When it comes to making desserts, having the right tools can be key. With summer looming and the weather warming up, ice cream and frozen yogurt are alluring treats that many of us rely on to cool down.

Instead of buying tubs of ice cream every day, investing in the right ice cream maker will not only be better for the planet but can also be healthier for your family. You can use all-natural ingredients, less sugar and still enjoy a delicious cold treat every day. Purchasing an ice cream maker also promises some fun days ahead as you experiment with flavor combinations that you love.

Convinced but don’t know where to start? Read on for our in-depth reviews of 5 of the best ice cream makers along with a buying guide to help you select the right one for you and your family.

  • 1 ½ quart capacity
  • Budget friendly
  • Built-in timer
  • Powerful motor
  • Easy to clean
  • Three-year limited warranty

  • Space-saving design
  • Requires salt & ice
  • Sorbet option
  • Auto-off feature
  • Easy storage of excess
  • Large 4-quart capacity
  • One-year limited warranty

  • 4-quart capacity
  • Retro design
  • Requires salt & ice
  • Dishwasher safe parts
  • Recipes included
  • 90-day warranty

  • Modern attractive design
  • 2-quart capacity
  • Easy to use control panel
  • LED light
  • Additional “keep cool” feature
  • Three-year limited warranty

  • 2.2-quart capacity
  • Digital timer
  • Easy storage
  • Quiet operation
  • Fully automatic
  • One-year limited warranty


Cuisinart ICE-21PK Ice Cream Maker

This popular unit is another one from Cuisinart, a company that has earned its place for its top quality gadgets. This ice cream maker is a smart device that operates on its own and requires no salt or ice, making it handy for novices or people who like to keep things simple. It promises to deliver 1 ½ quarts of delicious ice cream in 20 mins or less. It’s also very easy to use, and the motor is powerful and great at churning the ice cream effortlessly for deliciously smooth results.

This model’s motor rests at the bottom to turn the bowl and the dasher that mixes the ingredients. This means it is efficient at reaching any ingredients that may become stuck to the sides. The ice cream is made in a double lined freezer bowl that needs to be frozen before use. It contains a non-toxic coolant that helps it keep its contents cold, even at room temperature.

Cleaning is always a drawback with some kitchen gadgets; however, this model is very easy to clean. It has only a few parts, each of which can be rinsed easily. The slow churning process keeps your ice cream maker as clean as possible and does not cause unnecessary splashing or dripping onto your kitchen units, and the smooth surface is also easy to wipe down. There is also an excellent 3-year warranty, which is always a good sign that the manufacturer has good faith in their product. The detailed recipe book will also prove useful if you are just starting out in your ice cream making journey. When working, though, it is quite noisy.

Pros

  • Budget friendly
  • Runs automatically without ice or salt
  • Powerful motor
  • Easy to clean
  • 3 year warranty
  • Comes with a handy recipe book

Cons

  • Bowl must be frozen before use
  • Noisy motor


Hamilton Beach 68330N Ice Cream Maker

This one from Hamilton Beach is a budget-friendly option that comes in a classic bucket design and is well-suited for those who have limited worktop space. The powerful motor churns together all the ingredients you want to include in the ice cream quickly and efficiently.

With a 4-quart capacity, the Hamilton Beach 68330N has an internal canister that is surrounded by ice rock and salt, which means you don’t need to pre-freeze it; you simply need to get your ingredients together, pour them in, and start it up. The convenient auto-off feature stops the motor once your ice cream reaches the right consistency. The inner canister also comes with a lid so you can easily store any left over ice cream. It makes around a gallon of ice cream at a time, which is great for large families or summer gatherings.

Unfortunately, there are a few negative points to note. The powerful motor can be noisy during operation, which you may find irritating, and the cord is rather short, so you’ll have to set it up near a power outlet. In addition, there isn’t an on/off switch button, so if you want to check on your ice cream midway you’ll need to unplug the machine.

