There’s a certain beauty in making one’s own ice cream. You can use the freshest ingredients of your choice while also making the texture just the way you like your ice cream to be. Store-bought ice cream, on the other hand, tends to be mostly filled with air and stabilized with thickeners.
Making ice cream used to be a tedious affair. Traditional ice cream makers required one to crank a paddle continuously in order to blend the ingredients and incorporate air into the mixture. These days though, electric-powered versions have made it easier.
There are three types of electric ice cream makers in the market today: those that continue to rely on ice and salt to cool the mixture, those that require you to freeze the mixing bowl, and finally, the heavy-duty compressor types.
If you’re unfamiliar about how these machines work, it all boils down to the paddle and mixing bowl. A motor powers the mixing paddle so that it scrapes the sides of the mixing bowl, mixing the ingredients while churning air into the mixture.
The cold temperature is what turns your mixture into ice cream. How this is done depends on the type of ice cream maker. Some pack ice and salt around the exterior, while others require you to freeze the mixing bowl beforehand. In a compressor type, however, a refrigerant is used to cool the bowl, much like a refrigerator unit.
Of the three, the freezer bowl type is the most popular kind of electric powered ice cream maker. It also sits on the mid-tier of the affordability range and is the most practical to use.
That’s because they’re less messy to operate. One does not have to bother with getting the perfect ratio of ice and salt in order to cool the bowl. They’re also lightweight because they’re not attached to a refrigeration unit and they take up little countertop space so you can store them conveniently.
The downside is you can’t make ice cream with it on the fly, because you need to freeze the bowl first. And you can’t make batches with it since making the first batch alone will warm up the bowl. Some brands offer a second freezer bowl, which reduces the issues but doesn't eliminate them entirely.
Bear in mind though that this process produces soft serve ice cream. When using the ice/salt and freezer bowl types, you need to further freeze the ice cream if you’re looking for the hard kind of ice cream that you find in grocery brands.
In this list, I’ve included the best of all three types of ice cream makers. Naturally, the compressor models are the most expensive because of their heavy-duty features but the affordable ones are decent enough to help you make ice cream properly and easily just the way you like it.
The Best Ice Cream Makers
- Cuisinart ICE-30BCP1 Ice Cream Maker
- Nostalgia Electric Bucket Ice Cream Maker With Easy-Carry Handle
- Hamilton Beach 68330N Automatic Ice Cream Maker
- Whynter ICM-220CGY Automatic Ice Cream Maker
- Lello 4080 Musso Lussino 1.5-Quart Ice Cream Maker
1. Cuisinart ICE-30BCP1 Ice Cream Maker
This is a fully automated frozen yogurt, sorbet, and ice cream maker. It’s powered by a heavy-duty motor and an integrated mixing paddle that can whip up your homemade ice cream in just 25 minutes.
Housed in brushed stainless steel, it comes with a double-insulated 2-quart freezer bowl that’s made from aluminum and coated with Xylan (polypropylene) non-stick. It also has a large ingredient spout for easy mix-ins of your favorite ingredients.
It’s also easy to operate. Just freeze the bowl for at least 12 hours, put it in the machine, add your ingredients, turn it on and you’ll make your favorite dessert in just a few minutes.
Built to North American Electrical Standards, this model comes with cord storage and has a three-year limited warranty.
- 3-year limited warranty
- The 2-quart size is ideal for adding mix-ins; the large paddle also makes it easier to get the ice cream out at the end of the mixing process
- Only makes soft serve ice cream
- Does not automatically shut off
2. Nostalgia Electric Bucket Ice Cream Maker With Easy-Carry Handle
If you prefer the old school style of making ice cream, then this product should appeal to you. It’s designed like a traditional hand-crank ice cream maker and features an exterior that’s made from real wood slats.
This ice cream maker is capable of producing 4 quarts of ice cream, frozen yogurt, or gelato. Users recommend using roughly 6 pounds of ice and 3 cups of salt to make ice cream in about 3 minutes.
It comes with a powerful motor, an aluminum ice cream canister, and a see-through canister lid for easier viewing during the mixing and freezing process.
It’s also easy to operate. Just add ingredients to the canister, place it inside the bucket, layer the sides with ice and salt, and turn on the electric motor to start the churn paddle revolving.
It is also has special features that include a locking motor mount which keeps the motor in place during operation and a carrying handle attached to the bucket for easy portability. The bucket is also easy to clean; just wipe the messes away with a clean cloth.
This product comes with a 1-year warranty.
- No need for pre-freezing
- Has water drain hole for easy draining of melted ice and salt
- Requires salt and ice
- Some had issues with the paddle size; it’s not big enough to churn the contents near the wall so some parts can freeze solid while the center remains soft and fluffy.
