Ice Cream Makers

From America's Test Kitchen Season 13: Perfecting Summer Classics

Overview:

The machines come in two styles: pricey self-refrigerating appliances that churn out continuous batches, and cheaper models with removable coolant-lined canisters. The latter must be frozen (usually overnight) before each use, requiring both precious freezer space and super-cold temperatures. To get the scoop on both styles, we churned vanilla ice cream and lime sorbet in six models (two self-refrigerating and four canister models ranging from $30 to $330.99), surveying texture, overrun percentage (the amount of air whipped into the ice cream, which can span from 0 to 100 percent), and noise, plus general user-friendliness. Flavors being equal across the board, this was a texture contest. Depending on how quickly the mixture freezes and how much it’s agitated, ice cream ranged from hard and dense to airy and insubstantial, while sorbet varied from solid to slushy. (Ideally, the base is frozen quickly, but agitated enough to incorporate air and break up ice crystals.) The canister-style models all took longer to make ice cream… read more

The machines come in two styles: pricey self-refrigerating appliances that churn out continuous batches, and cheaper models with removable coolant-lined canisters. The latter must be frozen (usually overnight) before each use, requiring both precious freezer space and super-cold temperatures. To get the scoop on both styles, we churned vanilla ice cream and lime sorbet in six models (two self-refrigerating and four canister models ranging from $30 to $330.99), surveying texture, overrun percentage (the amount of air whipped into the ice cream, which can span from 0 to 100 percent), and noise, plus general user-friendliness. Flavors being equal across the board, this was a texture contest. Depending on how quickly the mixture freezes and how much it’s agitated, ice cream ranged from hard and dense to airy and insubstantial, while sorbet varied from solid to slushy. (Ideally, the base is frozen quickly, but agitated enough to incorporate air and break up ice crystals.) The canister-style models all took longer to make ice cream that was dense versus airy, producing loose, soft-serve-style ice cream that needed to be frozen for several hours to firm up. Self-refrigerating models, on the other hand, immediately produce firmer, ready-to-serve frozen treats. Meanwhile, overrun ranged from 3 to a whopping 80 percent, the best machines churning out creamy, smooth results that hovered just above 25 percent—in line with our favorite premium pints from Ben and Jerry’s and Häagen-Dazs. (The machine that created 80 percent overrun made ice cream that was almost foamy.) Every machine was noisy—most fell between 80 and 90 decibels—but quieter models hummed along below 85 decibels (about as loud as city traffic from inside a car). The piercing Cuisinart Pure Indulgence Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker ($79.95) registered over 90 decibels, the level at which sustained exposure can cause hearing loss. For the ice cream elitist and bargain-hunter alike, we picked both a premium (read: self-refrigerating) model and a canister-style best buy. Of the former category, the Whynter SNÖ Professional Ice Cream Maker ($330.99) is capable of making continuous batches that are firm enough to enjoy straight out of the machine; plus, it packs user-friendly perks like a digital timer and easy-cleaning parts. More budget-minded shoppers will appreciate the Cuisinart Automatic Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker ($49.99). This model’s ice cream and sorbet rivaled the winner’s—at less than a quarter of the price.

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  • Product Tested

    Results Key:

    Good ★ ★ ★ Fair ★ ★ Poor
  • Prices are subject to change.
  • Highly Recommended - Winner

    Whynter SNÖ Professional Ice Cream Maker

    This self-refrigerating model makes continuous batches of creamy, dense, smooth ice cream, without the need to freeze a canister. The ice cream is firm enough to eat right away, and the second batch came out faster and even smoother than the first. Simple and intuitive, the timer can be set for up to 60 minutes for walk-away convenience. Canister and blade are removable for easy cleaning.

    • Texture ★★★
    • Noise Level ★★

    $209.99

    BUY NOW Amazon
  • Highly Recommended - Best Buy

    Cuisinart Automatic Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker

    Our Best Buy (and previous favorite) made ice cream that rivaled the smooth texture of our top choice. Though a bit noisier than our winner, it was simple to use and one of the most compact models we tested. True, its canister must be frozen before each use—and new batches of ice cream refrozen for a few hours before serving for a densely packed texture—but given its modest price, you can hardly go wrong.

    • Texture ★★★
    • Noise level ★★

    $49.95

    BUY NOW Amazon
  • Recommended with Reservations

    KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker Attachment

    Producing ice cream with by far the highest overrun, this canister-style model attaches to any KitchenAid stand mixer manufactured within the past 20 years, and churned out ice cream so light and airy, testers equated it to whipped cream. For those who like their ice cream dense, this would not be a good option.

    • Texture ★★
    • Noise Level ★★

    $79.99

  • Recommended with Reservations

    Cuisinart Pure Indulgence Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker

    We hoped this slightly larger, pricier Cuisinart model would yield even better ice cream than the brand’s cheaper $49.99 model. Unfortunately, the differences were only negative: ear-piercing noise and more ice crystals. For an extra pint of ice cream, you sacrifice some quality—not to mention $30.

    • Texture ★★
    • Noise level

    $79.95

  • Recommended with Reservations

    Cuisinart Supreme Commercial Quality Ice Cream Maker

    This self-refrigerating model was one of the loudest and bulkiest in the lineup. It made ice cream similar to the brand’s mid-priced Pure Indulgence model, with noticeable ice crystals, which was not as good as the ice cream made in Cuisinart’s least expensive model (our new Best Buy.) Plus it cost more than three times as much. Though you can make multiple batches of frozen treats without having to refreeze a canister, the less-than-perfect texture of the final product was unforgivable for the price.

    • Texture ★★
    • Noise level

    $299.99

  • Not Recommended

    Back to Basics Freezer Fun Ice Cream Maker

    This machine does not beat enough air into the cream and failed to freeze the base further than a grainy slush, even after 55 minutes of churning. Despite a sojourn in the freezer, the finished product was flaky, gritty, and overly dense.

    • Texture
    • Noise level ★★

    $29.99

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