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Best Ice Cream Makers

As fun as going out to get great ice cream is, making ice cream at home can be even more rewarding. Aside from getting to enjoy delicious ice cream, the learning to make ice cream can be a fun activity for the whole family – as long as you have a top ice cream maker that’s up to the job. 

Which is the best ice cream maker, then? Well, as always, it depends on what you need. If you want an ice cream machine to make occasional delicious treats and desserts for you and a loved one, you will probably be happy with a small model that makes 1.5 to 2 quarts of ice cream. But if it’s a family feast or a party you need to prepare for, you’ll need a maker that can do some serious mixing. In this guide, we’ve covered those bases, as well as looking at models for those who want a stylish ice cream maker to show off to friends and loved ones. What all of us want, though, is a good quality ice cream maker we can depend on for a long time, and trust to make delicious ice cream too, of course.

After spending a week making ice cream, eating ice cream and cleaning ice cream machines, we’ve determined that the Cuisinart ICE-21 is the best overall ice cream maker. Not only did this machine create some of the best and most consistent ice cream – it also was easy to use, froze the ice cream quickly and was one of the most hassle-free machines to clean. All things considered, the Cuisinart ICE-21 is our top choice. 

ProductPriceOverall RatingPricingFreezing EssentialsPrep & CleanupWarrantyConsistency RatingFreezing Time (minutes)CapacityFreezing MethodPower SourceIncluded RecipesEase of CleaningNumber of PartsAverage Cleaning Time (minutes)
Cuisinart ICE-21View Deal5/54.84.753 YearsB30Freezer BowlOutlet28145
Oster FRSTIC-WDB-001View Deal4.5/54.9541 YearB+404Salt and IceOutlet190.7515
Hamilton Beach 4 Quart 68330NView Deal4.5/554.54.4C60Salt and IceOutlet160.8410
Hamilton Beach 1.5 Quart 68880View Deal4.5/ YearB-401.5Freezer BowlOutlet60.9545
Cuisinart ICE-30BC Pure IndulgenceView Deal4.5/ YearsB40Freezer BowlOutlet280.9545
Nostalgia 4 Quart ICMP400 BLUEView Deal4.5/ DaysC604Salt and IceOutlet100.8410

Best Overall

Cuisinart ICE-21

The Cuisinart ICE-21 makes some of the best ice cream our testing panel tasted, and it does so using a unique method.

The motor is located at the bottom of the machine and turns the bowl as it mixes, creating a creamy consistency that does not 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 machine takes only 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.

Best Value

Hamilton Beach 4 Quart 68330N

Hamilton Beach 4 Quart 68330N

Makes a lot of ice cream
Takes a while to freeze the cream

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 – and who doesn’t like ice cream?

Second, this Hamilton Beach model is one of the least expensive in our comparison, but it still gets the job done.

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.

Easiest to Use

Hamilton Beach 1.5 Quart 68880 Ice Cream Maker

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. Our tests showed it took one hour to make a batch. It’s also easy to clean since it only has four parts you can quickly hand wash.

Best Splurge Ice Cream Maker

Cuisinart ICE-30BC Pure Indulgence

The 2-quart Cuisinart ICE-30BC Pure Indulgence costs more than the other ice cream makers we reviewed, but it earned high marks from our testers for its delicious ice cream, easy cleanup and the fact that you don’t need to do much preparation to make a great treat.

Before you start, you need to chill the machine’s freezer bowl, preferably in the freezer. You then put it in the base, add ingredients and the mixing arm, and let the machine work. In only 40 minutes, you’ll have soft serve ice cream. If you like harder ice cream, you can stick the mixture in the freezer for a time after it finishes churning in the machine. This device has only four parts, and they are easy to clean, though you have to hand wash them.

Best Ice and Salt Rock Ice Cream Maker

Oster FRSTIC-WDB-001

Oster FRSTIC-WDB-001

Has a nostalgic look
Requires extra steps to make ice cream

The old wooden bucket design of this ice cream maker screams nostalgia. The Oster 4 Quart FRSTIC-WDB-001 Ice Cream Maker also creates the most consistent ice cream, according to our testing panel, but not without a few headaches and some extra effort along the way.

This Oster ice cream machine requires a lot of rock salt, ice and preparation. The included recipe and instructions leave out some important info that we had to learn the hard way in our testing. We found that the first time you use the machine you must fill the bucket 2/3 of the way with water and let it soak for at least 90 minutes to let the wood expand, which is called “swelling.” Otherwise it will leak as the ice melts, and that messiness adds more time to cleanup. The instructions also didn’t state that we would need more ice and rock salt midway through the process. Also, placing the ice cream in the freezer after the mixing is done helps it reach store-bought hardness. If you are willing to deal with more steps and effort in making ice cream, this machine yields good results.

How We Tested Ice Cream Makers

We have been reviewing ice cream makers for five years. In that time, we have mixed up countless batches of ice cream and tirelessly read through instruction manuals, user reviews and product specification pages. When we conduct our ice cream consistency tests, we have a panel of testers sample each batch from a machine multiple times and provide feedback.

We also document how long it takes to clean each ice cream maker. All our research, combined with our thorough hands-on testing, allows us to make strong recommendations.

We went through a lot of ice, rock salt and ice cream during our testing process. Our testing panel tasted multiple batches of ice cream from every machine to provide consistency ratings. To make the ice cream, we followed the specific instructions for each machine, refining our process and adjusting the amounts of ice and rock salt through multiple batches. We took notes on how easy each machine was to use; how useful the included instructions were and several other factors.

We also enlisted a taste testing panel of ice cream lovers who evaluated the flavor and especially the consistency of the ice cream that we had produced from each machine. Their opinions and ratings were incorporated into the scores that we gave each machine. Finally, we documented how long it takes to clean each machine for the next use. All these factors went into determining the best overall ice cream maker.

Homemade Ice Cream: What the Experts’ Say

Lifestyle expert Martha Stewart loves making ice cream at home, and she notes in her “Up Close & Personal” blog: “You might be surprised to know that making your own ice cream is 60% cheaper than buying a good quality brand. Plus, you can use all-organic ingredients, making it a much healthier dessert. Homemade ice cream is quite an easy task, providing you have an ice cream maker. Plus, it's really fun to create your own flavors or flavor combinations.”

Ina Garten, a Food Network star and author of several cookbooks, said she uses a simple Cuisinart ice cream maker for homemade ice cream, according to an article by Faith Durand in the online publication “Kitchn.”

 “‘A freeze-the-bowl model?’ I asked – surprised, as I expected her to have some super-fancy chef’s quality gelato machine,” Durand wrote. “But no, she (Garten) has the same sort of ice cream maker that most of us have, and she uses it all the time.”

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

Freeze Power
If you make ice cream often, a 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.

Final Considerations
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.

Making Your Own Ice Cream Keeps You In Control

When you make homemade ice cream, you can control what you put in it. For example, if you want to make healthier ice cream, you can use lower fat milk or even skim milk in place of the heavy cream. You can also reduce sugar content, or use sugar substitutes like honey. agave or maple syrup.

In addition, making your own ice cream opens the way for experimenting with different flavors. Until recently, many Westerners had never heard of green tea matcha ice cream. It is popular in Asian countries, especially Japan, and with an ice cream maker, you can try it without shelling out lots of money for specialty ice cream at the grocery store.

A good electric or hand-cranked ice cream maker is also useful for people who have digestive troubles or who avoid animal products on principle. Anyone who is lactose intolerant or vegan can adjust ice cream recipes to use milk made of soy, almonds, cashews, peanuts, coconuts, oats and more.