3. Hamilton Beach 68330N Automatic Ice Cream Maker
This soft serve ice cream maker can also make frozen yogurt, custard, sorbet, gelato, and sherbet. This is also ideal for anyone looking for a keto ice maker.
This is a fully automatic salt and ice type of maker. There’s a dent in the bottom that users might mistake as a defect. It’s not. The dent keeps the canister centered on the molded plastic nub in the bottom of the ice bucket. Its aluminum canister also comes with an easy lock lid.
This product comes with a 1-year warranty.
- Easy to assemble and use
- The outer container’s round shape makes it easy to add ice and salt
- Some found the aluminum dasher to be too short and not durable
- Over time, it gets loud with frequent use.
4. Whynter ICM-220CGY Automatic Ice Cream Maker
This is a compressor-type frozen dessert maker that makes ice cream, frozen yogurt, and sorbet from scratch. It has a cooling temperature range of -0.4ºF to -31ºF.
It comes in a stainless steel housing while the freezing bowl is made from food grade aluminum. The lid also has a partial flip top that’s convenient for mixing ingredients or checking the progress of the ice cream without fully opening the lid. There is also a stainless steel mixing bowl accessory that is available.
It has LCD timer control which includes a a built-in audible timer. The motor also automatically shuts off if the mixture freezes solid to prevent damage. It also features a separate button that stops the churning but keeps the freezer on for up to 3 minutes.
This product comes with a 1-year limited warranty.
- Motor protection function
- Customer service is prompt to answers posted on the product page
- Only for household use; not designed to run continuously the whole day
- The bowl and mixing blade are not dishwasher safe.
5. Lello 4080 Musso Lussino 1.5-Quart Ice Cream Maker
This compressor style ice cream gives you the flexibility of making a soft serve style to a frozen hard chunk of ice cream.
That’s because it’s equipped with a industrial refrigeration system that can freeze 3 quarts of ice cream or sorbet per hour.
Powered by a 10W motor, it is fully automatic and precisely controlled by a rotary timer. It has a powerful dasher that’s made from stainless steel, along with its housing and mixing bowl. It has two buttons, one for the chiller and one for the agitator.
It’s also easy to operate: just put in your ingredients into the bowl, twist the timer dial, press 2 buttons and in about 3 minutes, 1-1/2 quarts of ice cream is ready for your consumption.
Made in Italy, this product comes with a 1-year warranty.
- Automatic shut off when the mixture gets thick
- Uses industrial type refrigerant so it will always freeze anything.
- Heavy and relatively noisy
- Non-removable bowl makes cleaning a bit difficult
Buyers Guide to Picking the Best Ice Cream Maker
Ice cream makers come in all sizes but the most popular ones are those that are able to produce 1 to 2 quarts of ice cream at a time. That’s about 4 to 8 cups, enough for a small family. This is also ideal if you’re into inventing new ice cream recipes. You can make smaller servings just to try out the flavors.
If you want larger ones, there are machines that can make up 6 quarts or 24 cups at one time. A large capacity ice cream maker is ideal if you want to make large batches for parties.
You can go with the salt and ice method, the freezer bowl, or the compressor model. It all depends on how easy you want your ice cream making process to be.
With a salt and ice design, you can make frozen dessert anytime you want it, as long as you have the exact ratio of salt and ice to cool down your mixture.
But if you don’t want to deal with the mess of melted salt water or even figure out the right ratios, then a freeze bowl model would suit you more. This will call for planning ahead though because you still need to freeze the bowl in the freezer for 12 to 18 hours in order to use it for the machine.
A compressor, meanwhile, acts like a freezer. You don’t have to put its bowl into the freezer. It’s also capable of churning one batch after another. The downside is that this type of ice cream maker is bulky and takes up more space. They’re also expensive compared to the other two types.
An ice cream maker should have an easy to use On/Off switch. Some special features will vary with each brand. Some will have built-in timers, automatic shut-off, or cooling functions.
Others will have more accessories so that you can make different varieties of ice cream. For example, some will provide an extra freezing bowl, or special churn paddles.
Compressor models tend to have the most special design features because they’re made for heavy-duty versatile use. The downside to it is that the more features one machine has, the more expensive it can get.
How much are you willing to spend for a machine that you won’t get to use frequently? The ice-and-salt models and the freezer bowl types generally more affordable, with costs falling below the $100 mark. But when it comes to compressor models, they tend to be more than $100 dollars.
The standard warranty is one year but there are some with longer warranty periods. Pick a brand whose warranty is also backed by a reliable customer after sales service. If you can find a product that also offers an extended warranty, then that’s better. But make sure that this can be used even before the expiration of the manufacturer’s warranty.