Pros

  • Space saving bucket design
  • Doesn’t need to be pre-frozen
  • Auto off feature
  • Powerful motor
  • Easy storage of excess ice cream
  • Large size is handy for large families

Cons

  • Short power cord
  • Noisy motor
  • No power switch

Nostalgia ICMP400WD Ice Cream Maker

This ‘nostalgic’ ice cream maker looks like the old fashioned models some will remember from their past but it is fast and easy to use. Simply add required ingredients to the inner canister, layer with ice and salt, and let its motor do the hard work for you.

This machine can make a gallon of ice cream, which is ideal for large families and groups. It can also make delicious frozen yogurt and gelato, and it comes with a lid for the inner canister to make storage of any leftovers easy. It also has no small parts or hard to reach areas, so you won’t have to spend hours cleaning it out when you’re done. You won’t have to wait too long to enjoy your ice cream, either. In fact, the Nostalgia ICMP400WD creates delicious ice cream in just 30 minutes.

The Nostalgia ICMP400WD works a little differently compared to other models in that the canister turns rather than the paddles. This may be confusing for some users, but it still makes ice cream in the same way. Unfortunately, the materials from which it is made are flimsy, so you’ll need to be careful as some plastic parts may break easily. It also requires a large amount of ice to operate, which can be frustrating over time.

Pros

  • Attractive design
  • Makes up to 1 gallon of ice cream
  • Easy to use
  • Also makes frozen yoghurt and sorbet
  • Simple to clean
  • Makes ice cream in only 30 mins

Cons

  • Material isn’t very durable
  • Requires large amount of ice

Cuisinart ICE-70 Ice Cream Maker

This Cuisinart is an attractive model with a sleek, brushed chrome finish that will complement most kitchens regardless of the color of your other gadgets. This unit promises to deliver quality 2 quarts of delicious ice cream, as well as gelato and sorbet, and comes with two separate paddles to achieve this. It is easy to use, with an on and off feature that does not require you to unplug the entire device to open. In fact, it can also be paused, which is handy for any unexpected interruptions.

This ice cream maker also has an LED light feature that illuminates when in operation,  which is useful if you’re prone to forgetting about things, and countdown timer will also help you keep track of the process. Plus, this Cuisinart ice cream maker is also easy to operate and to clean due to the small number of parts. One of its unique features is the additional “keep cool” time, which maintains the freezing temperature for approximately 10 minutes after the ice cream has been made.

Unfortunately, however, there are a few negatives. Due to its compressor feature, it is a rather large unit that will gobble up space in your kitchen. This may not be ideal if you’re already short on storage space. It is also a little pricey compared to some of our other options so you may be tempted to shop around.

Pros

  • Modern,attractive design
  • 2-quart capacity
  • Also makes gelato and sorbet
  • Easy to use control panel
  • LED light
  • Additional “keep cool” feature

Cons

  • Could be considered large and bulky
  • Expensive

Gourmia GSI400 Ice Cream Maker

This is a quick and efficient ice cream maker that is excellent at making sorbet and frozen yogurt in addition to ice cream. It is easy to use and clean and does not need rock salt or ice. Nor does it require the inner bowl to be pre-frozen. It is thus completely automatic, which is ideal for complete beginners or busy chefs. There is also no need to pre-freeze ingredients since the device becomes noticeably cold quickly. Another plus point for this one is that, despite the powerful motor, it is incredibly quiet.

It will deliver 2.2 quarts of dessert within half an hour, and the digital timer helps you keep track should you get distracted. It comes with a valuable recipe book to help you make desserts you and your family will enjoy. As an added bonus, the sleek design is easy to store away in the cupboard.

Unfortunately, its higher price may be out of the budget for those who like to cook for pleasure only. This is a fantastically simple to use ice cream maker, which doesn’t require the addition of salt, ice or a pre-frozen bowl, but there are many alternatives that can deliver delicious homemade ice cream with those extra steps for a fraction of the price of this model. Therefore, unless you are highly averse to adding salt or remembering to freeze the bowl, you may be tempted to look at some of our other lower-priced options instead.

