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Ice Cream Maker Buying Guide

Published by: Maria Kelley • Updated: January 25, 2024 • Checked By: Chef Matty Riedel

Who doesn’t love indulging in a creamy, delicious scoop of ice cream? You can create your own decadent frozen treats at home with the right ice cream maker. However, finding the perfect machine can be challenging, especially when many options are available. In this ice cream maker buying guide, we’ll guide you through the essential factors to consider when purchasing an ice cream maker, along with tips on experimenting with flavours and proper storage techniques. Let’s embark on this sweet journey to finding your ideal frozen dessert machine!

Key Features To Consider When Buying an Ice Cream Maker

ice cream maker

Choosing the best ice cream maker involves considering several factors, including:

  • The type of machine
  • Capacity
  • Freezing mode
  • Churning time

These are all important elements that contribute to the value of your investment.

We’ll examine these factors in detail and a lot more, helping you make a well-informed choice when selecting the ideal ice cream maker for your requirements.

1. Type

The type of ice cream maker is the primary consideration when purchasing. The three main types – ice and salt, freezer bowl, and compressor machines – each have unique pros and cons. It’s imperative to grasp their functioning before making a choice.

Ice and salt ice cream makers are the most basic and economical type. They use a combination of ice and salt to freeze ice cream, ensuring the smooth ice cream mixture achieves a smooth texture. However, they may not be the most suitable option for regular domestic use in a kitchen due to their simplicity and manual operation.

Freezer bowl machines offer an affordable and user-friendly alternative to traditional ice cream makers. Here are some advantages of using a freezer bowl machine:

  • They use a pre-frozen bowl to freeze the mixture, making them a popular choice for first-time ice cream makers.

  • They can also make frozen yoghurt, adding versatility to your homemade dessert options.

  • They are generally more affordable than compressor machines.

However, it’s important to note that freezer bowl machines may not be as efficient as compressor machines.

Compressor machines are the most advanced and efficient type of ice cream makers. They feature a built-in compressor that continuously cools the mixture while churning, resulting in delicious and creamy ice cream. However, these machines are more expensive than the other types, making them a significant investment.

2. Capacity

Ice cream makers are available in various capacities, from single servings to large batches. It’s important to reflect on your needs and preferences when choosing an ice cream maker with the appropriate capacity. If you enjoy experimenting with different flavours and making multiple batches of ice cream at a time, a larger-capacity machine may be more suitable for you.

Consider the amount of ice cream you plan to make and how often you’ll use the machine when selecting the appropriate capacity.

Ice cream in a glass bowl with whipped cream, chocolate syrup and a wafer

3. Freezing Mode

The freezing mode is another significant factor when choosing an ice cream maker. Some machines require pre-freezing of the bowl before use, while others have built-in freezers for added convenience. Pre-freezing machines are generally more affordable and smaller, but they require you to wait 8+ hours for the bowl to freeze before making ice cream. On the other hand, built-in freezer machines eliminate the need to wait and allow you to make batches of ice cream one after the other. However, they tend to be more expensive and larger, which may require them to always remain on your countertop.

When deciding between pre-freezing and built-in freezer machines, consider your budget, available counter space, and the convenience you desire when making homemade ice cream.

4. Churning Time

The churning time is another vital element to remember when selecting an ice cream maker. The churning time refers to the duration it takes for the ice cream maker to freeze the mixture and produce a frozen dessert. Churning times can vary among ice cream makers, with some models producing ice cream in as little as 20 minutes while others may take up to an hour.

The factors that influence churning time in an ice cream maker include:

  • The type of ice cream maker
  • The capacity of the machine
  • The freezing mode
  • The quality of materials
  • The recipe used

By understanding the factors that affect churning time, you can choose an ice cream maker that best meets your needs and expectations for homemade frozen treats.

cherry ice cream in a cone

5. Ease Of Use

Features like digital displays, automatic shut-off, and easy-to-clean components can significantly influence your choice of an ice cream maker. These features can streamline the ice cream-making process and ensure a smooth experience for users.

For example, the Lakeland mini digital ice cream maker is simple to use, requiring only the lid’s and paddle’s connection to the bowl and activating the on/off switch to start churning. The Magimix gelato expert also offers a two-hour storage mode that keeps your ice cream or sorbet at the perfect temperature once it has been churned.

6. Noise Level

Another important consideration when choosing an ice cream maker is the noise level. Some machines can be quite noisy when operating, which may be a concern, especially if you plan to make ice cream frequently or when quiet is needed.

