This Ice Cream Maker Review has everything you need to know to choose the perfect ice cream machine!
(HEADS UP – if you’re local to me in the Columbus, OH area, or driving distance away, make sure you’re following me on Instagram for a chance to win one of these test machines next week!)
There are so many different ice cream makers on the market, it’s hard to even know where to begin. With the information here, you can find the best ice cream maker for your needs and start making your favorite frozen treats at home.
I have personally tested all of these machines, basing my choices for testing on customer reviews, choosing the highest-rated machines in each category. The same homemade ice cream recipe was used for every batch tested in these machines.
From ice cream compressors to making ice cream in a bag, I’ve got your frozen treats covered so that you can make the best purchase decision to satisfy all of your ice cream cravings!
Ice Cream Maker Reviews
- Electric Ice Cream Makers – frozen bowl, no ice required
- Electric Ice Cream Makers – add ice and salt
- Hand Crank Ice Cream Makers – add ice and salt
- Soft Serve Ice Cream Machine, Instant Ice Cream Maker, Ice Cream Ball, and Ice Cream In A Bag
- Compressor Ice Cream Makers – freezer compressor unit, no ice or frozen bowl required
Best Ice Cream Maker Results
Best Electric Ice Cream Machine under $50 – Nostalgia Electric Ice Cream Maker
If you want an electric ice cream maker that produces consistent, quality results, and you don’t mind buying ice and salt when you’re ready to make ice cream, the Nostalgia Electric Ice Cream Maker is the machine for you.
It makes 4-quarts of ice cream at a time (awesome for a crowd) and the ice cream texture is consistent throughout the entire batch.
However, if you don’t want to mess with ice and salt, and you have a KitchenAid mixer, the KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker Attachment is the way to go. The ice cream is smooth and creamy without any of the inconsistent texture seen with other freezer bowl options.
If you do not have a KitchenAid, and you want an electric ice cream maker that doesn’t require ice or salt, the Cuisinart ICE-21 1.5-Quart is your best option.
Best Compressor Ice Cream Machine
The Cuisinart Compressor Ice Cream Maker is a solid high-end ice cream machine option at $218. In a nutshell, it churns the ice cream faster in side by side testing and is a very close match to the ice cream from the Breville Smart Scoop Ice Cream Maker.
If you’ve known me for long, you likely know that I often call the Breville “my beloved” and it is no secret that this has been my favorite kitchen appliance for over 5 years now. The Breville is admittedly an indulgence purchase at $375. While the Breville’s ice cream is creamier than the Cuisinart’s, for almost twice the price? It honestly isn’t THAT much creamier.
My recommendation for the average home cook is for the Cuisinart. The only real con to this machine is that it is a touch louder than the Breville and it doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles of the other. If you want to splurge and plan to make ice cream more than once a month, I’m always going to love my Breville best. So, there’s that.
Electric Ice Cream Maker – frozen bowl, no ice required
The Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker (the Cuisinart ICE-30BC Pure Indulgence 2-Quart – $68 ) is a very popular option for making ice cream at home. This is probably the most commonly used ice cream maker today.
The original Cuisinart machine was the first ice cream maker I bought about 8 years ago (the Cuisinart ICE-21 1.5-Quart – $42) and I used it endlessly. The model pictured below is the upgraded model and makes a larger batch, but in truth? I don’t like it as much as my older machine.
If you’re looking for a reliable electric ice cream maker under $50, you don’t own a KitchenAid mixer already and don’t want to mess with salt and ice, the original Cuisinart ICE-21 is your best bet for money spent. That said, please read through the whole review as this was my least favorite of all the machines I tested.
That said, there are a few downsides to this machine. The bowl must be frozen solid before churning a batch of ice cream. You’re limited to a single batch of ice cream and will need to refreeze the bowl for 8-12 hours until frozen solid before churning a new batch of ice cream.
Full disclosure, despite its popularity, this machine produces the least uniform consistency of all the ice cream makers here. The freezing is not always consistent and even, because liquid often freezes to the sides of the bowl as pictured below.
This makes it difficult to get everything out of the bowl. And if you do get everything out of the bowl, there will be a few weird “buttery” chunks or slivers in the ice cream.
