Whether yours is a passion for ice cream, sorbet, fruit ice or sherbet, making it at home is now easier than ever. There's no shortage of new ice cream machines to choose from, but is it really worth the effort, or the price tag, to make your own? The team of testers at Cook's Illustrated magazine have put five ice cream machines through their paces. Chris Kimball, ice cream lover, editor, founder and publisher of Cook's Illustrated, has the results.
TODAY’S ICE CREAM makers are geared for home cooks who want great-tasting, home-made ice cream relatively easily and quickly. To that end, Cook’s Illustrated Magazine tested five models to determine the best machine for making ice cream at home.
There are three basic types of ice cream makers on the market: traditional models which require ice and rock salt, frozen-canister makers (both manual and electric), and self-contained electric freezers. We lined up one traditional rock salt machine, three frozen-canister models, and one self-contained electric freezer and started making ice cream in the test kitchen.
The frozen-canister technology, used by the popular Donvier ice cream maker, has spawned several imitations. The idea behind this clever gadget is simple. An aluminum canister filled with a patented super-coolant is placed in the freezer overnight, a chilled custard is then poured into the very cold canister, and then either manually churned or frozen until ready. In this category we tested the Donvier Ice Cream Maker, the Cuisinart Flavor Duo Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker (ICE-40) and the Krups La Glaciere, Model 358. The traditional rock salt machine was the White Mountain Ice Cream Maker and the final model was the expensive Musso 4080 Lussino Dessert Maker which contains its own refrigeration unit.
WHAT WE FOUND
The ice cream made in the frozen-canister models without an electric motor — the Donvier — wasn’t bad, but was definitely inferior to the ice cream made by the frozen-canister machines with electric motors for churning. The ice cream made in the Donvier was denser and grainier than the ice cream made with the electric models, which was fluffy and light. Priced at $50, the Donvier was no bargain.
The best all-around, modestly priced electric ice cream maker is the Krups. This machine made the smoothest, creamiest, fluffiest ice cream of all the units tested, and it does so quietly and efficiently. Next in line is the Cuisinart model which ranked slightly behind the Krups for producing ice cream that was slightly less smooth and fluffy and for the fact that the machine was annoyingly noisy.
We had many quibbles with the remainder of the models we tested. The White Mountain Electric Ice Cream Maker will produce up to four quarts of fluffy, velvety ice cream, but it requires more than ten pounds of ice, several cups of rock salt, and a set of earplugs to do so. It is one noisy machine, and best used in a garage or driveway. The Lussino Ice Cream Maker features its own refrigeration unit, so there are no canisters to freeze overnight, and it can churn batch after batch consecutively. It is quiet in operation, but presents many disadvantages: It is difficult to clean because the churning bowl can’t be removed, the entire unit is bulky and heavy, and it is expensive — nearly $600.
THE BEST FROZEN CANISTER ICE CREAM MAKER
Krups La Glaciere Ice Cream Maker
Cost: $59.95 at Sur La Table
Capacity: 1 1/2 quarts ice cream
Ease of setup: Good
Ice cream freezing time: 30 minutes
Ice cream texture right after churning: Light, fluffy, creamy, smooth — in short, luscious. Ice cream texture after overnight stay in freezer: Still has above qualities but is a bit icy/grainy. Ice cream is not overly hard to dig into, like some produced by other machines after an overnight stay in the freezer.
Comments: This ice cream maker was easy to use and made great ice cream. Also has nice compact size for easy storage. Machine is also pretty quiet. Limited one-year warranty.
FROZEN CANISTER ICE CREAM MAKERS RECOMMENDED WITH RESERVATIONS
Cuisinart Flavor Duo Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker (ICE-40 Series)
Price: $99.99 at chefscatalog.com
Capacity: 2 quarts ice cream (in two flavors)
Ease of setup: Good
Ice cream freezing time: 25 minutes
Ice cream texture right after churning: Smooth and fluffy, very good; just a touch of graininess that’s not evident with the Krups. Ice cream texture after overnight stay in freezer: Still has the above qualities, with a little more iciness/graininess. Ice cream is not overly hard to dig into. Comments: Like the Krups, easy to use and makes good ice cream although very slightly inferior to Krups (a bit less smooth, creamy). If making 2 quarts of ice cream simultaneously is what you want, this machine gets the job done. (Although it can be set to make just 1 quart at a time, if that’s what’s wanted.) It is, understandably, bulkier than the Krups model. It is also pretty noisy. Three-year limited warranty.
Donvier Ice Cream Maker
Cost: $49.95 at Sur La Table
Capacity: 1 quart
Ease of setup: Good
Ice cream freezing time: 16 minutes
Ice cream texture right after churning: Dense and melts pretty quickly. A bit lumpy straight out of the machine; benefited from a brisk mix with a spatula, although the instructions don’t indicate this. Ice cream texture after overnight stay in freezer: Extremely hard, still dense; melts quickly in the mouth with a watery, Breyers-like effect.
Comments: While the quality of the ice cream put out by this hand-cranked machine was inferior to that made by the comparably priced Krups and Cuisinarts, it was still pretty good considering how little effort goes into making it. You simply freeze the unit, add the ice cream base, then turn the handle a couple of times every two or three minutes. In about 15 minutes, you have ice cream. One-year limited warranty.
ELECTRIC ICE CREAM MAKERS NOT RECOMMENDED
White Mountain Ice Cream Maker
Cost: $199.95 at Sur La Table
Capacity: 4 quarts ice cream
Ease of setup: Poor (messy due to the ice and salt)
Ice cream freezing time: 31 minutes
Ice cream texture right after churning: Fluffy and velvety; melts super fast Ice cream texture after overnight stay in freezer: Creamy
Comments: Incredibly noisy and somewhat messy in operation. Required more than 10 pounds of ice. Not worth the trouble for small batches.
Musso 4080 Lussino Dessert Maker
[NOTE: Musso is the name of the Italian company that makes the machine; Lussino is the model name; Lello is the U.S. distributor]
Cost: $594.95 at cooking.com
Capacity: 1 1/2 quarts
Ease of setup: Good
Ice cream freezing time: 45 minutes
Ice cream texture right after churning: Creamy, fluffy, very airy, but with icy chunks. Ice cream texture after overnight stay in freezer: Icy, fluffy; has whipped quality; iciness is similar to Breyer's.
Comments: Formed thin layer of hard-frozen ice cream along the surface of the bowl. This layer was difficult to remove (with any utensils other than the dedicated ice cream paddle which came with the machine) and icy. When we mixed it into the rest of the batch, it degraded the texture. Expensive, bulky, but very quiet in operation.