The 5 Best Ice Cream Makers, Reviews by Food and Meal

Despite being familiar with the delight of indulging in a midnight pint, few culinary methods evoke the same sense of enchantment as the process of turning raw ingredients into ice cream and sorbet. Achieving this magical transformation at home is made possible with a reliable ice cream machine, enabling you to craft your preferred flavors and incorporate your chosen mix-ins.

In our quest for the best, we rigorously assessed 15 ice cream makers to identify models consistently producing the smoothest-textured ice cream, frozen yogurt, and sorbet. Our criteria included ease of operation, simplicity of cleaning, and the overall enjoyment factor. Even after extensive testing spanning five years, our best ice cream maker, courtesy of Cuisinart, has maintained its position as the top choice. To reaffirm its excellence, we recently re-evaluated all our favored ice cream makers. This extended period of scrutiny encompasses both Food and Meal test kitchen and our home, ensuring that our recommendations stand the test of time.

Best Ice Cream Makers
Discover best ice cream makers by food and meal

Best Ice Cream Makers

Best Price

Cuisinart 1.5-Quart Frozen Yogurt, Ice Cream, & Sorbet Maker

4.6 (14643 ratings) $58.26
The new patent-pending mixing paddle makes frozen treats in 20 minutes or less COOL FEATURE: Double-insulated freezer bowl eliminates the need for ice CAPACITY: Makes up to 1-½-quarts of your favorite ice cream or frozen yogurt EASY TO USE: Easy lock transparent lid with large spout makes adding ingredients simple and mess free
Efficient 1.5-quart capacity churn
Intuitive and user-friendly operation
Quick freezing technology
Easy-to-clean, dishwasher-friendly components
Limited color options
Cord length could be longer
Slightly bulky design

The unbeatable value-to-cost ratio of this lightweight model lies in our use of a pre-frozen, coolant-lined canister to chill down the ice cream base, eliminating the need for salt and ice or an expensive compressor. When properly frozen, the canister churns up in the shortest time compared to all the models we tested, resulting in creamy and smooth ice creams and other frozen delights.

Despite its unassuming appearance, this model features a single button, a lid that easily snaps into place, and a compact footprint suitable for tight spaces. Our evaluation isn’t solely based on individual user opinions but has undergone thorough testing to ensure the product meets our high standards. Over the course of five years of testing and regular use in the Food and Meal test kitchen and at home, our preferred ice cream maker (from Cuisinart) has consistently maintained its excellence. This means we’ve been testing this ice cream maker for about five years and regularly using our chosen winners in the Food and Meal test kitchen and at home.

Best Price

Cuisinart ICE-100 1.5-Quart Ice Cream and Gelato Maker

4.7 (2838 ratings) $275.00
The Cuisinart fully automatic ice cream maker with commercial compressor makes lusciously rich gelato and ice cream-batch after batch- the commercial quality compressor-freezer means it’s always ready to go
Efficient 1.5-quart capacity for both ice cream and gelato
User-friendly interface and controls
Dual paddles for versatile dessert options
Quick freezing technology for prompt indulgence
Relatively large footprint on the countertop
Noise level could be lower during operation
Learning curve for optimal ingredient ratios

The compressor model from Cuisinart not only incorporates the minimalist design and user-friendly operation found in the canister model but also introduces the convenience of self-freezing capabilities. This innovative feature empowers you to create delicious ice cream on the spur of the moment, eliminating the need for pre-planning. With the ability to churn batch after batch without any compromise in quality, this unit offers a seamless and efficient ice cream-making experience.

What sets this compressor model apart is not only its advanced functionality but also its relatively compact size compared to other compressor models we tested. This makes it particularly well-suited for storage in smaller kitchens where space is at a premium. The self-sufficiency of this unit, combined with its compact design, enhances its appeal for users seeking a versatile and space-efficient ice cream maker.

In our extensive testing, which spans both the Food and Meal test kitchen and at-home usage, the Cuisinart compressor model has consistently demonstrated its reliability and performance. Over the years, this ice cream maker has proven its worth, making it a standout choice for those who prioritize both functionality and convenience in their quest for the perfect frozen treats.

Best Price

Hamilton Beach Electric Automatic Ice Cream Maker

4.5 (6071 ratings) $49.99
The ice cream maker's large 4 quart capacity is the perfect size for making ice cream and other frozen desserts for family, friends and special occasions.
User-friendly electric automatic operation Compact design for space-conscious kitchens Versatile 1.5-quart capacity Quick freezing technology for prompt results
Limited capacity compared to larger models Noise level during operation could be lower Requires pre-freezing of the bowl

For those yearning to recapture the delightful nostalgia of ice cream churning, our experience at Food and Meal with this salt-and-ice-chilled unit suggests that it might just be the perfect time machine. Infusing a modern twist with a motorized churn, we or Food and Meal have had the pleasure of relishing all the fun associated with traditional ice cream making without breaking a sweat.

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This budget-friendly model boasts the capacity to hold up to a gallon of ice cream base in its canister. The unique process involves surrounding the canister with layers of salt and ice, effectively freezing the base. Beyond its cost-effectiveness, this approach to ice cream making taps into the sentimental charm of yesteryears while ensuring accessibility for a broader audience, allowing the joy of crafting homemade ice cream to reach even more enthusiasts.

Our sentiments and experiences, derived from hands-on testing in the Food and Meal environment, affirm the appeal of this unit. Its ability to seamlessly blend the best of both worlds—traditional charm and modern convenience—makes it a compelling choice for those who appreciate the craft of ice cream making and the memories it evokes.

