Comparing types of ice cream makers
Today's ice cream makers come in several styles, but all work by churning
ice cream ingredients either by hand or using a motorized (electric) paddle
inside a very cold canister, which freezes the ingredients as they're stirred.
Old-fashioned ice cream makers, one product option, are bucket-style, using
ice and rock salt to cool a metal canister and either a hand crank or motorized
Gel-canister ice cream makers, a second alternative, are countertop appliances
that work by mixing ice cream in a special pre-frozen canister, comparable
to a reusable ice pack. The canister has hollow walls filled with a special
coolant gel that must be frozen for six to 24 hours before use. This frozen
canister serves as a bowl for mixing the ingredients, cooling them as they're
churned, thus creating ice cream. These are more convenient and make less
of a mess than old-fashioned bucket models, but they still require pre-planning
-- if the canisters haven't been frozen long enough, the ice cream will turn
Self-cooling ice cream makers, an additional option, are very convenient.
They don't require pre-frozen canisters, but they do come with a higher price
tag. That's because they act like a mini-freezer, with coils, a built-in
compressor and gases (which cool when condensed) that lower the temperature
of the unit, and thus the canister which is used to stir the liquid ingredients,
creating ice cream.
Experts say that gel-canister, self-cooling and old-fashioned ice cream
makers all deliver smooth, creamy ice cream. The main differences are convenience
Here's what reviewers say about choosing an ice cream maker:
bucket-type ice cream makers make the most ice cream. While you'll
need about 10 pounds of ice plus salt, and need to be near a drain, these
models typically make up to 6 quarts of ice cream. One downside: It can
be inconvenient to add mix-ins unless you include them at the beginning
-- and if you remove the lid, salt can taint the canister.
- Evaluate your freezer space. Gel-canister
models come with bowls that must be frozen. If you want to make ice
cream at a moment's notice, you'll have to store the bowl continuously
in your freezer.
- Gel-canister ice cream makers make only one batch
at a time. Owners
say the gel canisters don't stay cold enough to churn a second batch
immediately. Many say they purchase an extra gel canister for making second
batches, but this adds to the overall expense and extra canisters aren't
available for every model.
- Decide how much you're willing to pay for convenience. Self-cooling machines can create consecutive batches of ice cream without
interruption and don't require pre-freezing, but prices start around
$215 and rise quickly. Then again, if you're looking for a fun family activity,
choose a hand-crank model or one that requires the addition of rock
salt and ice periodically. If you'd rather be able to make ice cream while
you're making dinner, an automatic model may better suit your needs.
- Know when
your freezer bowl is ready. The gel-filled work bowls should be placed
in the back of the freezer, which tends to be colder. If you hear liquid
sloshing around when you shake the bowl, return it to the freezer. In
some cases, owners report getting better results by adjusting the temperature
of their freezers.
- Chill your ice cream base. The colder your ingredients,
the more quickly your ice cream will freeze. The ideal temperature
for your base is between 38 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Take the canister
out of the freezer only when you're ready to make ice cream.
- Allow your ice cream
to harden overnight for best results. After 20 to 30 minutes of churning
in a canister-style machine (the least expensive type), ice cream will
be at the soft-serve stage. Allowing it to freeze overnight can improve
both the taste and texture. When transferring ice cream from a gel-canister
machine to your freezer, use shallow containers for a faster freeze.
Before storing, place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the ice cream.
possible to make low-carb or low-sugar ice cream. Users posting to
Amazon.com say that you can make good, if slightly harder, ice cream using
artificial sweeteners. Many users say that having an ice cream maker inspires
them to try unusual flavors. Some users say that ice cream becomes sweeter
as it freezes and caution against over-sweetening the ice cream base.