These are the best ice cream makers for making this summer the coolest one yet, and creating countless frozen fancies for your whole family. From budget ice cream machines to more high-end models, these devices are sure to keep your sweet tooth happy; with some models even available for under $100.
The best ice cream makers can do more than you might first guess, with many having the capability of whipping up gelato, sorbet and frozen yogurt too. They’re also varied in their capacities, with some able to create four-quarts worth of the good stuff. And don’t worry if you don’t have a fortune to spend - with affordable models still equipped with powerful motors to churn out excellent ice cream.
Ease of use is an essential characteristic of the best ice cream makers. After all, who wants to spend time cleaning when there’s ice cream to be eaten? Many models have detachable bowls and paddles so you can wash up with ease afterwards, as well as machines that start at the push of a button once you’ve inserted all your ingredients.
If keeping noise down is important to you, then look out for which of the best ice cream makers have quieter motors, to keep disturbances to a minimum. If you want more fun home appliances for creating tasty treats, then check out our guide to the best popcorn makers.
1. Cuisinart ICE-21P1: Best ice cream maker overall
The Cuisinart ICE-21P1 is the best ice cream maker in our round up. It’s BPA-free, has well thought out design elements like a non-slip base, and it’s easy to use. Its capacity can hold up to 1.5-quarts.
The motor is located at the bottom of the machine and turns the bowl as it mixes, creating a creamy consistency that doesn’t leave unmixed ingredients at the base of the bowl like machines with top-rotating motors. This Cuisinart model also has a double-lined freezer bowl that contains a nontoxic coolant to keep your ice cream cold even sitting at room temperature.
The Cuisinart ICE-21P1 only takes about five minutes to clean. None of the components are dishwasher-safe, but with some warm and soapy water, you can easily clean the freezer bowl. Since that and the dasher are the only parts that touch the ice cream, there is not much to clean beyond that. One of the only downsides to this machine is the powerful, but unfortunately very loud, motor. It isn’t as loud as a coffee grinder or hair dryer, by any means, but you can hear it when you are in another room and it can be difficult to carry on a conversation if you are standing near the machine while the ice cream churning is in progress.
- Read our full Cuisinart ICE-21P1 review
2. Hamilton Beach 68880: Best ice cream maker for easy use
Making homemade ice cream can sometimes be a chore, but it takes little effort with the Hamilton Beach 1.5 Quart 68880 Ice Cream Maker.
This ice cream maker creates a tasty treat with a thick, soft-serve consistency. If you want to harden the ice cream a bit, you can pre-chill the ingredients and leave the finished ice cream in the freezer.
Before making anything, you need to chill the freezer bowl that holds the ingredients – in fact, it’s best to keep it in the freezer overnight. When you’re ready to make ice cream, you just connect the bowl to the base, add the ingredients and the dasher (mixing device), and switch the on button. It takes around one hour to create a bowl of tasty ice cream. It’s also easy to clean this Hamilton Beach ice cream maker since it only has four parts you can quickly hand wash.
- Read our full Hamilton Beach 68880 review
3. Nostalgia PICM4BG: Best cheap ice cream maker
The Nostalgia PICM4BG is a brilliant ice cream maker if you don’t want to splash the cash. Complete with a four-quart capacity, this machine is suitable for family homes and can be used to make frozen yogurt too.
The internal bucket is made of plastic and can be quickly cleaned with ease. Other helpful features include the transparent lid so that you can check on the progress of your ice cream as it’s churning. Nostalgia makes its own ice cream kits which can be used with this maker, however, you can still use it to whip up your very own ice cream recipes.
The electric motor will take care of mixing up your ice cream and there’s no need to place the internal bucket in the freezer as you do with some other models we’ve reviewed. This Nostalgia ice cream maker isn’t made with the most expensive materials, but it’s also not going to cost you the earth. A handle makes it easy to move around and it has thousands of impressive user reviews too. Some users, however, rated this machine down for its lack of fill line inside the bucket, and some also mentioned that the motor is fairly loud when the machine is on.
4. Whynter ICM-200LS: Best high-end ice cream maker
If you’re serious about making ice cream and are willing to spend that bit more, the Whynter ICM-200LS is for you. This ice cream maker looks different from all the others we’ve reviewed and that’s because it is. There’s no need to freeze the BPA-free mixing bowl beforehand or add ice as this machine freezes as it works. When it’s time to clean up, the mixing bowl can be removed and easily wiped down.
The Whynter ICM-200LS has an in-built feature which means the mixture won’t melt and once the ice cream has reached the ideal frozen texture, this machine will automatically switch off so that the motor is damaged.
When you buy this machine, you’ll get some recipes to try out, an ice cream scoop, and other handy features such as a timer and LCD controls. The display will show you the temperature of your mixture so you can monitor it should you need to.
Despite its price tag, however, this ice cream maker from Whynter only makes just over two-quarts of ice cream, which is disappointing compared to other cheaper models. Users praised its speedy functions and high quality, but some criticized how large this machine is and said it ‘takes up a lot of counter room’.
5. Hamilton Beach 68330N: Best ice cream maker for value
The Hamilton Beach 4 Quart 68330N is cost-effective on many levels. First, this generously sized machine can make up to a gallon of ice cream, which is great if you have many mouths to feed.
Second, this Hamilton Beach model is one of the most affordable ice cream makers in our comparison, and it still gets the job done. You can make everything from frozen yogurt to creamy ice creams in this machine, and there are 20 recipes included when you buy it too.
One thing to note is that from start to finish, this ice cream maker is slower than most others. Even though the manual claims it takes about an hour to make and eat the ice cream, in our experience it takes at least an hour of mixing and lots of ice and rock salt to get a consistent ice cream texture.
You will need to be prepared to spend the extra time and effort to create your dessert. In addition, you will have to deal with some design drawbacks. It has a short cord and no handles, making it tough to move around. It also doesn’t have an on-and-off switch, which means you’ll have to unplug the machine if you want to check on your mixture or if you need to add any ingredients – although the motor does have an automatic shutoff mechanism when it senses the mixture is at the right consistency. It’s still a fantastic option for the price.
- Read our full Hamilton Beach 4 Quart 68330N review
How much do ice cream makers cost?
Home ice cream makers range in price from about $20 to well over $100. Some higher-priced models have special linings that help chill their freezer bowl as well as more powerful electric motors. Still, a modestly priced, well-designed machine can make fine ice cream.
What to look for in an ice cream maker
If you make ice cream often, an ice cream machine with a freezer bowl is probably best for you. If you make ice cream just for special occasions and like to make a lot of ice cream, then the rock-salt-and-ice method is the best.
Prep & Cleanup
Knowing how long it takes to prepare ice cream and the cleanup afterward can be a key factor in your decision. If the amount of prep and cleanup time outweighs going to the store and buying ice cream, then a machine might not be for you.
Think about what matters to you in terms of storage space in your home, especially for some of the salt-and-ice models that are heavy and bulky. If you have plenty of storage space, this isn’t a concern, but if you have tight kitchen or limited storage space, consider which model will fit best in your home. Also, don’t automatically reject the recipes that manufacturers include with the model. It's true that with an ice cream maker, you'll be pinning recipes left and right, but the recipes that come with your machine are tailored for that appliance.