Ice cream makers have come a long way since those loud, leaky buckets you may have hand-cranked on your grandmother’s porch. They needed a barrel of ice, multiple scoops of rock salt, and many-a-cousins’ elbow grease to produce tasty results. Traditional models like those still exist (and may have their charms), but we prefer the ease and convenience of modern electric canister and freezer models that do the churning for you.
They’re well worth the investment, though both types have their advantages and disadvantages, depending on the amount of space, time, and money you have. We tested 12 models to determine our favorites and found that the two here were a cut above the rest.
Here’s how they work
Although designed differently, canister and freezer ice cream makers work essentially the same way. You turn on the machine and then pour in a homemade base (usually made from cream, milk, sugar, eggs, and a flavoring for ice cream or sweetened fruit juice or purée for sorbet). A churning blade (called a dasher) slowly mixes the base as the cold bowl inside the machine freezes it to a smooth, soft-serve consistency.
Canister Ice Cream Makers
These come with a liquid-coolant-lined bowl that must be frozen before making ice cream; freezing the bowl can take anywhere from 4 to 12 hours. Canister ice cream makers are fairly inexpensive and generally churn ice cream faster than any other machines on the market; the ones we tested all produced soft-serve results in no more than 20 minutes. A 1-1/2-quart model (the average size we tried) has a bowl that’s about 5 inches high and 7 inches wide. If you have the freezer space to accommodate a bowl this big, as well as the patience to wait for it to freeze, a canister machine is a relatively low-cost, easy way to make delicious ice cream and sorbet.
Favorite Canister Model
Cuisinart Pure Indulgence, ICE-30BC
$79.95 at cuisinart.com
This was the fastest canister model we tested: Its bowl was frozen and ready to go in just four hours, and it churned rich, smooth ice cream in only 12 minutes (sorbet took 21). The churning blade did a nice job scraping the sides of the bowl; in other models, this wasn’t the case, and ice cream froze solid on the sides. This 2-quart machine has an 8-1/2-inch-square footprint and a bowl that’s about 1 inch larger than those of other models we tested (though it doesn’t noticeably take up more freezer space). This machine is easy to assemble, has a see-through top, and the widest opening (3 inches) of any model in its category, which makes adding ingredients (and sneaking a taste) easy. It has a basic churning blade, a simple on-off dial, and a sleek, rounded metal base that’s a cinch to clean. What’s more, it’s super quiet. It comes with a three-year warranty.