All things considered, the Cuisinart machine delivers homemade ice cream and it’s delicious. But, given how many other options are available, this wound up being my least favorite machine on the list. (And no one could have been more surprised about that than I was.)
The Cuisinart was the first electric ice cream maker I bought years ago and I used it endlessly the first summer I was developing recipes for this website. So, it does work and it makes great ice cream.
I gave that original machine to a friend years ago, but picked this one up last week in order to do all of the side by side comparisons for this article.
Stand Mixer Attachment Ice Cream Maker – frozen bowl, no ice required
If you have a KitchenAid and don’t want to add another appliance to your kitchen, the KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker Attachment at $45 is a terrific ice cream making option for you.
In much the same way that the Cuisinart works, the bowl is frozen before ice cream can be churned. Once frozen, it attaches to the stand mixer and is able to churn 2-quarts of ice cream.
If you already have a KitchenAid mixer, this is a far better option than the Cuisinart, hands down. I tested the two machines side by side and I will tell you right now that the Cuisinart can’t touch the creaminess and consistent texture of the KitchenAid.
If you have plenty of freezer space, this is a great option and produces reliable soft-serve results. For scoopable ice cream, just pop the finished ice cream into an airtight container in the freezer until firm.
Electric Ice Cream Maker – just add ice and salt
The Hamilton Beach Electric Ice Cream Maker at $29 is the least expensive ice cream maker on this list and it works surprisingly well. This is a basic, plug it in and churn electric ice cream machine. No controls, no adjustments, just pour in the ice cream mix, fill the sides with ice and salt, and plug it in. (Please do not purchase this machine without reading this entire review!)
The ice cream comes out of this machine as soft serve, but still spoonable. If you prefer firmer ice cream, it can be transferred to an airtight container and frozen until firm enough to scoop.
HOWEVER, the Hamilton Beach Electric Ice Cream Maker is loud. As in, crazy unbelievably loud kind of loud. I can ignore a lot of noise, but this machine actually had me putting in earplugs just to get through the churning process.
I also tested the Nostalgia Electric Ice Cream Maker at $43. Side by side with the above Hamilton Beach model, I didn’t find any noticeable difference in the churned ice cream. Both batches of ice cream were fluffy, creamy, pretty much perfect batches.
One big perk (and seriously, it’s a legitimate perk) to the Nostalgia model is the clear lid on the ice cream canister. It is very helpful to be able to see how the ice cream is churning and if it is almost done!
These electric machines are 4-quart ice cream makers, so you can make a lot of ice cream at one time. The downside to this is that the machines don’t always work as well for smaller batches. You’ll want to plan on at least doubling most standard (1.5-quart) homemade ice cream recipes for best results.
I recommend the Nostalgia Ice Cream Maker over the Hamilton Beach for the ear protection alone and for that clear lid. But if you don’t mind the noise and can possibly churn your ice cream near an outlet on the back porch?
The cheaper one does work every bit as well as the more expensive option. (Although, Sean was placing bets on how quickly the screeching grinding motor on the cheap one will last. It really does sound unreal.)
Hand Crank Ice Cream Maker
This is the old fashioned style ice cream maker that many of us remember from childhood. I can remember “helping” my grandpa churn my grandma’s Six Threes Ice Cream in their garage while visiting them in the summer.
There is a vast difference in the hand crank ice cream machines on the market and to be blunt here, you get what you pay for. If you luck into an old fashioned hand-crank machine at a yard sale or goodwill, BUY IT if it’s cheap. Seriously. You just might get lucky and find a gem.
When I first started making ice cream at home, I tried a couple different hand-crank machines (thank you to eBay and the local Goodwill where I was able to find them for a steal – ha, now I know why) and let me just tell you now that they leaked water and ice everywhere and they were rusted as can be. They were a mess to use and clean up was a pain, but they churned ice cream, so I thought it was cool.
I tried to find two hand-crank machines to test side by side for this purpose, but unfortunately, the reviews of most hand-crank machines on the market now are truly horrible. I couldn’t see spending the money just to confirm what so many reviewers have already said about the other hand-crank machines.
That said, I’ve wanted a true workhorse of a hand crank ice cream machine for years and this summer, I bought one. The hand crank Immergood Stainless Steel Ice Cream Maker at $369 is a DREAM of an ice cream maker.
