It’s a hell of a good time to buy an ice cream maker. Why? Well, for one, a gallon of off-brand ice cream costs $8 (don’t get us started on the artisanal stuff, which goes for what seems like a gazillion dollars.) For another, and more to the point: ice cream makers are finally worthy of our countertops. Gone are the days where churning out a batch requires you to have a basic understanding of chemistry and the arms of a stevedore. Today’s machines are well designed and more than capable of making that sweet, sweet treat.
Now, before we begin: Ice cream making requires a few basic items. There’s the churn, which continually whips the mixture, the cold unit, which you need to freeze contents as quickly as possible to avoid the creation of unwanted ice crystals, and a container to hold everything while the magic happens. More basic versions consist of a plastic dasher — the paddle that stirs everything and pre-frozen pot to mix in; on the higher end you can find fully digitized models with stainless steel parts and a number of different settings that allow you to churn out styles of ice cream
With so many models available on the market these days, some good and some bad, we wanted to help identify the best choices available. Our criteria were simple: An ice cream maker had to be fully electric — no hand churning, it had to have at least 175 reviewers (often much higher), and have earned an aggregated score of at least 4.5 stars. We wanted to eliminate ones that only a few people had tried. Then we choose a selection of machines that touched a wide range of prices. With all this in mind, here are the five best ice cream makers for you.
Best Low Priced Ice Cream Makers
Nostalgia 4-Quart Electric Ice Cream Maker with Easy-Carry Handle
If you’re looking for modern simplicity but still want a nice dose of nostalgia, this is the maker for you. Its simple set up uses ice and salt to freeze the mixture while a top fitted motor continually churns the dasher. It’s made from plastic so it’s easy to clean, you can view the proceedings from above, and the handle makes it easy to transport. Best of all, you can order mixes from the company to make things even easier. “Purchased this product last summer and made several batches of homemade ice cream in the Nostalgia Ice cream maker,” wrote one reviewer. “Brought back memories of 30-40 years ago when we would have family get-togethers and make the family recipes.”
Hamilton Beach 4-Quart Automatic Ice Cream Maker
This maker can turn out a batch of creamy goodness in as little as 20 minutes. It does not require a pre-frozen bowl so your freezer space is freed, and you can make ice cream whenever you desire, all you need is ice and salt. There are no controls to mess with, the easy-lock lid ensures everything stays in place, plus it’s easy to clean. All you have to do is stay nearby to hear the machine turn off when the mixture is finished to scoop out the treats. “It made delicious ice cream,” wrote one reviewer. “Took about 40 minutes from pouring ingredients to dishing it up,” wrote one reviewer. “Fed a huge family with friends and some extra for the freezer. We made four gallons the first week!”
Best Mid-Priced Ice Cream maker
Yonanas 987 Elite
Want something a bit healthier or are dairy-averse? Yonanas is the machine for you. It’s more like a soft serve machine that allows you to add fresh fruit as you go along via a feeder chute, and is easy to use. The enclosed guide has 130 different recipe’s to make and allows you to create fruit ice cream and frozen yogurts. Its elegant design fits perfectly into smaller kitchens, looks great on counters, and is easy to clean. If you have dietary restrictions, or are trying to limit sugar intake, this maker allows you to create custom recipes to fit your needs. “Smooth, velvety texture, bananas and berries exploding with flavor in my mouth, all without any sugar or sweeteners….This is a game changer for me and my household.”
Cuisinart ICE-70 Electronic Ice Cream Machine
As one of the first companies to create electric ice cream makers for homes, Cuisinart also has some of the highest rated machines on the market. This digital unit allows you to change the settings so you can create ice cream, sorbet, or gelato depending on how adventurous you are, and turns out a batch in 20 minutes. While it is churning the ingredients, you can add different items by the portal in the top to customize your dessert. The 2-quart mixing bowl works best if it is pre-frozen so it will take up some freezer space, but it also works as a storage device for your ice cream too. “If you are into making homemade ice cream, this machine has your name on it,” wrote one reviewer.”Easy to operate and clean and the end product will have you asking why you didn’t do it sooner.”
Best High-End Ice Cream Maker
Breville Smart Scoop Ice Cream Maker
The cream de la crop of ice cream makers. The Smart Scoop makes 1.5 quarts and comes equipped with a compressor that allows you to choose from 12 different hardness settings for your ice cream, yogurt, gelato, or sorbet recipes. The fully digital controls allow you to pre-cool the mixing bowl, which will keep the end product cold for up to three hours after it is finished so you don’t have to stand idly by as it finishes mixing. It’s easy to clean, can make numerous batches in a row, and has a child lock to keep prying fingers out. It is quite heavy —3 0 pounds — so it works best in larger kitchens where it can say on a counter. Gushed one reviewer: “A frozen dessert maker with a built-in compressor needs to do two things — get cold enough and have a strong enough motor to turn the blade. The Breville does both very well.”