I'm going to be experimenting with flavors over the next several months and sharing all of my favorites with you! But first, I figured that we had better talk a minute about ice cream makers...
In my experience, there are basically two kinds of ice cream makers - the old-fashioned and new-fangled. :-)
Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Makers:
Old-fashioned ice cream makers are those that require ice and rock salt. Most are electric, although I'm sure you can still find hand-crank varieties around (I don't suggest these unless you really want to get an arm workout). These ice cream makers come with a long barrel that you put your ice cream base in. You place the barrel in a bucket, fill the bucket with layers of ice and rock salt, and then attach a paddle that's connected to a motor. When you plug in the motor, the paddle churns the ice cream while the rock salt and ice interact to become super-cold super-fast. Once the ice cream becomes too thick for the motor to continue spinning the paddle, the ice cream is done.
This Rival 6-quart ice cream maker is a good example of an old-fashioned ice cream maker, and it's the one that I currently own and love.
- Generally less expensive.
- You don't need to prep the barrel in advance - you can make ice cream on a whim.
- Requires rock salt and ice.
- Barrel is prone to dents because of the ice (although this generally doesn't hurt the product's performance).
- Really, really loud.
The newer ice cream makers use a special barrel that actually has a gel pack inside it. You put the barrel into your freezer about 24 hours in advance of when you want to make ice cream in order to get it cold. When you are ready to make your ice cream, you pull the barrel out of the freezer, fill it with your ice cream base, attach the paddle, and let 'er rip.
KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment - it actually works as part of your KitchenAid mixer! My mom has one of these, and I really enjoyed the fact (on the KitchenAid version, at least) that it was easy to add mix-ins because there was no cover.
- Generally not as loud.
- Easier, on some types, to add mix-ins.
- No need for ice and rock salt.
- Often more expensive.
- You have to freeze the barrel in advance - this means that you actually have to have room in your freezer, you can only make one batch of ice cream at a time, and you can't make ice cream on a whim.
I ended up choosing the old-fashioned Rival variety because it was inexpensive, easy to use, and because I like being able to make ice cream on a whim. I also really don't have room in my freezer to freeze the barrel in advance. For my mom, the KitchenAid variety was the best bet because she already has a KitchenAid mixer (and a massive deep freeze).
If you have an ice cream maker and want to add your own thoughts or advice, leave a comment! If you don't have one and have questions, leave a comment. Basically...leave a comment! We all scream for comment love around here. :-)
Disclaimer: Rival and KichenAid have no idea who I am, and this is not intended to be an endorsement of their products. I just mention those two because those are the ones I have experience with. Several of my facebook followers have also expressed satisfaction with the Cuisinart brand. Basically, do your research before making a purchase, no matter what brand you are considering! Product photos taken from rival.com and kitchenaid.com.