Old-fashioned, bucket-style ice cream makers consist of a metal canister nestled inside a larger wooden or plastic bucket. In order to create the cold temperatures needed to turn ingredients into ice cream, these machines make use of ice and rock salt, which is placed between the inner and outer canisters. The ice and salt cool the metal canister, which in turn cools down the ingredients as they're stirred. These bucket-type ice cream makers come in both manual (hand crank) and motor-operated styles. The hand-crank types can be fun to use, but they're also more labor-intensive. Both types should be used near a drain or outdoors -- that's because as the ice melts, it can create a messy runoff.
Compared to countertop ice cream makers, old-fashioned bucket-style machines make a larger amount of ice cream -- between 4 and 6 quarts in about 20 to 30 minutes. Like all ice cream makers, they use ingredients such as milk, sugar, salt, heavy cream and flavorings. However, the finished ice cream is of soft-serve consistency; it must be frozen for an hour or more to firm up to store-bought consistency.
We didn't find professional comparison reviews of this style of ice cream maker, but we found plenty of feedback in user reviews. The most common complaints, in general, are of motor failure and of buckets that crack (if plastic) or rust (if wooden, the metal rings can rust).
The Hamilton Beach 4-Quart Ice Cream Maker (*Est. $40) edges out the competition among old-fashioned ice cream makers with an average rating of 4.5 stars out of 5 (based on nearly 160 reviews) from owners posting to Amazon.com. Consumers say the motor is noisy (that's common with this style of ice cream maker in general), but the Hamilton Beach machine can make 4 quarts of ice cream in about 30 minutes. A few owners say it takes longer than advertised, while others counter that this is the result of not using enough rock salt. The Hamilton Beach 4-Quart Ice Cream Maker has a plastic outer bucket and an aluminum inner canister; owners say it's easy to clean, and the aluminum canister is great for both pre-cooling liquid ingredients in the fridge or freezer and for storing finished batches of ice cream. There are a few isolated complaints about malfunctioning motors and cracked lids, but the majority of consumers say this is a great machine for the price.
Rival purchased the White Mountain brand in 1994, and now manufactures all units with that name. Rival makes both a 4-quart and a 6-quart electric old-fashioned ice cream maker (identical in design other than capacity), but you'll pay up to $200 more for these Rival and White Mountain versions than for the Hamilton Beach ice cream maker. Rival/White Mountain bucket-style ice cream makers are constructed of steel freezer cans and dashers (stirring paddles) surrounded by a wooden bucket. White Mountain ice cream makers have been around for over 150 years, but there has been a noticeable increase in durability complaints surrounding these models in the past few years since the brand was acquired by Rival
In a 2005 article on Slate.com, for example, reviewer Stephen Metcalf says that while using the White Mountain 4-Quart F69204-X (*Est. $200) ice cream maker was pretty labor intensive -- requiring the frequent addition of ice and rock salt in order to keep the canister cold enough -- the end result produced by the ice cream maker is creamier than the ice cream created by less expensive, gel-canister ice cream makers. No other ice cream maker compares to the Rival White Mountain 6-Quart F69206-X (*Est. $240) in terms of capacity, either. (Most gel-canister models can make only 1 or 2 quarts at a time.) However, we found many complaints on Amazon.com (where nearly 215 owners contribute to an average rating of 4 stars out of 5) that the quality of White Mountain ice cream makers has decreased while price has increased, which most owners attribute to Rival's takeover. There are many complaints of malfunctioning motors, noisy operation, a metallic taste in the ice cream from chipping blades, a weak latch that holds the motor to the bucket, and buckets that leak unless additional preparation is taken to soak the wooden bucket (which causes the wood to swell, preventing leakage).
Upon investigating, we found that problems with White Mountain ice cream makers hadn't become the norm until after 2009. Jarden Corporation acquired Rival in 2005, and moved manufacturing overseas to China. Interestingly, the White Mountain product manual (downloadable from the White Mountain website) notes manufacturing in New England. Curious, we called White Mountain, who told us that the wooden buckets continue to be manufactured in New England (of white pine from the area), but the motors are made in China. We weren't able to uncover the exact date that production was moved to China, but the rep we spoke with said it's been at least three years. To be fair, there are a number of owners posting to Amazon.com who say using the Rival White Mountain 6-Quart F69206-X is a fun, nostalgic experience and it makes great-tasting ice cream. Unlike the Hamilton Beach 68330-R Automatic Ice Cream Maker, however, the White Mountain's motor doesn't stop automatically, so it must be continuously monitored.
Rival's hand-cranked ice cream makers also come in both a 4-quart and a 6-quart version. While there's no chance of a malfunctioning motor with a hand-crank model, both the 4-Quart Rival White Mountain F64304-X (*Est. $140) and the 6-Quart Rival White Mountain F64306-X (*Est. $160) also receive mixed reviews. In fact, we found numerous users on Amazon.com complaining about its crank and cast-iron gears rubbing against each other during use, leaving sharp metal shavings in the ice cream. The 6-Quart version averages 3.5 stars out of 5, based on just under 50 reviews, and the 4-quart version averages 4 stars out of 5, based on less than 25 reviews. Some users also say that its hand crank is prone to breaking. Unlike the electric White Mountain ice cream makers, negative reviews on White Mountain's hand-crank models date back to 2003. Durability issues aside, one owner posting to Amazon.com says the 4-Quart Rival White Mountain F64304-X is "good old-fashioned ice cream making fun."