There’s nothing better than a dish of smooth, just-churned ice cream, and when you buy an ice cream maker, you can enjoy fresh ice cream in your home anytime. Ice cream makers give you control over the type of ice cream that you make, so you can experiment with flavors, ingredients, mix-ins, and more. And, for an ice cream loving-family, this purchase will be well worth the investment.
Ice cream makers are available in many different designs. They all make the process of making ice cream simple, allowing you to transform some common ingredients—like cream, sugar, and eggs—into your favorite dessert. Many of these machines can also create sorbets, frozen yogurt, and frozen drinks and desserts, so you’ll get plenty of use out of them.
We’ve reviewed the best ice cream makers to help you get started in your search, but we’ve also included some information on the features to look for to make sure that an ice cream maker is just right for your needs and preferences.
Our Top Picks: Summary
- Best Frozen-Bowl: Cuisinart Pure Indulgence 2-Quart Ice Cream Maker
- Best Compressor: Whynter ICM-15LS Ice Cream Maker
- Best Manual: Donvier 837450 Manual Ice Cream Maker
- Best Attachment: KitchenAid KICA0WH Ice Cream Maker Attachment
The Best Ice Cream Makers: Our Top Picks
Best Frozen-Bowl: Cuisinart Pure Indulgence 2-Quart Ice Cream Maker
Cuisinart Pure Indulgence 2-Quart Ice Cream Maker
This frozen-bowl style is fast, simple to use, and makes excellent ice cream.Check Price
Why We Picked It
The Cuisinart Pure Indulgence 2-Quart Ice Cream Maker is our top pick as the best frozen bowl-style maker because it’s both easy and fast to use. This ice cream maker can make two quarts of ice cream, sorbet, frozen yogurt, or frozen drinks in just 25 minutes.
It’s also essentially effortless on your part, because this ice cream maker does all of the work. The integrated motor, double-insulated freezer bowl, and automatic mixing paddle create consistently smooth ice cream. A large ingredient spout makes it easy to add in mix-ins, and the brushed stainless steel housing makes for an attractive finish. With a transparent lid, you can see the freezing process take place. But thanks to the automated design, there’s no need to actively monitor the progress—this machine will take care of it all for you.
Keep in Mind
The freezing bowl needs to be completely frozen to work, which can take between 6 and 22 hours. It’s easiest to keep the bowl in the freezer so that the ice cream maker is always ready for use.
In a Nutshell
- Fully automated ice cream maker does all of the work for you.
- Make 2 quarts of ice cream in just 25 minutes.
- Double-insulated mixing bowl ensures even, smooth freezing.
Best Compressor: Whynter ICM-15LS Ice Cream Maker
Whynter ICM-15LS Ice Cream Maker
The Whynter is quick and makes arguably the smoothest ice cream around.Check Price
Why We Picked It
Because the Whynter ICM-15LS Ice Cream Maker requires no pre-freezing, it offers unparalleled convenience when it comes to ice cream makers for the home. This self-contained ice cream maker has a built-in compressor that allows for self-freezing, so you can put it to use anytime. It takes about 30 to 40 minutes to make ice cream, sorbet, gelato, and other frozen desserts, and its 1.6-quart capacity is large enough for family ice cream parties.
This machine features plenty of upgrades that you don’t find in traditional models. An audible timer alerts you when your ice cream is ready, and the compressor freezer is plenty powerful. The motor drive shuts off if the mixture freezes solid, protecting the motor from damage so you don’t have to actively monitor the machine.
Keep in Mind
This ice cream maker measures 11 x 18.5 x 10 inches, so it takes up a lot of counter space. Unless you have generous counter space in your kitchen, plan on finding somewhere to store the machine when it’s not in use.
In a Nutshell
- Compressor creates cooling, so no pre-freezing required
- Make ice cream, sorbet, gelato, and more in 30 to 40 minutes
- Motor drive shuts off to protect the motor if ice cream freezes solid
Best Overall: Donvier 837450 Manual Ice Cream Maker
Donvier 837450 Manual Ice Cream Maker
Ice cream making fun for the whole family.Check Price
Why We Picked It
Simple and easy to use, the Doniver 937450 Manual Ice Cream Maker allows the whole family to participate in making ice cream. Just freeze the freezer bowl, add the ingredients, and turn the crank occasionally for 15 to 20 minutes. This ice cream maker has a 10-year warranty against defects.
