Tuesday, April 5, 2011

the skinny on ice cream makers

Now that the weather is warming up, I've been dreaming of ice cream.  I just love the stuff, especially when it's homemade.  When you make ice cream yourself, you have control over the ingredients as well as it's nutritional qualities.  It's so satisfying to make ice cream that's nutritionally sound and not full of preservatives!  Non-dairy folk, this applies to you, too!  Ice cream makers can be used to make sorbets that are delicious and full of freshly picked fruits - what beats that?

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.

Old-fashioned pros:
  • Generally less expensive.
  • You don't need to prep the barrel in advance - you can make ice cream on a whim.
Old-fashioned cons:
  • 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.
New-fangled Ice Cream Makers:
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.

One example of a new-fangled ice cream maker is the 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. 

New-fangled pros:
  • Generally not as loud.
  • Easier, on some types, to add mix-ins.
  • No need for ice and rock salt.
New-fangled cons:
  • 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.
When buying an ice cream maker, read reviews and carefully select the best purchase for you.  Pay attention most to reviews on durability and performance; ignore reviews that complain that the ice cream doesn't look enough like ice cream.  (Seriously, ignore those.  I saw several reviews that complained that their ice cream looked more like soft serve.  The thing these people don't realize is that your homemade ice cream is going to look like soft serve when it comes out of the ice cream machine...that's how they work!  Don't worry, it firms up after a few hours in the freezer.)

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 and


  1. We have a hand crank one, and it's great fun during the summer. It might be because I grew up using it, so it reminds me of home. But, the other bonus is that it gives guests and me something to do and talk about while we're lounging on the patio. The one problem is that if the day is too hot (last summer I tried it on a 110*F day), then the ice never got cold enough it was melting so fast.
    We also have the KitchenAid attachment and that's great for making sorbets or ice cream for 2-6 people. Any more than that and the bowl is just too small. The other pain is that you have to plan ahead 24 hours and put the bowl in the freezer so it is cold when you actually get around to making the ice cream.

  2. I have a recipe for salted caramel ice cream that ive been dying to make....but I don't have an ice cream maker!

  3. Ice cream maker pros: The most amazing ice cream you've ever eaten!

    Ice cream maker cons: 5 pounds in one summer. (I think I should have waited until the summer was almost over before starting this fun project!)

    I think ours is a Rival also, and we use the kind of salt that's used for water softeners. We get it at the gas station in huge bags and it lasts a long time.

    For anyone who wants to serve their guests a fantastic treat, I'd recommend the Rival. It works so slick, and when you're done, you put the canister in the freezer just to get it a little more solid. YUM!!

  4. My uncle always made ice cream for my cousin's birthday. Why did only one cousin get lucky enough to have homemade ice cream on his birthday? January = snow in New York and the best dang ice cream I've ever had. Wow. I miss those days! I'd love the ice cream attachment for my KitchenAid but I'm afraid I'd pack on about 40 lbs as soon as I bought one, ha!

  5. I have a cuisinart ice cream maker that I love. The bowl does go into the freezer before you make the ice cream, but the preplanning is worth it. The bowl doesn't take up much more space than the ice cream will afterwards when it's stored in the freezer....if it lasts that long.


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