7. Quality of Materials

Selecting an ice cream maker made from durable materials that can withstand regular use and are easy to clean is important. High-quality materials not only prolong the life of your machine but also ensure consistent performance and delicious results.

By considering the quality of materials used in an ice cream maker, you can ensure a reliable and high-performing machine that will stand the test of time.

8. Additional Features

Certain ice cream makers include additional features that can enrich your ice cream-making process. Built-in timers, keep-cool functions, and multiple dessert settings are just a few additional features that can make your ice cream maker more versatile and enjoyable.

Ninja ice cream maker

For instance, the Ninja Ice Cream Maker & Frozen Dessert Maker offers more programme options than most ice cream makers. By considering additional features when selecting an ice cream maker, you can find a machine that caters to your specific needs and preferences.

9. Cost

As ice cream makers are available at various prices, considering your budget is critical in decision-making. While compressor ice cream makers tend to be the most expensive domestic machines, budget ice cream maker options, such as the Vonshef stainless steel ice cream maker, are also available.

It’s crucial to balance cost and quality when selecting an ice cream maker. Investing in a machine that offers the features you need and is made from durable materials can ensure you get the most value for your money.

10. Brand & Reviews

Investigating well-known brands and reviewing customer feedback can ensure that your chosen ice cream maker is reliable and high-quality. By learning about the experiences of other users, you can gain valuable insight into the performance and durability of a particular machine.

Brands such as Cuisinart, Ninja, and Magimix have earned a reputation for producing some of the best ice cream makers that consistently deliver delicious results. When selecting an ice cream maker, it’s essential to research and consider the brand’s reputation and other customers’ experiences to make an informed decision.

11. Warranty

A robust warranty can offer reassurance and safeguard your investment in an ice cream maker. Most premium brands offer warranties of 1 to 3 years, ensuring that the manufacturer addresses and resolves any potential issues.

Given the integrated compressor and intricate electronics, assessing the warranty and after-sales service for compressor ice cream makers is particularly important. By considering the warranty when selecting an ice cream maker, you can ensure a reliable and long-lasting machine backed by the manufacturer’s support.

12. Recipe Compatibility

frozen ice cream on a stick

Lastly, it’s essential to ensure the ice cream maker you choose is compatible with a wide range of recipes, including:

  • Ice cream
  • Gelato
  • Sorbet
  • Frozen yogurt

This will allow you to experiment with various flavours and textures, creating unique and delicious frozen treats for yourself and your loved ones, such as frozen yoghurt.

Many ice cream makers are compatible with various dessert recipes. You can unleash your creativity and indulge in frozen delights by choosing a machine with good recipe compatibility.

Ice Cream Maker Buying Guide: Summing Up

In conclusion, finding the perfect ice cream maker can be a fun and rewarding experience when you consider the essential factors discussed in this blog post. From the type of machine and its capacity to the freezing mode and churning time, each aspect plays a crucial role in ensuring you get the most out of your investment.

With the right ice cream maker and creativity, you can create an endless array of delicious frozen treats to enjoy with your friends and family. So why wait? Start your journey towards homemade ice cream bliss today!


Cuisinart Ice Cream and Gelato Maker

  • A professional compressor system
  • Two mixing paddles
  • Easy to use

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Frequently Asked Questions

What To Look For When Buying An Ice Cream Maker

When buying an ice cream maker, ensure it has a built-in freezer to save time pre-freezing the mixing bowl. Otherwise, you’ll need to plan ahead by freezing the bowl for at least eight hours before use.

How Big An Ice Cream Maker Do I Need?

A 4-quart ice cream maker is recommended for making multiple quarts of ice cream at once, which is ideal for a large family or entertaining. A single-serve ice cream maker can also make single pints at once.

Which Brand Is Best For An Ice Cream Maker?

The Cuisinart ICE-21 1.5 Quart Ice Cream Maker is the best ice cream maker overall due to its ease of use, quick preparation time, and reliable results. It’s also the top choice for those who don’t want to worry about pre-freezing the machine’s canister.

What Are The Three Primary Types Of Ice Cream Makers?

The three primary types of ice cream makers are ice and salt, freezer bowl, and compressor machines.

How Long Does An Ice Cream Maker Take To Churn Ice Cream?

On average, it takes around 20 to 60 minutes for an ice cream maker to churn ice cream.

Maria Kelley