There’s something about a spoonful (or a giant scoopful) of ice cream melting in your mouth that brings up good feelings. It doesn’t matter whether you’re languishing in the summer heat or cranking up the thermostat in the colder months, digging into that pint in the fridge brings a certain kind of joy that’s entirely its own.
If you like to cook your own food at home, maybe you will enjoy concocting your own ice cream, too. Not only does it give you the freedom to mix your favorite flavors and ingredients, it also lets you save money, especially if ice cream is a steady part of your snacking habit.
Good news is, making the frozen treat is actually pretty easy if you have a countertop ice cream maker, which eliminate much of the elbow grease from traditional methods. Even better, most of them are able to crank out more than ice cream, allowing you to produce froyos, sorbets, milkshakes, and other creamy treats from the same device. These are our favorite ice cream makers.
Cuisinart Pure Indulgence 2-Quart
This machine lets you make up to two quarts of thick, velvety ice cream in around 20 to 30 minutes of motorized mixing, complete with the option of adding ingredients on the fly using the built-in feeding spout. That means, you can dump fruit slices, nuts, and candies while the ice cream is mixing without interrupting the cycle. Other that that, all you have to really do is switch the machine on with a turn of the knob and wait for the cycle to finish. It consistently makes a thick and creamy mixture, with all the flavors thoroughly mixed and blended to a really well-balanced taste. Do note, you’ll need to freeze the ingredients in the main bowl for at least 16 hours before commencing the mix, which is pretty standard for ice cream machines without a compressor. Aside from ice cream, it can also make soft sorbet and delicious frozen yogurt. If you don’t need two quarts of ice cream, by the way, you can opt for the smaller (and cheaper) 1.5-quart version.
While this appliance looks a lot like a coffeemaker, it is actually an ice cream machine. And it’s a versatile one at that, with individual settings for ice cream, lite ice cream, sorbet, gelato, frozen yogurt, creamiccino, frozen drink, slushi, milkshake, and Italian ice. Making ice cream in this works similar to other non-compressor ice cream makers, so you first have to assemble your base in the included pint and put it in the freezer overnight. Once sufficiently frozen, you then put it in the machine’s bowl, select your desired setting, and get the whole thing running. Once it’s done with the first churn, you can eat the cream already, although you can also add any extra treats and set it to the mix-in setting, at which point it will perform a brief churn to mix everything together.
This ice cream maker is equipped with a unique setting that lets you churn the top and bottom sections separately, allowing you to use different mix-ins with each one, so you get two flavors in a single pint. Do note, the paddle doesn’t do a good job of preserving mix-ins, especially those that can crumble (e.g. cookies and chocolate bits), so you might want to go easy on the mix-in setting if you want larger bits you can chew on in your ice cream.
While we don’t really recommend compressor-equipped ice cream machines for home use (they’re kind of an overkill), they could prove useful for people who want to churn out one bowl after another. Basically, if you find waiting overnight to freeze your base mixture a tad too inconvenient, then a compressor model is definitely what you want to have in the kitchen.
This machine can produce two quartz of frozen creamy treats in each batch, automatically mixing and churning all on its own. It can also freeze the ingredients first for around 20 minutes before churning, which allows you to crank out batch after batch, with each one taking around an hour. This produces ice cream that’s airier and softer than other ice cream makers we’ve tried, so you might want to use something else if you prefer your ice cream really thick. We have a feeling you can also use it make thicker mixes, although it probably requires some experimenting with ingredients and churning times. When you’re not ready to eat the ice cream yet after it finishes, you can also set the machine to just keep it frozen while you work up an appetite, although we prefer just covering the bowl and putting it in the freezer to save electricity. Aside from ice cream, it can make gelato, sorbet, and frozen yogurt.
This compressor model makes around 1.1-quart of ice cream per batch in around an hour total. The bowl actually fits more (1.5 quarts), but it works better if you don’t fill it full. You start by cobbling together your base mixture right on the bowl, then turning on the machine. It starts by cooling down the base mixture for around 20 minutes (give or take), after which you can add your mix-ins of choice. From there, it will perform anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes of churning, depending on what kind of frozen dessert you’re making, while you sit back and relax. Once it’s done, you can proceed to stuffing the darn thing in your mouth or (better yet) put it in the freezer (your actual freezer, not the machine) for 30 minutes to give it a nice, firm structure similar to store-bought fare.
While this is quite expensive, the convenience is definitely well-worth the price. This is especially true since it’s also extremely versatile, offering 12 hardness settings that lets you dial in how thick or airy you want your final product to be, allowing it to produce gelato, sorbet, yogurt, or good old ice cream the exact way that you like it. Oh yeah, it can also play fun musical jingles while it’s churning, which is quite a trip.
Not a lot of people are going to want to spend upwards of $700 for an ice cream maker. It just doesn’t seem worth it for a treat you’re going to have two or three times a week. If you do find it to be a worthy expense, however, then this is the ice cream maker you want to take that splurge on. The appliance just feels premium, with nearly every component cut in stainless steel, although that also makes it very heavy at a whopping 38 pounds.
While it’s not the only compressor model you will find in the market, it takes things another level by using a far more powerful compressor than what you’ll normally find. It’s so powerful, in fact, that it requires no more than 30 minutes to turn the base ingredients you put in the bowl into proper ice cream. Yes, that includes the time it requires to precool the mixture and the subsequent churning to create your desired consistency. As with other ice cream makers, you can adjust the timer to get the consistency you want, allowing you to produce good old ice cream, gelato, sorbet, yogurt, and even frozen drinks with a simple adjustment.