This machine keeps things simple. There’s no power or compressor to worry about, and this machine offers more of a hands-on opportunity that’s great for kids. There’s also no salt or ice needed, and the one-quart capacity is plenty for the whole family. This versatile ice cream maker can make ice cream, sorbet, frozen yogurt, and frozen drinks, and an included recipe booklet will help you to get started.
Keep in Mind
The freezer bowl does need to be frozen ahead of time, which takes about seven hours. This means you’ll need to plan ahead a bit or store the freezer bowl in your freezer so that it’s always ready for use.
In a Nutshell
- Hand-cranked ice cream maker allows the family to be an active part of making ice cream
- No power, salt, or ice required
- Makes one quart of ice cream, sorbet, frozen yogurt, or frozen drinks
Best Overall: KitchenAid KICA0WH Ice Cream Maker Attachment
KitchenAid KICA0WH Ice Cream Maker Attachment
Easily turn your KitchenAid mixer into an ice cream maker.Check Price
Why We Picked It
With the KitchenAid KICA0WH Ice Cream Maker Attachment, you can turn your current KitchenAid stand mixer into an ice cream maker, increasing its versatility and avoiding the need to store a separate ice cream maker. This handy attachment includes a freeze bowl, dasher, and drive assembly, and the dasher rotates within the bowl to scrape, spread, and thoroughly mix the ice cream. The attachment’s generous two-quart capacity means you can efficiently make large volumes of ice cream in just 25 minutes, and since the whole unit is powered by the mixer, there’s no hand mixing to worry about.
This attachment is backed by a one-year hassle-free replacement warranty. Make ice cream, gelato, or sorbet of your choosing.
Keep in Mind
The freeze bowl needs to be frozen for at least 24 hours before use, so be sure to plan ahead or store the bowl in your freezer. Please also note that this attachment will fit KitchenAid stand mixers except for model numbers KSM6573C and KSM7, which are professional 7 and 8-quart models.
In a Nutshell
- Attachment converts KitchenAid stand mixers into ice cream makers
- Makes 2 quarts of ice cream in just 25 minutes
- Backed by a one-year hassle-free replacement warranty
How We Chose the Ice Cream Makers
When choosing the best ice cream makers, we evaluated each product based on multiple factors. From durability to special features and more, here are the factors we considered in writing this review:
Ice cream makers face a tough job of mixing freezing ingredients, so a good model needs to be highly durable to last you for years. The materials used affect an ice cream maker’s durability, but the design plays a role, too. Sometimes simpler models are more durable than fancier models with additional features. We looked for durable models that will withstand frequent use, and many of the models we included are backed by warranties in case something does break.
Ease of Use
We also weighed the ease of use of each ice cream maker that we considered. We looked for machines that are easy and intuitive to figure out, and that also work relatively quickly. Different types of ice cream makers got more points in this area—compressors, for instance, got bonus points because of their “set it and forget it” design that takes care of the entire ice cream making process for you.
We also gave some bonus points to ice cream makers that included special features. Features like a ready bell, a stay-cool function, and different settings make creating ice cream easier, more convenient, and sometimes even more precise. These extra features can drive up the price of a unit, though, so we looked for features that were useful without being over-the-top.
The ice cream makers that we chose represent a variety of price points. We weighed each product’s price when considering its ease of use and its durability to make sure that the price was justified. Compressors tend to be more expensive, but given how easy and effective they are to use, the increased price is often justified. Ice-and-salt or manual ice cream makers tend to be more affordable, but you’ll have to put in a little extra work before you get to enjoy the finished product.
The customer usually knows best, so we also considered reviews by customers who have bought and who are using these ice cream makers. Each of the products that we chose as our top picks had largely positive reviews, even over the course of months and years of use. While customers may have referenced inconveniences, none of the products featured consistent reviews that identified a common significant issue.
