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How to Choose an Ice Cream Maker

Five Key Factors to Consider Before Buying


Homemade chocolate ice cream
Sheri L. Giblin/Photolibrary/Getty Images

Are you ready to buy your first home ice cream maker? There are tons of different models on the market, so you’ll be able to find the perfect one for your needs. When you are choosing your ice cream maker, keep these five factors in mind and you will end up with a great machine.


As with most small appliances, how much finished product you need to make is important. Ice cream makers work best when they are properly filled, so trying to make a tiny batch in a huge freezer won’t work as well. On the flip side, if you have a large family and need to make big batches of ice cream, a freezer that has a two quart capacity might not be enough.

Before you choose an ice cream maker, think about how much ice cream you want to make at a time. You can even find personal ice cream makers with a half-pint capacity if you just want to make a serving or two at a time!


You might be thinking, aren’t capacity and size the same? In this context, there are two different sizes to take into account. The first one was how much ice cream your ice cream freezer can make. This one is about how much space your ice cream freezer will take up in your home. Space is a factor in many kitchens, so do you have the space to store another large appliance, and how much space do you have available?

Most families will only make homemade ice cream as an occasional treat, so your ice cream freezer won’t be out on the counter at all times. Check out your cabinet space and see how large of an ice cream freezer you can fit. If you have limited storage space, a small freezer (such as one that attaches to your stand mixer) would be a great choice.

Method of Freezing

There are several different types of ice cream makers to choose from, depending on your goals for making ice cream at home. Each one has pros and cons that should be considered before you make your purchase.
  • Manual – A hand-crank ice cream maker harkens back to summer camp as a kid. The large wooden bucket surrounds a smaller steel container that holds the ice cream. You add ice and rock salt between the two buckets and crank the handle to churn the ice cream. These can be a fun novelty that kids might enjoy, but they aren’t always practical for regular ice cream making.
  • Pre-Freeze Bowl – These are the most common type of ice cream maker for the home. The bowl that holds the ice cream needed to be frozen for 12 to 24 hours before you can churn ice cream. Although they are convenient in size, you can’t make ice cream at the spur of the moment unless you store the bowl in the freezer regularly.
  • Electric Freezer – These freezers have a built-in freezing mechanism so there is no bowl to freeze and you can make multiple batches in a row. Although they are powerful, ice cream makers with a built-in freezer tend to be larger and more expensive. They are often geared towards commercial kitchens.
  • Gelato Makers – Gelato is frozen at a slightly warmer temperature and it does not include as much air as ice cream does, so gelato machines are slightly different. If you love the creamy texture of gelato, gelato makers are not quite as versatile with the types of sorbet and ice cream you can make as a traditional ice cream freezer.


There are ice cream freezers for nearly every budget. They range in price from about $40 to well over $400. Come up with a budget for your new ice cream maker and take a look at the options out there in your price range. Higher-priced freezers aren’t necessarily better, they are often just ones with a built-in freezer.

Ingredient Spout

An ingredient spout is a useful selling point that most ice cream makers now come with. This slot in the top of the machine allows you to add mix-ins to your ice cream as it blends. Most mix-ins need to be added at the very end of the churning process, so an easy way to add them in is going to make things easier.

Whichever type of home ice cream maker you choose, you will be rewarded with cool, creamy treats that you are in complete control of.

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