How to Buy an Ice Cream Maker

How to Buy an Ice Cream Maker,

An Ice Cream Maker Review

In this issue of Party Yak:

Why do you need to know how to buy an ice cream maker? Because knowing that means you can create ice creams, sorbets, sherbets and frozen yogurts and drinks good enough to...

Party Yak,
  • humble Ben and Jerry
  • make your nutritionist proud
  • wow your guests

... all in about 30 minutes.

How Ice Cream Makers Work

All ice cream makers work by churning and freezing a mixture of ice cream ingredients, or base, that you prepare and pour into the bowl or bucket of the unit.

Any base recipe can be used in any machine, so a Cuisinart ice cream maker recipe is a White Mountain ice cream maker recipe, etc.; "by recipe" is not how to buy an ice cream maker.

"Freezing" mechanisms are at the heart of the question. Review the types and decide just what you can and can't live without:

There are 3 basic kinds of ice cream makers, that is, 3 means of freezing your ice cream mixture.

Ice and rock salt: Packed around the bowl or bucket of the ice cream maker, it keeps the temperature below freezing.

  1. Pros: Mostly used in hand-crank models, it's portable and works very well. Whether hand-crank or electric, the ice cream makers using ice and rock salt often produce large, ice-cream-party-size batches of 4, 5, or 6 quarts of ice cream.
  2. Cons: Rock salt can be difficult to find in the summer (but table salt can be substituted in a pinch). Either way, it can be messy and inconvenient, and salt and ice levels must be monitored; another step.

Freezer bowl(s): Most popular, these space age wonders are metal bowls, or canisters, that house a special liquid freezing solution between insulated walls. You place the bowl in your freezer several hours before making your homemade ice cream, and it maintains the freezing temperature while the mixture is churning. Most sport a 1 1/2 quart capacity, some more, some less.

  1. Pros: They work very well when instructions are followed and they are very reasonably priced.
  2. Cons: The bowls require precious, dedicated freezer space. And unless you purchase an extra freezer bowl, you can only make one batch at a time without refreezing the bowl, usually 6 to 24 hours.

Self-contained compressor freezer: Just like it sounds, these professional type units contain their own freezer system; just pour your ice cream base into the bowl and turn it on.

  1. Pros: It's easy and convenient. No freezer bowls, no salt, no ice, no cranking. Make batch after batch, any time you want. They freeze the ice cream base to a normal ice cream consistency rather than the soft-serve variety of most makers. And they're heavy, not toy-like.
  2. Cons: They're more expensive than most, of course; convenience is always more expensive. And they're heavy.


Look for these "convenience" features when shopping for an ice cream maker:

  • Large spout for adding mix-ins
  • Transparent lid
  • Dual/multi-speeds
  • Timer and auto safety shut-off
  • Dual bowls or option to purchase a second bowl (for freezer bowl units)
  • Easy clean-up
  • Quiet operation

Meet Your Makers:
Popular Names in Ice Cream Makers

The serious ice cream maker could spend thousands on a serious ice cream maker. The most popular names in ice cream makers, though, carry the more reasonably priced models, and they are Cuisinart, Rival/White Mountain, KitchenAid, Lello and Krups.

Rival/White Mountain: There are many reports of older White Mountain machines lasting 30 years or more. The rave ice cream maker reviews of newer Rival/White Mountain models, however, are liberally seasoned with tales of breakage, leaks, metal filings in the ice cream, bursting freezer bowls, and poor customer support, especially their hand-crank models. They offer 1-year warranties.

Most of their machines are ice-and-rock-salt-type models, both electric and hand-crank, with few freezer-bowl models. Prices range widely from about $30-270 for electric models. At $130-180, their hand-crank ice cream makers are pricey. That price and the stainless steel parts are earmarks of a much better machine than owner reviews indicate; maybe they just had a bad batch, no pun intended. Well, maybe just a little pun.

Cuisinart Dual Ice Cream Maker

Cuisinart gets consistently creamy ice cream maker reviews by their customers and they offer one of the longest warranties in the industry, 3 years. They are very reasonably priced machines, t' boot.

Their freezer bowl type machines range from $30-$80, and their "Supreme" self-freezing model costs about $240. All are multi-speed machines, a good indicator.

KitchenAid makes a freezer-bowl type attachment for their stand mixers, making them naturally powerful and multi-speed ice cream makers, for about $80. Customers love not having to purchase yet another appliance to make homemade ice cream.

Krups is disappearing. Everywhere I look online Krups ice cream makers are either "not available" or "discontinued by the manufacturer." With a few so-so owner reviews anyway, I'll hold off my own review until we know if they're revamping, getting out of the game, or so good that stores can't keep enough in stock.

Update: After 2 years the story is the same; no telling "when or if (Krups) units will be in stock again."

Lello Ice Cream Maker

Lello The Italian-made Lello ice cream makers are the only ones described as "quiet." All others are noisy. Their "Gelato" models, compressor freezer units, are priced from $160-$200 for the 1-quart capacity model, and twice that for their 2-quart capacity model.

These are multi-speed units boasting step-up features like a timer, auto safety shut-off, and removable bowl for easy cleaning. The only murmurs against Lello are for a poorly written instruction booklet and a smallish ingredient spout. They come with only a 1-year warranty, too, but no one seems to mind. Owners love their Lellos; they get consistently good reviews, not just for the machines, but for the outstanding quality of the ice cream they produce.

Avoid Ice Cream Headaches

Every ice cream maker is capable of producing excellent ice cream. But you'll give yourself an "ice cream headache" unnecessarily if you expect more from your ice cream maker than it was designed to do or if you don't follow instructions. For instance, most machines produce only soft-serve ice cream; if you want harder ice cream, put it in the freezer for a few hours. Also, if your freezer bowl isn't thoroughly frozen (no liquid sound when you shake it) it won't even make soft-serve. Check your freezer temperature.

No one ice cream maker has it all. The one with the long warranty is noisy. The quiet one comes with a sub-instruction book. The one with the large capacity has an iffy reputation, etc.

The bottom line of how to buy an ice cream maker is this: Buy an ice cream maker based on the manufacturer's reputation first, then factor in freezer type, features, capacity, etc., like this:

  1. Good reputation: Cuisinart, KitchenAid, Lello

    Compressor freezer type: Cuisinart, Lello

    Must be quiet: Lello

Everyone should experience that remember-it-forever first taste of homemade ice cream, without the headaches.

Ice Cream Maker Recipes

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