Types of Ice Cream Makers
Before you buy an ice cream maker, you should think about which type of machine is right for you. Ice cream makers are available in four main types, though you may find ice cream makers that combine some of the types, like a manual ice cream maker that uses a frozen bowl. Here are the basics you should know about each type of product:
- Frozen Bowl: Frozen bowl ice cream makers rely on a bowl that is placed into the freezer ahead of time. That frozen bowl transfers the cold to the ingredients, which are then either mixed manually or by an electrically powered ice cream maker. These frozen bowl machines are common, and they’re often fairly affordable. Plan on keeping the bowl in the freezer for between 7 and 24 hours before you need to use the unit, though.
- Compressor: Compressor ice cream makers rely on the power of a compressor to cool down the temperature of the bowl so that its ingredients freeze. This technology eliminates the need for you to monitor or mix the ice cream, and it’s a convenient option because you can use the ice cream maker at any time without any preparation. These machines tend to be more expensive than any other type of ice cream maker, so they’re really best suited for people who plan to make ice cream frequently.
- Ice-and-Salt: Some ice cream makers use ice and salt to cool and freeze the ingredients. By adding salt to ice in a container surrounding the mixture, the temperature of that exterior container dips below 32 degrees to help freeze the ice cream. These types of ice cream makers can be manual or electric, and they often offer a larger capacity than some other model styles. However, you need to have plenty of ice on hand if you want to use one of these ice cream makers.
- Manual: Manual ice cream makers are powered by a hand crank and your manual labor. You’ll be responsible for mixing the ice cream to keep it well-blended and smooth. Manual ice cream makers can be lots of work, but they’re usually more affordable than some other types. Manual ice cream makers can be ice-and-salt or frozen bowl styles.
What to Consider When Choosing an Ice Cream Maker
When choosing an ice cream maker, you’ll want to consider several different factors to ensure you purchase the model that’s just right for your needs and preferences.
Consider the type of ice cream maker that’s best for you. If you’ll use it heavily and frequently and are looking for simple and easy operation, a compressor type may be ideal. If you’ll only make ice cream on occasion and are looking for a project that the whole family can participate in, then a manual ice cream maker could be a great choice.
Most ice cream makers have a one- to two-quart capacity. For reference, most ice cream containers sold in grocery stores are 1.5 quarts. Think about your preferred batch size and the number of family members you have. Make sure to also consider the amount of freezer space that you have when determining the ideal capacity to have in an ice cream maker.
The texture of the ice cream largely depends on the ice cream maker. If you’re selective about texture, then you might want a compressor model, which is known for reliably producing creamy, smooth textures.
The price of an ice cream maker often depends on its type and design. For instance, compressors are highly desirable for their ease of use, but they’re usually the most expensive type of ice cream maker available. Manual models are usually a more affordable option, but they require more work on your part.
Tips for Making Ice Cream at Home
A quality ice cream maker can help to ensure your ice cream making is a success, but also be sure to use the following tips so that you’ll get great results:
- Buy the freshest, highest quality ingredients possible. If you’re making vanilla ice cream, splurge for real vanilla—you’ll be able to taste the difference.
- Keep your ice cream as cold as possible through the whole process. Get your base as cold as possible, which will help it to freeze faster and can keep it creamier.
- If you’re working with a frozen bowl, make sure that the outside of the bowl is completely dry before you put it into the machine. Otherwise, the bowl can freeze into the machine, and you’ll need to warm it up to remove it.
- Choose the right mix-ins. Look for small mix-ins no larger than the size of a chocolate chip, or otherwise the ice cream maker won’t be able to integrate them well.
- To keep your ice cream from freezing solid in the freezer, store it in a shallow container and cover the surface with plastic wrap. You can also add in corn syrup or sugar to help keep the consistency creamy, but be careful—too much will make the ice cream too sweet.
Ice cream is just the beginning; be sure to check out these additional reviews of the best appliances and products you should have in your kitchen.