There’s nothing better than a heaping helping of ice cream on a hot summer’s day, and there’s nothing quite like making your own ice cream at home. Sure, it takes a little more effort, but those efforts are well rewarded, whether you’re making a creamy vanilla to top with all your favorites or a fruity concoction of your own invention.
But before you can break out the whipped cream and cherries, you need an ice cream maker — and not all ice cream makers are the same. Here are the best ice cream makers for home use on the market today, along with a few favorite ice cream recipes to help you get started.
The Best Ice Cream Maker for the Super-Serious Ice Cream Aficionado
If you take your ice cream very seriously and look at purchasing an ice cream maker as an investment, invest in the Breville Smart Scoop.
This fancy, futuristic-looking, automatic ice cream maker does so much more than merely make ice cream. It can also make frozen yogurt, gelato and sorbet, up to 1.5 quarts of the good stuff. The fully automatic machine will also keep your frozen treats cool for up to three hours after they’re finished freezing and makes ice cream in under an hour.
The only downsides? This best ice cream maker really is an investment, and it’s a hefty piece of machinery. It will take up a lot of your counter space, and it’s not exactly easy to move.
The Best Ice Cream Maker for That Vintage Look
There’s something a little nostalgic about making homemade ice cream, but just because you want that old-fashioned feel, that doesn’t mean you have to put in some old-fashioned work.
With this no-churn ice cream maker, you get the look and feel of an old, wooden hand-crank ice cream machine, but without all the sweat.
The ice cream maker holds four quarts of ice cream, making it ideal for families. Just freeze the ice cream bowl, add your ice and rock salt to the exterior vessel and then let your maker get hard at work churning up some hard ice cream.
The Best Ice Cream Maker for the Value
You’ll find that most ice cream makers start out at around the $50 mark. That gives you the most bare basics in features. However, for just a little bit more, you can have a few extra bells and whistles.
At around $70, this 1.5-quart ice cream maker from Cuisinart will make not only batches of ice cream but also frozen yogurt and sorbet.
It takes up minimal counter space and can churn out desserts in less than half an hour. Plus, there’s no need for that messy ice and salt that you have to use with some other ice cream makers.
The Best Ice Cream Maker That’s Not an Ice Cream Maker
But what if you don’t necessarily want a full ice cream maker taking up a lot of space in your cabinets or pantry? If you already have a KitchenAid stand mixer in your kitchen, make it pull double duty by purchasing this ice cream maker attachment. While it is still about the same price as a traditional ice cream maker, it’s well worth the money for the convenience.
The attachment includes a mixing bowl that you have to pre-freeze and a specialty mixing attachment that churns up ice cream in a snap.
The Best Ice Cream Maker for a Budget
If you’re not necessarily worried about longevity, convenience or value, and you really just want the cheapest option possible (for example, if this is a summertime activity that you think your kids will quickly abandon), consider this four-quart electric ice cream maker that comes in under $50.
It’s your standard ice cream maker, just on a budget. You have to add in your ingredients, lock the top, add in your ice & salt and then set the motor to whirring, but the end result is a large batch of ice cream.
The Best Entry-Level Compressor Ice Cream Maker
If you want a compressor ice cream machine like the Breville model mentioned above (which means you don’t have to freeze the bowl first or add in any ice — just pop in your ingredients, flip a few buttons and go), but you can’t really afford the price of the Breville model, consider the Cuisinart ICE-100 Compressor Ice Cream and Gelato Maker.
At $300, the price point is a little more agreeable than what you’ll find with some of the more expensive options, but you get what you pay for. In addition to ice cream and gelato, the machine can also make sorbet and Slurpee-consistency desserts.
The Best Ice Cream Maker for Singles
If you love homemade ice cream, but you find that you’re constantly making far too much ice cream for one person (is it even possible?), you might want a smaller ice cream maker that only produces a single pint. This cute lil’ ice cream maker, dubbed the DASH My Pint, can make ice cream, gelato, sorbet or frozen yogurt.
Just freeze the included bowl overnight, add your ingredients, churn them up for 30 minutes and then enjoy your dessert right out of the mixing bowl. No leftovers, no problem.
The Best Ice Cream Maker for Soft Serve
If you’re partial to soft-serve ice cream versus the hard ice cream that most ice cream makers produce, you may prefer the Cuisinart Mix It In Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker. The automatic maker is easy to use and makes not only soft-serve ice cream but also softer frozen desserts, like frozen yogurt and sherbet. It also can add in various toppings and ingredients, such as crushed cookies or sprinkles.
The machine’s pull-down handle allows you to dispense your ice cream straight from the maker and into a bowl or cone, and there’s even a built-in cone holder. This ice cream maker produces 1.5 quarts of ice cream in as little as 20 minutes.
