How to Choose an Ice Cream Maker

It’s summertime which means I am making homemade ice cream at least once a week. Tastewise store-bought ice cream doesn’t even come close to homemade ice cream.

Choosing an Ice Cream Maker

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When you make your own ice cream you are in control of all of the ingredients and can make delicious ice cream at a fraction of the price of high-end ice cream shops. While you can make no-churn ice cream I believe the flavor and texture just aren’t the same.

To make really good ice cream, I believe you need an ice cream maker. There are so many ice cream makers to choose from. Here are some of the different choices and how to choose the perfect ice cream maker for your family.

Ice Cream

Types of ice cream makers

Ice and rock salt

Growing up this was the type of ice cream maker we had. We always made our ice cream outside because of how noisy and a bit messy these machines can be. These machines consist of a metal cylinder with a paddle in the middle. This is where you pour your ice cream mixture. This cylinder then goes into another container where it is surrounded by a mixture of ice and rock salt. Either a motor or a hand crank is used to churn the ice cream. These models typically cost around $60.


  • Nostalgia: Being able to make ice cream the same way your parents and grandparents did.
  • Cost: These are some of the most affordable machines on the market.
  • Control: You can adjust your ratio of ice to salt to adjust the freezing temperature. If you are using a hand crank model you can also control how quickly the ice cream is churned. These adjustments will influence the texture of your ice cream.
  • Size: Typically these models have a larger capacity than other ice cream maker models.


  • Labor: Manual machines can be labor intensive.
  • Time: It can take a long time to churn your mixture into ice cream
  • Loud: These machines can be very noisy.
  • Additional Supplies: This process requires both ice and rock salt.

Frozen bowl

Rather than using ice and rock salt, these machines come with a double-walled bowl that is filled with refrigerant that must be frozen solid before churning your ice cream. These models typically cost between $60 and $100. Note: Please remember that you cannot wash the bowl in the dishwasher. It will ruin the refrigerant inside. I have seen so many reviews from people complaining that their ice cream no longer freezes after they washed the bowl in the dishwasher.


  • Cost: These machines while slightly more expensive are still pretty reasonably priced.
  • Easy to Use: There is very little work needed to churn your ice cream.
  • Quieter: These machines are generally quieter than ice and salt machines.


  • Advanced Planning: In order for your ice cream to freeze properly the bowl must be frozen solid. This can take up to 24 hours. My bowl lives in my freezer so that I am always ready to make an impromptu batch of ice cream. You can also buy a second bowl so that you can make multiple batches of ice cream.
  • Control: There isn’t a way to control the temperature or speed.


Like a refrigerator, these models use a compressor to freeze your ice cream. These machines typically cost between $200 and $700.


  • Ease of Use: Most models have digital displays, temperature, and speed controls.
  • Control: You can adjust both the temperature and speed at which these models churn ice cream.
  • Speed: There is no prep work necessary to make sure these models are ready to make ice cream, which means you can also make batch after batch of ice cream.


  • Cost: These models can be very expensive.
  • Size: These models take up more counter space. You can store these ice cream makers when they are not in use but they can be heavy and you have to wait for the refrigerant to settle after you move it.
Ice Cream Cone

What to consider when buying

Ease of use

I think one of the biggest determining factors in how often you will use your ice cream maker is how easy is it to use?


Ice cream makers can range in cost from $30 to $700. While I think the higher-end ice cream makers produce smoother ice cream, $700 is a lot of money for a small appliance.


How large is your family? Will you be making ice cream for parties? Ice and rock salt models typically have a larger capacity than other models.

Texture and Consistency

Compressor models tend to make smoother and creamier ice cream.


How long are you willing to wait for a batch of ice cream? If you want ice cream on the same day you decide to make it you should choose a compressor model. If you typically plan ahead you could save some money by going with a cheaper model.


The cold temperatures that an ice cream maker is exposed to can be hard on the machine’s components. Look for well-built durable models that can stand up to repeated freezing and thawing. Metal parts will typically hold up better than plastic parts.


All appliances with an electric motor should be expected to make some noise. But some are noisier than others. Growing up we always used our ice and rock salt model outside due to the noise it made.


Stick with a well-known brand that typically reviews well.

Ease of cleaning

How easy is a model to clean? Is the canister removable? If you are only making small batches of ice cream, do you want to clean a larger ice and rock salt model?

Once you have your ice cream maker check out these delicious recipes.

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