This hand-crank machine churns 4 times as much ice cream in less time than the electric ice cream makers!
Seriously, if there is a heaven for ice cream makers, this ice cream maker has earned a place there. I have no doubt that this a machine my boys will be using with their families someday. The quality is incredible.
I debated this purchase for a long time (years, actually) before buying this ice cream maker and I have no regrets. This machine is available in 4-quart, 6-quart, and 8-quart options and we have already put it to great use with family visiting this summer.
I LOVE that we can make ice cream for a crowd so easily and so quickly! And it’s just plain fun to use the hand crank to churn your ice cream. This is also a terrific option for camping and outdoor activities when electricity isn’t available.
And in one more nod to the incredible quality here, the bucket is so thick and well insulated that it required not quite ten pounds of ice to fill this giant bucket around the ice cream canister. The ice barely melted while we were churning too!
(In comparison, the electric machines that we tested with ice required a 7-lb bag of ice each for their batches and it was half water in about 20 minutes for the thin plastic bucket on the Hamilton Beach machine.)
My youngest son churned a batch with a friend last week and it was frozen to soft serve in about 20 minutes. My oldest son and his uncle churned a batch in about the same time this weekend.
This is the EASIEST hand crank ice cream churn we’ve ever used and I love that it produced so much fantastic homemade ice cream. The amount of strength required isn’t really a factor, though the kids did grow bored with churning every few minutes and traded off.
We have the 8-quart Immergood Stainless Steel Ice Cream Maker and it will churn a quadruple batch of this homemade ice cream in about 20 minutes. The resulting ice cream is soft-serve homemade consistency and can be transferred to an airtight container and placed in the freezer for scoopable firmness.
Soft Serve Ice Cream Machine
The Cuisinart Soft Serve 1.5QT Ice Cream Maker at $73 is the only semi-reliable (per customer reviews) soft serve machine on the market and I chose not to test this one. As far as I’m concerned, there are WAY too many parts that will need to be washed and dealt with every time you want to make ice cream.
To be perfectly honest, the whole machine looks far too gimmicky. Even for test purposes, I couldn’t bring myself to spend money on this one. I’d much rather just churn ice cream to soft-serve consistency in a standard machine and then sprinkle on or stir in whatever toppings we like.
If I’d found a non-commercial priced soft serve machine with solid reviews, I happily would’ve tested it (hello – ice cream lover here) but after doing extensive research, I’m convinced that there isn’t a soft-serve machine on the market (for under a thousand dollars) that is worth the investment.
Seriously, if you want soft serve, buy any of the machines here and enjoy. According to most of the reviews, I found online, the cute dispenser likely will not even work.
Ice Cream Ball
I’ve tried this method in the past and it was an epic fail, so I simply couldn’t bring myself to buy another Ice Cream Ball at $44 just to test it. Yes, it freezes a bit, but it took a solid half-hour of rolling the ball back and forth or shaking it and the end result was basically slush.
This is more kids’ toy than an ice cream maker as far as I’m concerned.
Instant Ice Cream Maker
Have you heard of this one? The Chef’n Sweet Spot Instant Ice Cream Maker at $49 was a surprise find while I was researching this article. With even a slim possibility of making rolled ice cream at home, how could I resist? (Plus, it was half off on sale when I found it.)
As it turns out, it doesn’t really form ice cream rolls as you might hope (and truthfully, I didn’t expect it to) this was a fun little option for making a quick ice cream treat. It does actually work. It freezes a tiny 1/2 cup serving at a time and we managed to get about 3 servings made before it was simply too warm to work.
You keep the tray in the freezer and just pour a serving worth of ice cream mix in the tray when you’re ready to make ice cream. The ice cream begins to freeze immediately and within about two minutes, you can scrape it up in frozen bits for a fun “instant” bowl of ice cream.
This is a fun way for kids to easily add in their own toppings and “chop” them into the ice cream too.
Of course, if you’re really making more than the tiniest bit of ice cream? or need ice cream for more than a couple kids? This isn’t very practical at all as an ice cream maker.
When you’re done, just rinse the still cold tray in warm water, dry it and re-freeze for next time. While it’s a neat trick to be able to make ice cream this way, it’s really more toy than tool.
However, if you luck into finding it on sale, it’s neat to have in the freezer. But for the standard full listed price? This one is a solid nope from me.
