How to Soften Ice Cream: 3 Ways to Enjoy Dessert Sooner

Back away from the ice pick! Here's how to soften ice cream so you can start scooping your favorite frozen treat faster.

We’ve all been there: You reach into the freezer to get your favorite pint of Jeni’s ice cream, grab the ice cream scoop and then you find it’s about as frozen as the tundra. What are you to do when you’re craving a sweet treat? You learn how to soften ice cream, of course!

The Best Ways to Soften Ice Cream

The key to softening ice cream (or gelato or froyo) is letting it warm up slowly. We’ve all tossed a quart of chocolate ice cream in the microwave for too long and found it to be part soup. So take your time as you let your frozen treat become scoopable. As you wait, you can scope out which ice cream maker is best for you.

How to Soften Ice Cream in the Fridge

When you find your ice cream is too hard and you have time before serving up desserts a la mode, pop your pint into the fridge. This will allow the ice cream to soften slowly. Allow 20 to 30 minutes before it’s scoopable.

How to Soften Ice Cream at Room Temperature

You can also leave your ice cream on the countertop to soften. It’ll only take about 10 to 15 minutes until it’s soft and ready for topping with some salted caramel sauce.

Of course, if it’s a spectacularly hot day, keep a close eye on your frozen treat. Set a kitchen timer to remind yourself.

How to Soften Ice Cream in the Microwave

When you’re craving ice cream now, you don’t want to wait even 10 minutes for your treat to soften. In that case, you can pop your ice cream in the microwave. Zap the pint (or quart or what have you) in 20-second bursts at 30% power.

That reduced power is key here. Too much strength will cause the ice cream to melt too quickly on the outside while the center remains solid.

How to Use Softened Ice Cream

Easy-to-scoop ice cream is a must for making everything from your after-dinner snack to banana splits. But that’s not the end of it!

Softening ice cream is essential for making all sorts of desserts like ice cream cakes and even the ultimate ice cream treat—baked Alaska. You’ll want the ice cream to be pliable for stirring in additional flavors, like creme de menthe in this Grasshopper Baked Alaska, and for pressing into molds or pans for recipes like Strawberry Crunch Ice Cream Cake.

Try These Homemade Ice Cream Recipes
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Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is a former Taste of Home editor and passionate baker. During her tenure, she poured her love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. Lisa also dedicated her career here to finding and testing the best ingredients, kitchen gear and home products for our Test Kitchen-Preferred program. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.