped with a yogurt maker function, which warms the milk and culture up to set it before chilling it down to serving temperature. If you’re interested in an ice-cream-and-yogurt-machine combo, then this is your best bet. However, compared with its competition, this unit took the longest to fully churn the ice creams and sorbets, upwards of 70 minutes. The touchscreen panel is also not very sensitive; we had to press down hard to activate the buttons.
  • Whynter Automatic Ice Cream Maker: The Whynter ice cream machine was the top pick for Wirecutter and performed well in our tests, producing smooth ice cream. We ultimately chose the Cuisinart ICE-100 as our top compressor model, for its smaller footprint and lower price, and another Whynter model that had a slight edge performance-wise.
  • Beautiful by Drew Barrymore 1.5-Quart Ice Cream Maker with Touch Activated Display: We didn’t like that the top was opaque, which made it hard to monitor the ice cream’s progress.

FAQs

How long does an ice cream maker need to freeze?

This depends both on the type of ice cream maker you’re using and the temperature of your freezer. The instructions that come with our top pick ice cream maker—Cuisinart’s ICE-21—call for a 16- to 24-hour freeze at 0°F (-18°C). This means you’ll need to plan accordingly for your ice cream-making endeavors. A word to the wise: If you shake your ice cream maker's bowl and hear any liquid sloshing around after freezing it, put it back in the freezer. It's not yet ready to make ice cream.

Is an ice cream maker worth it?

If you love ice cream and you have the space in your kitchen to accommodate an ice cream maker, then yes, it's worth it. Using an ice cream maker does take some planning and patience, but once you get the hang of your machine and the basic technique for making ice cream, you can go wild with flavor combinations and add-in ingredients.

How much is an ice cream machine?

Our overall top pick is about $70, while our favorite, splurge-y ice cream maker is about $500 (and we've got picks in between and beyond these prices). So, you can really spend what you want to.

Can you make ice cream without a machine?

No-churn ice cream recipes that don’t require an ice cream maker are definitely a thing, but don’t be surprised if the texture isn’t quite the same. The smooth, melting consistency of churned ice cream is the result of air incorporated into the creamy base, and while you can partially achieve this with a whisk attachment and a stand mixer, it’s tough to match the results of a well-designed, properly chilled ice cream maker.

Which is better: An all-in-one ice cream machine or a manual or freezer bowl ice cream machine?

While it depends on your needs and how serious you are about your ice cream, we think that all-in-one ice cream machines with built-in cooling systems tend to produce creamier, less icy ice cream. That said, the recipe you choose also affects results. So, in the end, you can still make great ice cream in a hand-churn or freezer bowl-style machine.

Is the Ninja Creami a good ice cream maker?

While it's much-hyped on social media, we didn't like the Ninja Creami. For starters, it's very loud. It also didn't do an adequate job freezing a variety of ice creams, was large and difficult to assemble, and, overall, was far too expensive given its usability and performance issues.

Why We're the Experts

  • Sohla El-Waylly has worked for some of New York City's best restaurants and is a cookbook author, social media star, video personality, and recipe developer for NYT Cooking.
  • Sohla has written many equipment-related stories and recipes for Serious Eats, including reviews of ice cream makers and immersion blenders.
  • Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm is the senior commerce editor at Serious Eats. She’s been with the site since 2021 and previously worked at America’s Test Kitchen, Food52, and EatingWell.
  • Riddley's written numerous reviews, including air fryers.
  • For this review, we tested 15 ice cream makers. We also recently retested new models—comparing them to our favorite machines.
  • This means that for about six years, our favorite ice cream makers have been continually used and re-tested—to make sure they're still the best.
  • Jesse Raub (Serious Eats' former commerce writer) and Summer Rylander (a freelance food journalist) updated this review by adding in newly tested models and helping to answer frequently asked questions from readers.

We Tested 20 Ice Cream Scoops to Find the Best Ones for Any Kind of Ice Cream

We Tested 15 Ice Cream Makers to Find Ones That Made Creamy, Dreamy Ice Cream and Sorbet (2024)

FAQs

What is the best homemade ice cream maker? ›

Compare
Ease of Use
Best Overall: Ninja Creami Deluxe 11-in-1 Ice Cream Maker$223 at Amazon5
Best Budget: Cuisinart Frozen Yogurt, Ice Cream, & Sorbet MakerSee price at Amazon4.9
Best Splurge: Breville The Smart Scoop Ice Cream Maker$484 at Amazon5
Best Old-Fashioned: Nostalgia Wood Bucket Ice Cream Maker$48 at Amazon4.5
4 more rows
Jan 25, 2024

Do ice cream makers freeze the ice cream? ›

While the ice cream base does start to freeze while churning away in the machine, this process doesn't end with the firm, super scoopable treat you're ultimately waiting for. No matter how long your ice cream maker keeps churning, it's just not going to happen.

