You can keep your waffle irons, your Keurig coffee makers, and your turbo-powered salad spinners. For our money, the best kitchen appliance in life is the old-fashioned ice cream maker. Nothing outside of an ice cream stand in rural Massachusetts can beat the sweet, cooling delight of homemade ice cream. But as it turns out, they’re not so old-fashioned anymore.
Many of today’s models come with one-touch operation, stainless-steel exteriors, and multi-function components that allow you to make ice cream as well as sorbet. That is to say that the market is bursting with options, whether you prefer the old-school approach or a device built for the 21st century. Here are a few of our favorite models.
For the budget-conscious — Hamilton Beach 4-Quart Ice Cream Maker
Remember how you used to lose your mind when the bell on the ice cream truck went off in your neighborhood? That’s called a Pavlovian response. You can finally get that same experience at home with this automatic ice cream maker from Hamilton Beach. The device can also make frozen yogurt, custard, sorbet, gelato, and sherbet. If you’re looking for something simple, quick, and inexpensive, this device will have your ice cream ready in about 20 to 40 minutes.
For those willing to compromise — Cuisinart Cool Creations Ice Cream Maker
Cuisinart makes a slew of ice cream makers, but for the balance between efficiency, performance, and price, we like the high end of their product spectrum. For this manufacturer, that means landing on the Cool Creations Ice Cream Maker. First, it’s one of the most durable kitchen appliances we’ve run across, with a solid, heavily-insulated freezer bowl. It’s easy to use, and comes with one-button operation for both gelato and sorbet. It also touts a two-quart capacity, which is slightly larger than its competitors. Other features include the brushed metal housing, an LCD control panel, and an ingredient spout that houses an integrated measuring cup. For the price, it’s difficult to find a close competitor.
For the nostalgic — Nostalgia ICMP400BLUE Ice Cream Maker
Some of us are old enough to remember how our grandparents made old-fashioned ice cream — by hand. Perhaps that’s why we were drawn to the design of this retro ice cream maker from Nostalgia Electronics, which is a bargain at $35. It doesn’t have the bells and whistles found on the more expensive devices on our list, but there’s something whimsical about favoring fond memories over modern convenience. Plus, it’s simple operation allows you to make four quarts in no time. Just fill the aluminum canister with ingredients, layer the plastic bucket with ice and salt, and set the electric motor to churning. (Just because it looks retro, it doesn’t mean the operation is.)
For those who want to use a little elbow grease — White Mountain Appalachian Series Ice Cream Maker
Want to punish your children? Don’t have electricity? Then you can’t do better than the White Mountain Ice Cream Maker, which comes with an old-fashioned hand crank. There’s an argument to be made that hand-cranked ice cream tastes better than store-bought or electronically-churned ice cream, and you can test that theory yourself. It takes some work, sure, but this old-fashioned ice cream maker churns out rich, creamy ice cream. This ice cream maker is crafted within a white pine bucket that utilizes a patented, three-gear, triple-motion crank system to make up to four quarts of ice cream in 20 to 40 minutes.
For the foodie — Breville Smart Scoop Ice Cream Maker
This is certainly one of the more expensive ice cream makers on the market, but this Breville machine works differently than anything else on our list. It has a built-in compressor, so it can get to cold temperatures without you adding ice or putting anything in the freezer. It has settings for sorbet, frozen yogurt, gelato, and ice cream, and you can adjust the hardness level for each type. It lets you know when you should add your ingredients and can keep your dessert at the proper consistency for up to three hours. With its 1.5-quart capacity, this machine won’t be paying for itself anytime soon, but you will get your ice cream just the way you like it.