Homemade ice cream reminds people of simpler days when dads and kids would sit outside and churn the ice cream while moms were preparing the rest of the feast. In the twenty-first century, there are innovative ice cream makers that take the work out of producing delectable ice cream any time. Selecting the best ice cream maker will require some thought to ensure the machine meets the requirements for each situation.
Types of Ice Cream Makers
Three different designs have been developed to accomplish the same goal; making tasty ice cream in virtually any flavor imaginable. Each model offers some conveniences and challenges, and the buyer should be aware of the reasons to choose each model.
- Bucket-style: Old-fashioned ice cream makers are still available. The interior canister is filled with the ingredients that are assembled according to the recipe. After inserting the paddle assembly, the lid is put in place, and the canister is set into the exterior bucket. Layers of ice and rock salt, which accelerates the pace of ice melt, are used to fill the exterior bucket. A hand crank or motor turns the interior canister to make any amount from four to six quarts of delicious ice cream.
- Advantages include the large quantity of ice cream and the portability of the manual version, which can be used in the mountains or in a park.
- Disadvantages of this model include the difficulty in finding rock salt in warm climates and the summer months. In addition, this model requires more expertise to sustain proper levels of ice and salt, which must be sustained to make thick ice cream.
- Freezer bowl: Gel-canister ice cream makers are convenient for those who wish to fill the mixing bowl and allow the machine to complete the task. The canister has thick, hollow walls that are filled with coolant gel that must be frozen in advance. Ingredients are placed in the mixing bowl and the paddle assembly is inserted. The final step is to plug in the machine and allow it to run until the ice cream is thick and creamy.
- Advantages for this modern model include the ease of use and consistent results when the bowl has been frozen for enough hours.
- Disadvantages include the small quantity, the required freezer space and the inability to make another batch of ice cream without having a second canister already frozen.
- Self-contained compressor: The most expensive models are self-cooling ice cream makers that resemble a mini-freezer. A built in compressor cools the gases that run through coils around the interior canister. As the temperature around the ingredients in the canister drops, the ice cream begins to freeze. This model is for the serious ice cream maker because multiple batches can be made in rapid succession.
- Advantages include the convenience of making multiple batches without any required supplies except for the ice cream ingredients. Every batch of ice cream is consistently thick like store-bought ice cream.
- Disadvantages include the cost and the weight and size of the units.
5 Factors to Consider When Selecting an Ice Cream Maker
Many different factors will weigh on the final decision to purchase one of the ice cream maker models over the others. While the convenience of a particular model might appeal to the buyer, certain requirements might influence the final decision.
- Quantity per batch – Very large gatherings of people will require more ice cream, which might indicate that the traditional bucket-type model would be the best choice. Those who want to have homemade ice cream on a consistent basis might choose a freezer bowl model.
- Available freezer space – Limited freezer space might eliminate the freezer bowl model from the selection process. If the user remembers to freeze the bowl ahead of time, the freezer bowl model might be acceptable.
- Batch limitation – If multiple batches would be required to meet the needs for making enough ice cream, the self-contained model might be the best choice. Small quantities of ice cream can be made with the freezer bowl model, but only one batch can be made.
- Freezer bowl prep time – Each model with a freezer bowl will require a different number of hours to freeze the bowl prior to use. Larger bowls will require more hours to freeze the gel inside the walls of the bowl.
- Price – The least expensive model in any category might not provide the performance sought by the buyer. While the traditional bucket-type ice cream makers are less expensive than the other two models, the requirements of space, ice and rock salt might be inconvenient. Quality of design and the motor must be more important than the price of the ice cream maker.
Must-Have Features of the Best Ice Cream Makers
Certain features must be present on the ice cream maker. Wise buyers will read reviews of models that are under consideration for owner evaluation of the following features.
- Large-mouth container – The mouth of the container must be wide and accessible if the preferred ice cream recipes include ingredients that must be added during the freezing process.
- Dual/multiple-speed motor – Many recipes will turn out better if the motor on the machine can be changed part way through the ice cream freezing process. A high-quality motor might add a few dollars to the price but will last longer and produce better ice cream.
- Transparent lid – Users like to watch the ice cream freeze, and some recipes require being able to see the progress to know when to add mix-ins, like fruit and flavorings.
- Timer and auto shut-off – Advanced models will run long enough to make thick ice cream and turn off at the right point. This feature allows the user to perform other tasks without watching the freezer closely.
- Quiet operation – Some models are designed to minimize the noise generated by the motor. Users with smaller kitchens might find this to be a very valuable feature.
- Easy-to-clean design – Milk particles must be cleaned from every crevice of the ice cream maker. Users will appreciate the ability to separate the machine components and apply soapy water to each part.
Ice cream makers make it convenient to make homemade ice cream anytime and almost anywhere. Choosing an ice cream maker must begin with defining how much ice cream will be needed at one time. The final choice can be improved by reading reviews written by others who have actually used the models under consideration. Multiple opinions will allow the buyer to find important information about each ice cream maker model.
Ice Cream Maker Tips
Each ice cream maker is designed to produce soft-serve ice cream if the user follows the instructions. Shortcuts will affect the quality of the frozen product and result in disappointment and wasted ingredients. There are some basic tips that will ensure consistent results each time.
- Choose the ice cream maker by the reputation of the manufacturer FIRST.
- Freeze the container thoroughly, if applicable to the model.
- Chill the ingredients first, which makes the ice cream maker more effective.
- Allow the ice cream to harden in the freezer for a few hours after the maker has finished.
- Try some low-sugar and low-fat recipes to allow everyone to enjoy the sweet creations produced by the ice cream maker.