Best Price

Breville The Smart Scoop Ice Cream Maker

4.4 (630 ratings) $407.70
Kindly review the videos under the image section and user manual under product details for set up and user guidance 12 hardness settings; sorbet, frozen yogurt, gelato, and ice cream,Capacity 1.5 quart (1 Liter) bowl capacity
Built-in compressor for instant freezing
12 hardness settings for versatile creations
User-friendly LCD screen and audible alerts
Durable construction for long-term use
Higher price point compared to other models
Relatively larger footprint on the countertop
Learning curve for optimal utilization of features

Similar to the Cuisinart ICE-100, this model incorporates a compressor to efficiently chill the ice cream base. The process is as straightforward as pouring in your base and pressing a button. What distinguishes the Breville from the rest is its comprehensive range of features. With an impressive 12 hardness settings, pre-cool and keep-cool options, and a delightful touch of nostalgia through classic ice cream truck tunes that play when your ice cream is done churning, this model offers a multifaceted and enjoyable ice cream-making experience.

The inclusion of these advanced features not only simplifies the ice cream-making process but also allows for a high degree of customization, catering to a variety of preferences. Whether you prefer your ice cream soft and scoopable or firm and icy, the Breville provides the flexibility to achieve the perfect consistency.

Our experiences with this model, or at Food and Meal, have highlighted its user-friendly design and the added bonus of those charming ice cream truck tunes, making it a standout choice for those who seek both functionality and a touch of whimsy in their ice cream-making endeavors.

Best Price

Hamilton Beach Electric Automatic Ice Cream Maker

4.5 (6071 ratings) $49.99
The ice cream maker's large 4 quart capacity is the perfect size for making ice cream and other frozen desserts for family, friends and special occasions.
Effortless electric automatic operation
Compact design for space-conscious kitchens
Versatile 1.5-quart capacity
Quick freezing technology for prompt results
Limited capacity compared to larger models
Noise level during operation could be lower
Requires pre-freezing of the bowl

For those seeking a nostalgic journey back to the enchanting era of traditional ice cream churning, we or Food and Meal can wholeheartedly express that this salt-and-ice-chilled unit serves as a genuine time machine. With the infusion of a modern twist through a motorized churn, we have experienced and can attest that it allows us to relish all the joy associated with classic ice cream making without the need to break a sweat.

What sets this budget-friendly model apart is its remarkable capacity to hold up to a gallon of ice cream base in its canister. The ingenuity lies in the process where the canister is surrounded by layers of salt and ice, effectively freezing the base. This not only represents an affordable and accessible approach but also encapsulates the essence of bygone days, offering a delightful opportunity for everyone to partake in the pure joy of crafting homemade ice cream.

The beauty of this method, as we have found in our experiences at Food and Meal, lies not only in its simplicity but also in the shared joy it brings. It becomes more than just making ice cream; it’s a journey back in time, an experience that we can all enjoy and appreciate together. So, if you’re yearning for a taste of the past with a touch of modern convenience, this salt-and-ice-chilled unit could be your perfect companion in the pursuit of homemade ice cream bliss.

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At Food and Meal, we understand that an ice cream maker performs two essential functions: spinning and freezing. We have found that spinning is crucial for creating that beloved soft, creamy texture. Whether it’s the bowl or the dasher (the technical term for the paddle that churns the ice cream) rotating, we have experienced the process of scraping frozen material from the bowl’s walls and gradually incorporating it back into the liquid base. This action also introduces air into the mixture, freezing the batch to a soft-serve consistency, and transferring it to the freezer is necessary for a firmer texture.

Our preference at Food and Meal is for machines with a motor. We have tested hand-crank models in the past, and they proved to be labor-intensive. Ice cream makers with a motor not only make the process less demanding but also spin faster, resulting in finer ice crystals and smoother textures.

When it comes to freezing, we acknowledge the merits of both an insulated bowl and a compressor. Our top pick freezes the ice cream in an insulated bowl filled with a cooling liquid. The alternative, like the Whynter models we recommend, utilizes a built-in compressor, akin to those found in refrigerators and air conditioners.

In our exploration of ice cream makers, we have considered factors such as freezing speed, churning speed, ease of use, and ease of cleaning. Freezing speed is critical to prevent the formation of large ice crystals, with our picks achieving soft-serve consistency in 20 to 40 minutes. Quick churning is desirable for creating a light, creamy texture, and we look for machines with simple interfaces to ensure user-friendly operation.

Size, warranty, and cleanup are also part of our evaluation criteria. We take note of each machine’s bulkiness, the space it occupies in the freezer, and whether it has removable, hand-washable elements. The convenience of assembly and wide openings for sampling or adding mix-ins are also considered.

During testing, we churn various bases, from vanilla custard to vegan cocoa-butter and coconut-cream bases. We meticulously record churn times, calculate overrun, and taste each batch immediately and after ripening in the freezer. Our tests include mix-ins like Oreos, evaluating how well each machine incorporates them.

Through extensive testing, including chocolate and vanilla custards, lemon sorbet, and coconut-cream–based vegan desserts, we’ve learned the significance of fat content in achieving smooth frozen treats. We acknowledge that, especially for vegan ice cream or sorbet, a hint of iciness may be present, even with the most sophisticated machines.

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I'm Kelly Atkinson, with a passion for dissecting the world of home goods. My reviews stem from thorough testing and a love for sharing detailed insights. Each piece I write offers a glimpse into my explorative journey, aiming to guide readers to informed choices with authenticity and precision, making every review a blend of exploration and expertise.
Production Manager of The Dinner Dude Division at |
I'm Mark Zoch, a culinary expert, Production Manager at Hana Hotel Travel Company, and the proud founder of "The Dinner Dude." My journey, shaped by personal and familial health struggles, has also led me to become a renowned health coach in Houston, where I'm dedicated to transforming lives through tailored nutrition and wellness programs.
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