During summer, ice cream is an option anytime of day (we’ve been known to let our kids eat it for lunch once or twice). There’s something so sweet about watching our kids lick a melting ice cream cone while gently swinging outdoors. Sure we can stock the freezer with store-bought varieties and our kids are ready to nominate us for mom of the year. But take the afternoon to bust out the ice cream maker (giving your other kitchen gadgets a well deserved break) and everyone in the family will literally scream with delight. There is nothing quite like homemade ice cream (especially covered with toppings)!
Sound like too much work? (We have visions of our moms laboring with a hand crank ice cream maker, too.) Fear not— ice cream makers have come a long way since our moms were whipping up homemade favorites, and ice cream recipes call for only a few simple ingredients. Most ice cream makers have electric motors, and while some still require ice (we recommend shaved ice for the smoothest ice cream) and rock salt, others let the ice cream base be poured right in— no freezing time required. Finding the right ice cream maker is all about what works best for your needs (and your budget) and of course how much patience your “helpers” have. With the right kitchen tools, the prep is a snap. Making homemade ice cream is a fun family activity where kids get some voice and choice in the creation of their flavors. Meaning everybody wins!
We’ve rounded up 8 great options for every different type of ice cream chef—from those of us who plan ahead to the ones who want it NOW. No matter what, don’t forget the whipped cream and toppings! Turning ice cream making into a full-on sundae bar is easy and thrills the kids like nothing else.
Best Overall Ice Cream Maker
This Cusinart ice cream maker is our hands down pick for best overall. Have an hour? Then you can have homemade gelato or ice cream with a few easy steps. Who needs to go to Italy when we can make our own gelato right at home? The Cuisinart ICE-100 Compressor takes away the need for ice, salt, and a frozen bowl. Yes mamas this means less time planning and shopping and more time making ice cream sundaes!
Simply prepare your ice cream base from the included frozen dessert recipe booklet and pour the liquid into the machine. Attach the correct paddle (either gelato or ice cream) and press start. The 60 minute countdown timer starts and when it’s done you will have a perfectly churned frozen treat. We suggest checking it after 30 minutes, you might be surprised!
One reviewer said it best, “All in all, this machine is a wonder of modern engineering. A quality machine, well made and simple to use. It’s basically a mini version of what previously had been available only commercially to make smooth, velvety ice cream. The ICE-100 brings this capability into the home, with no salt, no ice, and perhaps best of all, no mess.”
Best Smaller Quantity Ice Cream Makers
Two-time winner of Best Ice Cream Maker, the Whynter 2-Quart Ice Cream Maker from Walmart is a top of the line dream machine for anyone looking to produce creamy frozen treats in about 30-40 minutes all summer long. The powerful compressor of this electric ice cream maker means continuous use. The kids want peanut butter AND vanilla ice cream? No problem, wash the bowl in between batches and you’re good to make another batch. If you’re multitasking (really who isn’t?) and the timer goes off, there is an extended cool feature to prevent melting before you’re ready for it. Isn’t that sweet?
One reviewer wrote, “Freezes quickly! I followed instructions and ice cream came out great! I found that using a toothbrush to clean the bottom of the bucket removed all traces of any Ice cream buildup that may have occurred during freezing. My husband and I are on a Keto Diet so no sugar, low carb recipes are best for us. I’ve tried several and am planning more! Love this machine!”
Not sure if homemade ice cream is really your thing? The Cuisinart ICE-21CGR 1.5 Quart is a nice entry point for testing the waters a bit. This machine is perfect for assigning the kids “things to do” when they want to help make the ice cream. The double insulated freezer bowl does need to chill for at least 24 hours before making a batch, so assign that task to one of the kiddos and they’ve earned their scoop.
One mama we know has this down to a science. The insulated bowl goes into the deep freezer and stays there. The night before their ice cream social she makes the base and puts it in the fridge. Next day she’s ready to make her batch and when she’s done, that bowl goes back into the freezer for next time. If only we could all be that organized… Pro-tip, the vanilla ice cream recipe in the owner’s manual is pure heaven!
