Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Cuisinart ICE-70 Electronic Ice Cream Maker at Amazon
"Settings for ice cream, gelato, or sorbet."
"Contains a compressor...that freezes the ice cream while it churns."
"Fully automatic and promises to deliver ice cream in 20 minutes."
Runner Up, Best Budget: Nostalgia 4-Quart Electric Ice Cream Maker at Amazon
"You don’t have to work so hard to get your treats."
"Compatible with both tilt-head and bowl-lift style mixers."
Best Easy to Use: Chef'n Sweet Spot Ice Cream Maker at Amazon
"Add your fresh ingredients, and the ice cream begins forming instantly."
Best for Kids: YayLabs! Softshell Ice Cream Ball at llbean.com
"Perfect for picnics, backyard birthday parties, camping trips, and more!"
01 of 07
Best Overall: Cuisinart ICE-70 Electronic Ice Cream Maker
Cuisinart was one of the first companies to popularize electric ice cream makers for home users, and the company continues to improve the product offerings. This one makes a whopping two quarts of ice cream per batch, and has a simple control panel with an LCD screen that’s easy to read.
There are settings for ice cream, gelato, or sorbet, which control the speed of the mixing paddle. The time is automatically set for each option, but can be adjusted manually. When time is up, the machine automatically shuts off.
The lid has a removable cup for measuring up to 1/2 cup of add-ins, and when the cup is removed, there’s a handy hole for pouring those ingredients in.
The 2-quart freezer bowl should be refrigerated overnight for best results, or store it in your freezer so it’s ready to go whenever you have that ice cream craving.
02 of 07
Best High End: Breville BCI600XL Smart Scoop Ice Cream Maker
If you’re ready to get serious about making ice cream, this might be the model for you. Yes, it does come with a steep price tag, but it also has quite a few benefits. The 1 ½ quart ice cream maker contains a compressor, just like a window air conditioner, that freezes the ice cream while it churns. That means you don’t have to worry about freezing and refreezing a bowl between batches. This model can churn them out one after the other.
The other benefit of this model is that it has 12 specifically calibrated settings for different levels of softness. You won’t end up with rock hard sorbet or gelato or soft-serve when what you really want is a scoop of vanilla that will hold its own in a root beer float. A pre-cool setting preps the machine to start churning immediately and internal thermometers make sure the temperature stays just right. Reviewers note that you should follow the filling instructions and don’t over fill it unless you want to clean up a mess of melty ice cream.
Keep in mind that this investment piece takes up a lot of room, so it might not be ideal for those with small kitchens, and the compressor makes it the heaviest ice cream maker on the list at a whopping 30 pounds. But at least you’ll get a workout before you enjoy your dessert.
03 of 07
Best Budget: Cuisinart ICE-21 Frozen Yogurt - Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker
If you want to go with a trusted brand for ice cream makers, Cuisinart is a pretty safe bet and you don't have to spend a ton, either! The ICE-21 model may not have all the bells and whistles of some of the higher-end models, but it's fully automatic and promises to deliver quality homemade ice cream in 20 minutes. The process is simple and designed to be mess-free. The double-insulated freezer bowl means you don't even need ice.
It has a smaller capacity (1 1/2 quarts) than some of Cuisinart's other models so be careful that you're paying attention to the batch size when following recipes you find. A recipe book does come included.
04 of 07
Runner Up, Best Budget: Nostalgia 4-Quart Electric Ice Cream Maker
If you like the idea of an old-fashioned ice cream maker and you want to make large batches, this fun machine is the one you’re looking for. Just like old-style ice cream makers, this uses ice to freeze the ice cream, but the cranking mechanism is electric, so you don’t have to work so hard to get your treats.
The ice bucket is made from plastic and doubles as a storage container when used with the included lid. For easy transportation, the machine has a handle and the motor locks when power is off, so all parts stay secure. The interior wipes clean easily when you’re done.