The Best Ice Cream Maker for Kids
The Chef’n Sweet Spot Ice Cream Maker definitely isn’t your traditional ice cream maker, but it’s still pretty cool and pretty kid-friendly. Similar to a maker with a freezer bowl, this tool includes a dish that you freeze ahead of time. Then, you add your liquid ingredients to the bowl and hand mix everything until you get the right consistency (it’s not that hard, trust us — you can get homemade ice cream using this method in under 10 minutes). You can also add in any toppings, candy or other treats at this time. If you’ve been to a Cold Stone Creamery and seen their employees hard at work mixing up your ice cream on a slab of cold marble, it’s essentially the same process.
With no rock salt, ice or even whirring machinery, this ice cream maker is ideal for a hands-on activity with the kids.
How to Pick the Best Ice Cream Maker for You
There are a few things that you’ll want to consider when shopping for an ice cream maker.
Ice & Salt vs. Freezer Bowl vs. Compressor
In general, there are three main types of ice cream makers: ice & salt, freezer bowl and compressor.
The old-fashioned, basic, budget-friendly ice cream makers use ice and salt to bring your ice cream to the right temperature to freeze and become, well, ice cream. This can be messy, and the process is often time-consuming. But, as mentioned, it’s also a budget-friendly option.
Freezer bowl ice cream makers require you to freeze a specially-made, usually stainless steel canister overnight before adding your ingredients and churning. While this can be less messy than the ice and salt method, just keep in mind that using a freezer bowl ice cream maker means you won’t be able to simply make ice cream on a whim. You’ll need to wait that pre-freezing time frame before you can start making your delicious frozen treats.
As you might guess by the name, compressor ice cream makers have a built-in compressor that handles all of the required freezing and refrigeration internally. You don’t have to take any extra steps. Just add in all of your ingredients, press a few buttons and then walk away. Compressor machines are by far the most convenient out of all your ice cream maker options, but they’re also far more expensive. Additionally, compressor models are often very bulky and can take up a lot of countertop space (as well as weigh a lot).
On that note, regardless of your budget or what kind of ice cream maker you think will be most convenient for you, you want to purchase the correct size. Whether you go with an ice and salt variant, a maker with a freezer bowl or a compressor-powered maker, ensure that the maker actually produces the right quantity of ice cream for your family. Otherwise, you’re doing all that ice cream-making work, only for the family to not get their fill.
Some of Our Favorite Ice Cream Recipes
Ready to get to mixing? Here are some of our favorite creamy ice cream recipes.
- For the vanilla lovers, here’s, according to The New York Times, the only vanilla ice cream recipe you’ll ever need. The recipe makes 1.5 pints (suitable for most makers) and, even with the help of your ice cream machine, still takes a few hours to make — but the result is a “decadent but not heavy” vanilla.
- For those who want a slightly fruitier taste of summer, try this recipe for homemade peach ice cream. Just be sure to give your fresh peaches a taste first to ensure they’re more on the sweet than sour side. No fresh peaches? You can use canned peaches in a pinch.
- If you’re more partial to strawberries than peaches, try this recipe for a very berry strawberry ice cream.
- Butter pecan is also a favorite ice cream flavor. This recipe shows you how to not only make the ice cream but also how to candy the pecans yourself.
- Of course, we can’t forget chocolate. This double chocolate ice cream incorporates chocolate chunks for a richer flavor and more interesting texture (and double the chocolate!).
- If you’re a fan of mint chocolate chip, you may like this new twist on an old classic. This Peppermint Patty ice cream combines York Peppermint Patties, chocolate fudge sauce and peppermint candies for a rush of cool, minty flavor.
- But ice cream makers aren’t only for great ice cream! Try making a sorbet, too, like this grape sorbet that gets a culinary kick from rosemary and black pepper.
- Or, make a mix of sorbet and fro-yo with this yogurt lime sorbet. Zesty, zingy and just a little bit vanilla-y, it’s a refreshing pick for the hottest days when you don’t want to be weighed down by a heavy, dense dessert, but you’re still craving something sweet.
- Salted caramel is another ice cream flavor sure to please, as well as sure to show off your culinary prowess. You’ll want to break out the good sea salt and the high-end vanilla beans for this recipe.
Find the Best Summertime Sweets — Right in Your Own Kitchen
There’s no need to head out to your local ice cream parlor or the fro-yo shop down the block to sate your sweet tooth this summer. With the right ingredients and an ice cream maker, you can churn out delicious treats anytime, all from your own kitchen.
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Best Ice Cream Makers:
- Breville Smart Scoop
- Vintage, No-Churn Ice Cream Maker
- Cuisinart 1.5 Quart Frozen Yogurt ICE-21P1 Ice Cream Maker
- KitchenAid Stand Mixer with Ice Cream Maker Attachment
- Nostalgia ICMP400BLUE 4-Quart Electric Ice Cream Maker
- Cuisinart ICE-100 Compressor Ice Cream and Gelato Maker.
- DASH My Pint
- Cuisinart Mix It In Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker
- The Chef’n Sweet Spot Ice Cream Maker