Pros

  • 2.2 quart capacity
  • Incredibly easy to use
  • Digital timer
  • Easy storage
  • Quiet when in operation
  • Automatic, with no need for pre-freezing, salt, or ice

Cons

  • Hefty price tag

Comparison Chart

FEATURESHamilton Beach 68330N Nostalgia ICMP400WD Cuisinart ICE-70 Cuisinart ICE-21PKGourmia GSI400
Dimensions (inches)15.3 x 12.5 x 11.112.2 x 12.2 x 15.89.7 x 8.6 x 13.29.5 x 9 x 11.28 × 8 × 9.5
Capacity (quarts)4421 1/22.2
Requires IceXXX
Requires SaltXXX
LCD DisplayXXX
Makes SorbetX
TimerX
Auto ShutoffXX
Dishwasher Safe PartsXXXX
Weight (lbs)6.256.6 13.59.730.8
Warranty1-year90-day3-year3-year1-year

Buyer’s Guide:

Best Ice Cream Maker for Summer

If you’re still confused about which ice cream maker to go for, read on for our comprehensive buying guide and FAQs to help you decide.

Ice cream makers work by simply churning a few ingredients and flavors together under cold temperature conditions. The most important part of an ice cream maker is the electric motor that churns the ice cream while you get on with other tasks – saving you lots of time and effort when compared to doing this manually. The motor works the paddle, or the inner canister, depending on the model. This process aerates the ingredients in a cold environment, giving you the smooth texture of ice cream.

If you have a sweet tooth and find yourself craving ice cream on hot summer days, then an ice cream maker can be an answer to your problems. You can experiment and make new flavors without having to go to the store and spend money loading up your freezer. It is also an excellent investment if you are worried about additives and colorings in store bought ice cream and their health implications. With your own ice cream maker, you can control exactly what ingredients are used and can adjust them to meet any dietary requirements in your family.

There are generally two kinds of ice cream maker:

Automatic Built-In Ice Cream Maker​

This type will require the least amount of work on your part: you simply switch it on and add the ingredients. If it has a timer setting then you don’t have to worry about it while it works. The coolants are built in, so you can make batch after batch quite easily without having to manually add ice or refreeze the bowl in between.

Ice and Salt Ice Cream Maker​

This type of ice cream maker has an outer tub that needs to be manually filled with rock salt and ice. The salt acts to lower the freezing temperature so that the ice stays colder for longer. The inner canister is where you put your ingredients, and the motor churns them together in this cold environment to create ice cream.

Ease of Use

Many models require the use of ice and rock salt; others will need to be placed in the freezer; and still other models simply require the ingredients be added and switched on. You’ll need to decide which method is more attractive to you and which you would rather  use on a regular basis.

Models which are completely automatic tend to be significantly more expensive, while those which require some preparation before switching them on are often more affordable. In summary, adding salt and ice isn’t difficult and these models are suitable for the majority of people, but if you’re prone to forgetfulness or have a very busy lifestyle an automatic model may suit you better.  

Simple to Clean

Easy-to-clean units are always best. If you have to spend as long cleaning it as you had to wait for your ice cream, you may not use it again. Some models have dishwasher safe parts, but more often than not the main body of the ice cream maker will need to wiped clean by hand. Check to see whether the size of the opening is easy to reach inside and clean out before purchasing.

Auto Timers & Display

Having a timer makes using your ice cream maker a much simpler process because you can rest easy knowing that the machine will only run for the period of time required. An LCD screen is also a great feature. This allows you to keep an eye on progress and so you are not left guessing how much longer you’ll need to wait before you can enjoy your ice cream.

Additional Features to Consider

If you like to get creative in the kitchen, you should look for an ice cream maker that allows you the flexibility to make a variety of flavors using different ingredients. Some models have ingredient chutes so you can add fruit or nuts later in the process. Furthermore, if you’re a fan of low-fat desserts, an ice cream maker with a sorbet setting is a great option.

Size is also always a key consideration when shopping for any kitchen appliance. Before choosing an ice cream maker, ensure that your kitchen can accommodate its size. Some models can be rather large and bulky so aren’t a great fit for smaller kitchens.