If you want easy ice cream, the company also makes mixes that can be used with this machine or use one of the included ice cream recipes or one of your own. This makes up to four quarts of ice cream, so you’ll have plenty for parties.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07
Best Attachment: KitchenAid KICA0WH Ice Cream Maker Stand Mixer Attachment
If you already have a KitchenAid stand mixer and don’t want to add yet another appliance to your kitchen, this might be the ice cream maker for you. Compatible with both tilt-head and bowl-lift style mixers, this ice cream attachment consists of a freezer bowl similar to the Cuisinart model and a dasher that spins just like the paddle attachment for the mixer.
The two-quart bowl should be fully frozen for 24 hours before use to ensure that your ice cream freezes properly. You can store it in there to make sure it’s always ready to go, and keep it toward the back if possible where temperatures are more stable.
Keep in mind that if your kitchen is warm, this bowl will warm up fairly quickly and start to sweat, so it’s not a bad idea to keep a kitchen towel underneath to catch the drips. Your ice cream should take about 30 minutes to churn, and will need to be frozen afterward if you prefer a harder, scoopable consistency. Soft-serve fans can enjoy it directly from the freezer bowl. One drawback with this model is that there isn’t an automatic shutoff like some of the dedicated machines have, so you’ll have to keep an eye on it while it’s churning.
06 of 07
Chef'n Sweet Spot Instant Ice Cream Maker provides a quick and easy way to make your favorite frozen treats. All you have to do is freeze the dish ahead of time, add your fresh ingredients, and the ice cream begins forming instantly. Then, you simply scoop and turn the mixture for a couple of minutes until you get your desired consistency. If storage space is limited or your kitchen is already overrun with gadgets, this ice cream maker is the perfect solution. At less than 3 inches tall, it can be stored and stacked in your cabinets like a pie plate.
With no electricity—or crank turning—required, making ice cream with the Chef'n Sweet Spot is a great activity to do with kids and perfect for parties. Each Sweet Spot can make six 1/2-cup individual servings. It also comes with a scoop, blade, and recipe book. You do need to store the dish for at least 24 hours ahead of time, so keep it in your freezer if you have the room and that way it's always ready to go.
07 of 07
If you're looking for a way to really get the kids involved in making ice cream, look no further: This softshell ice cream ball from YayLabs! is a toy and an ice cream maker all in one. First, you add your ingredients into one side and ice and rock salt into the other. Then, it's time to play! Roll and shake the ball around for about 25 minutes and you'll end up with delicious ice cream! Plus, cleanup is easy because the ball is dishwasher safe.
These ice cream balls come in pint and quart sizes and make great gifts. They're perfect for picnics, backyard birthday parties, and camping trips. Just be careful where you decide to use it as some reviewers warn of leaks.
How We Tested
We bought three top-rated ice cream makers and our reviewers spent 25 hours testing them. We asked them to consider the most important features when using these ice cream makers, from their freezing style to their size. We've outlined the key points here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.
What to Look for in an Ice Cream Maker
Freezing style Many ice cream makers use a freezer bowl or insert that needs to be frozen for a period of time before the ice cream is churned. If you’re short on freezer space, this might not be convenient — plus, if you want to make a second batch, you’ll have to wait for the bowl to freeze again. Compressor models let you churn batch after batch but tend to be larger and more expensive. Cooling with ice and salt is the old-fashioned method, though it still works well.
Power source Churning ice cream can take 20 minutes or more, so electric machines make the job easier. On the other end of the spectrum, hand-churning with a manual machine can be tiring, and the job becomes more difficult as the ice cream hardens. (However, since manual models don’t need electricity, you can bring yours to the family picnic and let everyone try churning for a minute.)
Batch size How much ice cream do you want to make at once? If you have a big family or regularly make ice cream for parties, a larger-capacity unit makes sense. If you’re eager to try new recipes as often as possible, a machine that makes smaller batches is just what you need.