Best Kid Friendly Ice Cream Makers
The best part of soft serve ice cream is definitely the toppings. With the Cuisinart ICE-45 Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker your kitchen can turn into the kids’ favorite sundae spot. The freezer bowl works much like the others (deep freeze for at least 24 hours) but is designed to make soft ice cream that can be dispensed right from the handle. This kid friendly setup includes spots for 3 mixins and a cone holder (either flat or pointed cones work).
One reviewer noted, “I followed the recipe for vanilla soft serve exactly as is and it came out GREAT! I left the bowl in the freezer for 2 days and the mixture in the fridge overnight, and let it mix in the machine for about 35 minutes before serving. It was VERY thick, just perfect.” We see an ice cream sundae bar happening in the near future!
We’re spending so much time in the kitchen these days, it’s really the perfect excuse to splurge on the KitchenAid Stand Mixer. Available in over 20 colors and with more than 15 attachments, this beast is meant to be a kitchen counter mainstay. Designed to churn and spin for long periods of time, it’s best known for taking baking to the next level. But just in case you need one more reason to invest, allow us to introduce you to the KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker Attachment. Not an official ice cream maker, but an added tool in your already bulging mom artillery.
The insulated freezer bowl attaches to your mixer and whips up 2-quarts of creamy ice cream in about 30 minutes. After hooking up the freezer bowl, it’s easy for our kiddos to add in the mix and turn it on. Our kids love watching the paddles work their magic whipping up their favorite treat.
Best Large Capacity Ice Cream Makers
We love the vintage look of Nostalgia’s 4 Quart Wooden Bucket homemade ice cream maker, it’s like the one our grams used to have. But this Nostalgia’s electric meaning you don’t have to work quite as hard for it. We know some mamas who have delicious ice cream in just about 20 minutes with this machine! 4-Quarts is a lot of ice cream (we know, you can never have too much), but just in case the family can’t finish it all in one sitting, leftovers can be stored in the freezer by just topping it with the included lid.
We love the included recipes for frozen yogurt, gelato, or ice cream, but this machine also works with Nostalgia’s ice cream kits as well making life a little bit easier. Add your mix to the metal bin, layer in ice and salt, and go switch the laundry or read a book outside while the Nostalgia ice cream maker does the rest!
The White Mountain Electric Ice Cream Maker has the look and feel of an old fashioned ice cream maker but without the effort. Founded in 1853, White Mountain is all about making family memories. Making 6-quarts of ice cream in just about 25 minutes, this machine is fit for a party (or just all the neighborhood kids). This show stopper is perfect for barbeques, family reunions, or pool parties, whenever you want to show off some speed and skill really.
But what exactly makes this wooden bucket so special? Aside from the fact that if you add water as recommended the bucket will swell and stay tight (this helps the overall process of the machine. It’s the uniquely patented blade design. The outer canister spins clockwise, while the blades turn block clockwise and counterclockwise resulting in the smoothest ice cream ever. Sign us up!
Best Smart Ice Cream Maker
Breville’s the Smart Scoop Ice Cream Maker is equipped with some fancy features to make the process a little more sweet, hence the elevated price tag. This is the first ice cream maker on the market to automatically sense the hardness of the ice cream (or gelato, or custard). Distracted by kids? No problem. The machine will turn off when it’s reached its perfect hardness. Should the distraction continue it keeps your treat frozen for up to 3 hours in the canister without having the transfer to the freezer.
One busy mom notes, “I love to experiment with cooking and food all together to provide more homemade food for my kids. However, as a working mom, times and opportunities for specialty techniques like ice cream or gelato take time or an opportunity that does not always stay open. In my life, I need to fully utilize the open time in one chunk as I may not have it the following the day. The Breville ice cream maker was a splurge that I love because I can make the mixture that day and put it in the maker about 30 min after and push a button and leave it there to do its thing.”
Now that dessert is taken care of, check out all of our mom approved must have kitchen gadgets for making life a little easier.