How does the Ninja Creami work? ›

You select your preferred preset and the machine drives the spinning paddle through the frozen block to shave the ice and whip it into a creamy, frozen treat. Ninja Creami presets can run from about 90 seconds to five minutes depending on what you're making.

Is there anything better than a Ninja Creami? ›

The advantages of the Cuisinart ICE-21

It's really unusual for one of the lowest price kitchen appliances to produce better results than the most expensive appliances. But that's exactly what you get with the Cuisinart ICE-21: it makes better ice cream than every other machine except the Lello 4080.

What milk is best for ice cream maker? ›

Nearly any milk will work, and you can substitute half-and-half for the cream. Ideally you want ingredients with a high fat content because these will create a creamy texture when cooled.

Why is my homemade ice cream not creamy? ›

It can also be caused by low fat or sugar content. Fat doesn't freeze. And sugar lowers the freezing temperature of the water in our mixes. So they both keep our ice cream soft.

Are ice cream makers worth buying? ›

You have the ability to avoid artificial additives, preservatives, and excessive sugar or fat content commonly found in store-bought ice creams, and we can all agree that ice cream tastes the best when freshly made. You can even tailor the ingredients to suit specific dietary requirements!

Is the Ninja Creami Deluxe better than the Ninja Creami? ›

The Ninja Creami contains a Smoothie Bowl setting and the Ninja Creami Deluxe does not. The Ninja Creami Deluxe has frozen drink settings that the Creami lacks. Overall, the Ninja Creami has fewer settings with only seven, and the Creami Deluxe has 11.

Does Ninja Creami really need 24 hours? ›

Do You Really Have to Freeze Ninja Creami Pints for 24 Hours? The user manual of the Ninja Creami machine indicates that all pints should be frozen for 24 hours prior to spinning in the machine. What is this? This is their recommendation regardless of the ingredients used or the type of creation you're making.

Why is my Ninja Creami not creamy? ›

Just add a tablespoon or two of liquid and spin on respin. If your ice cream has been in the freezer a long time or your freezer is extra cold, you may even have to repeat the respin several times.

How does DoorDash keep ice cream from melting? ›

One thing about DoorDash and other food delivery services is that they use insulated bags to transport food and drinks. Putting the packed ice cream into this insulated bag will help ensure that the ice cream stays icy until it gets to the customer.

How to simulate an ice cream maker? ›

About this method: No-churn ice cream is wildly popular, and for good reason — it's super easy to make. Essentially you whip heavy cream until fluffy stiff peaks form, then fold it into sweetened condensed milk (with some vanilla extract). You freeze the mixture in a loaf pan and have nearly instant ice cream!

How long does it take the Dash to make ice cream? ›

Put into the cold Dash Ice Cream Maker, lower the beater while it is running, and churn for about 18 minutes. Can serve right away as “soft serve,” but it's best when a little firmer. For firmer ice cream, put into a container and freeze for 3 hours.

Is it worth buying an ice cream maker? ›

Cost Saving & Value for Money

Even though the initial cost of an ice cream machine is high, the cost you save in the long run compared to that of store-bought ice cream is far less for the quality of the finished ice cream and the convenience of purchasing in store or online.

Is it more expensive to make your own ice cream? ›

But it's important to remember that you're getting enough ingredients to make several batches of ice cream. If you can get 5 gallons out of these ingredients, then you've spent only $3.00 per gallon. That is less expensive than the average store-bought gallon.

How long does it take to make ice cream in a hand crank ice cream maker? ›

You'll probably have to crank for 15-20 minutes if you're making an ice cream and maybe twice as long if it's a sorbet. As the ice cream firms up, you will need to hold the machine down, probably with your foot or by having a friend stand on it. You'll know when to stop because it gets too hard to keep cranking.

How long does it take to make homemade ice cream in Pioneer Woman ice cream maker? ›

Makes ice cream in 30 minute or less using electric motor-driven paddle.

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