Pros:
  • Healthier – Homemade ice cream is going to be the healthier option compared to store-bought varieties  because you control what goes in and thus can eliminate all the unnecessary and potentially harmful ingredients.
  • Environmentally Friendly – If you’re trying to live a greener life, then reducing your plastic consumption (i.e. the amount of plastic ice cream tubs you buy) can help.
  • Economical –  If you find yourself going to the store specifically for ice cream regularly, then you probably end up picking up other (potentially unnecessary)  items too. This means that you are spending money you may otherwise save.
  • Fun for Kids – Experimenting with flavours and recipes with your kids can be a great way of spending time with them.
  • Convenient –  If you commonly have unexpected family and friends around on summer days, then an ice cream maker is a fabulous way of whipping up some delicious dessert for everyone to enjoy.
  • Time Saving – With most ice cream makers designed to deliver the end result within an hour, it is a time saving way to have dessert on the table quickly for any meal.
Cons:
  • Extra Washing Up: No matter how quickly an ice cream maker can be washed and cleaned, the fact is that it is an extra appliance to clean up that you would not have to deal with if you bought ice cream from the grocery store.
  • Awkward Storage: Any additional appliance will take up storage space, which may be a consideration if you have a small space.
Ice Cream Makers

Pros

  • Healthier than store-bought ice cream
  • Reduces plastic tub waste
  • Economical
  • Fun for families
  • Convenient and quick desserts

Cons

  • Can be difficult to clean
  • Large and bulky appliance potentially awkward to store

  • Are ice cream makers suitable for beginners?
  • Absolutely. Ice cream makers are designed to be simple to use, and most of them come with a recipe book containing tried and tested combinations for you to try out. For most automatic ice cream makers, you simply need to switch them on and add the ingredients. If there is a timer setting, you can set this according to the manual. On average, your ice cream will be ready in around half an hour. For some ice cream makers, you’ll need to pack them with ice or pre-freeze the inner bowl. This may feel like a chore to some, but it's still pretty basic to operate. These motor operated ice cream makers all take the time and labour out of traditional hand churning and are suitable for beginners. The manufacturer’s manual and recipe book will also be a great guide in starting out on your ice cream making journey.
  • Can I make low fat ice cream with an ice cream maker?
  • Having an ice cream maker at home doesn’t have to mean high calorie and high fat desserts all the time. It is certainly possible to make low fat ice cream in your ice cream maker. You can use low fat milk for this option. For most ice cream makers, you also have the added functions of making sorbet and frozen yogurt that are also low in fat.
  • Are ice cream makers easy to clean?
  • As a general rule, ice cream makers with the smallest number of parts will be the quickest and easiest to clean. Models with a simple design and smooth surfaces will generally be easier to wipe down than those with more intricate designs such as engravings and numerous detachable parts. However, sometimes these parts are dishwasher proof – so if this is something that appeals to you, then look out for it in the manufacturer’s information for the unit before buying.
  • Will ice cream makers work with soy milk?
  • Yes. Ice cream makers will work with soy milk, and there are ample soy milk ice cream recipes online for you to get started as soon as your purchase arrives.

Final Thoughts

With summer on the horizon, having a cold dessert fresh from your ice cream maker could be the most appealing thing on the dinner menu. With a little innovation, you can also sneak in some extra nutrition to your ice cream dessert with your family being none the wiser.

While all five models here are great options, our top pick is most definitely the Cuisinart ICE-21PK. This sleek ice cream maker is a popular option owing to its reliability and easy-clean design. Requiring no salt or ice, this model can create delicious ice cream in 20 mins or less, while the handy manual and recipe book makes this model perfect for beginners.

If, though, you’re just starting out and don’t want to spend too much, our budget pick is the Hamilton Beach 68330N, which comes at an excellent price for such a large unit from a reliable manufacturer. With a 4-quart capacity, this ice cream maker can produce enough for summer parties and family gatherings and is easy to use thanks to its auto timer and convenient ice cream storage container. It does require ice and salt prior to use, but at this price point we think it’s a fantastic low-cost option.

Whether you’re new to ice cream makers or are a seasoned dessert connoisseur, the models we have reviewed will make great options to help you enjoy tasty chilled treats on hot summer days. Homemade ice cream is much cheaper than buying in the store, and we’re sure you’ll agree, much more fun for all involved too.

Further Reading

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