Ice Cream In A Bag
Did you know you can make ice cream with just a couple of zip-close freezer bags? Yes, it’s doable. Is it the same? In my experience, not really, but after some time in the freezer it does firm up a bit. No complaints here though. I love ice cream in pretty much any form at all, even slushy.
It’s kind of fun for a crowd of kids though and we’ve done this (or attempted this) in the past while camping. Want to try it yourself?
- Pour 1/2 cup of any ice cream recipe mixture into a quart-size freezer-safe zip-close bag. Seal tightly, removing as much air as possible.
- Put a scoop of ice, 3 tablespoons ice cream rock salt, and the bag containing the milk-cream mixture into a gallon-size resealable plastic bag; seal tightly.
- Rock the bag back and forth – there’s no need to shake the bag hard – until the mixture thickens into soft-serve ice cream, about 10 minutes.
Two things to note about this “recipe” – it really only works well with the listed 1/2 cup of ice cream mix, and that does make a pretty small portion.
Please note, if you add more of the ice cream mix to the bag in order to have a larger serving of ice cream, it may not freeze. This method is not easily adjusted, as it’s all about the science of making it freeze.
Compressor Ice Cream Makers
Until last week, the Breville Smart Scoop Ice Cream Maker at $375 was the dreamiest ice cream maker I have ever used. I’ve been known to call this appliance “my beloved” and it still holds true that if I could only have one of the two, I’d get rid of my KitchenAid mixer in order to have this Breville in my home forever. Yes, it’s that amazing.
This type of ice cream maker uses the same compressor technology used for refrigerators and freezers for fast cooling. They do not need any pre-frozen ingredients or parts.
The Breville machine not only has a self-refrigerating compressor that brings the ingredients to a below-freezing temperature, but it also has a keep-cool setting that lasts up to an hour. In addition to this, there are 12 hardness settings (with pre-sets for sorbet, frozen yogurt, gelato, and ice cream).
The machine automatically senses the hardness of the mixture based on your selection and keeps it ready until it’s time to serve.
As one of the pricier ice cream makers on the market, this is a machine for people who are serious about making ice cream. (Note the 70+ ice cream recipes on this website for evidence of where I fall in that category.)
If you’re looking for the ultimate in ice cream making options at home, this is the machine you want on your wishlist.
The Cuisinart Compressor Ice Cream Maker at $218 was new to me and so far, I am impressed! As much as I love the Breville, I couldn’t resist trying this machine.
It’s incredibly popular and at half the price of the other? I am THRILLED to tell you that it solidly competes.
Differences between this machine and the Breville? The Cuisinart doesn’t have a pre-cool feature, so if you have warmer ice cream (i.e. cooked ice cream) you’ll need to chill it in the refrigerator before churning.
The Cuisinart has a ten minute keep cool feature while the Breville will keep your ice cream cool for over an hour. (I have never used that feature intentionally – just once when I forgot I was making ice cream and it saved the batch.) Neither of those features alone would be a dealbreaker for me.
Which Compressor Style Ice Cream Maker Is Best?
The Cuisinart machine is solid. As far as I’m concerned, Cuisinart redeems their ice cream making cred with this machine. It churns ice cream faster and is a very close match to the creaminess of the Breville.
While the ice cream made in the Breville IS a teeny bit creamier, at twice the price of the Cuisinart compressor ice cream maker, I’m not convinced it’s worth it for most purposes.
My recommendation for the average home cook is for the Cuisinart. The only real con to this machine is that it is a touch louder than the Breville and it doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles of the other. If you want to splurge and plan to make ice cream more than once a month, I’m always going to love my Breville best.
How To Make Ice Cream
First time making ice cream? I recommend starting with the best and easiest homemade ice cream recipe. It’s endlessly adaptable and it lends itself nicely to pretty much any mix-in options.
Try adding in chopped up blondies or brownies, chocolate chip cookies or oatmeal cookies (yes, add the raisins – the oatmeal raisin ice cream combination is sooooo good!), chocolate sauce or caramel sauce swirls.
Homemade ice cream is so much fun! What’s your favorite combination?
The most popular question I get is whether it’s possible to make ice cream without a machine. The answer is YES. You can make ice cream without a machine. Find the full directions here!