The Best Ice Cream Maker, According to Frozen Treat Fanatics
Our Test Kitchen experts found the best ice cream maker for every kind of frozen treat fan.
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There’s lots to love about store-bought ice cream and scoops from your favorite ice cream shop, but there’s something special about homemade ice cream. It’s deliciously creamy and, best of all, totally customizable. So if you like extra cookie dough in your ice cream, there’s nothing stopping you from adding a little (or a lot) more.
But there’s a catch: You typically need an ice cream maker for homemade ice cream (this no-churn ice cream is the exception). Well, what’s the best option? Our Test Kitchen put the most popular home ice cream makers to the test.
What We Look for in an Ice Cream Maker
For this test, our team of experts sourced 10 of the most popular home ice cream makers. In our Test Kitchen, the pros, led by Ellie Crowley, made ice cream, froyo and other frozen treats, all the while keeping these major considerations in mind:
- Volume: How much ice cream can the machine make at one time? Do you want something that makes large quantities or small, occasional treats?
- Prep: Some ice cream makers come with canisters that need to be frozen prior to using the appliance. Are you OK with waiting on these inserts to freeze? Or would you rather get right to making the ice cream with a compressor model?
- Ease of use: Learning how to use your ice cream maker should be easy. Most are entirely hands-off once you hit the start button.
- Performance: As with any appliance, performance is crucial. A great at-home ice cream maker should make frozen treats that rival your ice cream parlor favorites.
- Price: Ice cream makers vary vastly in price. What’s your budget for this new gadget?
Now check out our Test Kitchen’s top picks—and don’t forget to add an ice cream scoop to your cart, too!
Best Small Ice Cream Maker
Cuisinart Classic Frozen Yogurt, Sorbet and Ice Cream Maker
When it comes to adding a new appliance to your kitchen, space is always a concern. If you want an ice cream maker with a small footprint, try the Cuisinart Classic. This appliance takes up about as much room as a blender (though, it’s shorter) and we say it’s worth every square inch.
This gadget, one of our top ice cream accessories, is incredibly easy to use. Freeze the canister overnight, then add your favorite ice cream recipe (we recommend this bourbon ice cream on a hot weekend afternoon). This machine will churn a batch of ice cream in 20 minutes. Says Ellie: “So fast and simple.”
The end result will have a velvety, soft serve-like consistency, according to Ellie, which is great for all you DQ fans. If you prefer a slightly firmer treat, Ellie recommends popping the finished product into the freezer for a bit before scooping and topping with hot fudge.
- Affordably priced
- Easy to clean
- Easy to use
- Requires extra chilling if you want a firmer ice cream
- Capacity: 2-4 cups
- Price: $70
Best Family-Size Ice Cream Maker
Cuisinart Pure Indulgence Ice Cream Maker
If you want to serve up a bit more than Cuisinart’s basic model can handle, our Test Kitchen recommends the Cuisinart Pure Indulgence Ice Cream Maker. This appliance can make up to eight cups of your favorite frozen treat; that’s plenty to share with the whole family at your next ice cream social.
Besides its large capacity, our Test Kitchen enjoyed the easy-to-use functionality of this machine. Add your recipe (maybe one from these ice cream cookbooks) to the frozen canister, pop it into the base and hit start—that’s it. In 25 minutes, your homemade ice cream will be ready.
This model has a spout that makes it easy to add mix-ins. Within 30 seconds, Ellie says those extras are evenly distributed.
So what about the frozen fancies this Cuisinart ice cream maker produces? Ellie has only the highest praise. “The ice cream is super smooth and created a really nice, creamy soft-serve texture,” she says. “The frozen yogurt comes out tasting like vanilla ice cream which is a pleasant surprise.”
- Easy to clean
- Large capacity
- Stainless steel construction
- Louder than most ice cream makers (but nothing above a steady hum)
- Capacity: 4-8 cups
- Price: $100
Best Compressor Ice Cream Maker
Breville Smart Scoop Ice Cream Compressor
Not every machine relies upon pre-frozen canisters. Compressor models don’t require any freezing in advance; just make your ice cream base, add it to the machine and press start. If these pro-level machines are more your style, you’ll want the Breville Smart Scoop Ice Cream Compressor.
To make frozen treats, just add the base to this Breville appliance, make your texture selection and let it go. “It’s very hands-off,” says Ellie. “The machine does all the thinking and work for you.” In about 40 minutes, you’ll have scratch-made froyo, ice cream or frozen custard ready for the scooping.
So what sort of results does the Smart Scoop Ice Cream Compressor deliver? Delicious ones, per Ellie. The ice cream is crystal-free and super smooth, and the froyo is super velvety and luxe. If you prefer a firmer frozen treat, stash your makes in the freezer for an extra hour—otherwise feel free to enjoy soft serve-texture ice cream right out of the canister.
If you want to add mix-ins to your ice cream, this machine makes it so simple. A chime will sound when it’s time to add in your extras (like marshmallows and nuts for homemade rocky road). And that alarm? It can be a basic tone or an old-fashioned ice cream truck song. How cute is that?
- No freezing canisters in advance
- Customize the texture of your treats
- Heavy-duty construction
- Takes up a considerable amount of space on the counter or shelf
- Capacity: 2-4 cups
- Price: $500
Best Ice Cream Maker for Gelato and More
Cuisinart Gelateria Ice Cream Maker
As you may have noticed, several Cuisinart ice cream makers performed well in our test—the brand just does ice cream right! What sets the Cuisinart Gelateria Ice Cream Maker apart are its three churning functions for ice cream, gelato and sorbet.
While many machines churn until the mixture reaches a standard consistency, the Cuisinart Gelateria Ice Cream Maker will churn your frozen treats until they hit just the right texture for whatever frozen treat you’re making. To get that perfect consistency and professional-level ice cream, just hit the switch that aligns with your recipe; it’s that easy.
Ellie says that this Cuisinart model produced her favorite ice cream. Gelato was velvety, ice cream was rich and even low-fat froyo felt like a treat. And with an eight-cup capacity, this ice cream maker lets you share these treats with friends on a hot day.
The only drawback with this machine, according to Ellie, was that a little of the gelato mix dripped over the edge while churning a full-size batch. This didn’t impact the end result but it did require her to wipe down the machine afterward.
- Durable construction
- Large capacity
- Super quiet
- Settings allow texture customization
- Larger footprint
- Requires a little extra cleanup
- Capacity: 4-8 cups
- Price: $140
Best Affordable Ice Cream Maker
Dash Everyday Ice Cream Maker
We know that not everyone wants to break the bank for homemade ice cream. If you want to experiment here and there with scratch-made frozen treats, our Test Kitchen suggests the Dash Everyday Ice Cream Maker.
This budget-friendly ice cream maker is still a great performer. Like other models, freeze the canister in advance, then add your ice cream, custard or froyo base. From there the machine does all the work to create terrifically smooth treats.
Now, if you want to get super serious about ice cream or have many mouths to feed, this isn’t your model. Its max capacity is two cups. That’ll work just fine for a few servings for yourself but won’t be enough to top lots of a la mode desserts at your next get-together.
- Easy to use
- Small capacity
- Less durable construction
- Capacity: 1-2 cups
- Price: $40
Taste of Home
Check Out More Test Kitchen-Preferred Products
Ice cream makers are just the tip of the testing iceberg! Our Test Kitchen is constantly testing kitchen gadgets, cleaning gear and delicious food, looking for brands that deserve the right to be called Test-Kitchen Preferred.
If you’re looking to outfit your kitchen with a few new items, be sure to check out these tests:
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