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Cuisinart ICE-21R Ice Cream and Sorbet Maker
Easy to use
Easy to clean
Lots of color options
Requires planning ahead
We purchased the Cuisinart ICE-21R Ice Cream and Sorbet Maker so our reviewer could put it to the test in her kitchen. Keep reading for our full product review.
I’ve made a lot of ice cream. Some of it has been delicious, and some of it has been very very bad. To make smooth, creamy frozen desserts at home you don’t just need a good recipe, you also need a reliable machine. Ice cream needs to be mixed while it’s freezing to prevent large ice crystals from forming. Without a machine, you’d end up with very tired arms.
I found my favorite recipe last year while writing about the science of ice cream for Inverse. I put that knowledge to work here to find out if the Cuisinart ICE-21R Ice Cream and Sorbet maker has what it takes to churn out everyone’s favorite summer dessert.
Setup: Minimal and easy
This machine is a cinch to set up. It comes with four components: the stand, the freezer bowl, a mixing paddle, and a plastic cover. There’s minimal assembly required. Just set the mixing paddle in the base, place the base on the stand, cover with the lid, and flip the on switch. The lid holds the mixing paddle in place, and the base rotates to churn the ice cream.
This model is extremely simple. It doesn’t include any bonus features, but it’s also unlikely that you’ll need them.
The Cuisinart ICE-21R advertises that frozen desserts will be ready in 20 minutes or less, but that’s not strictly true. The freezer bowl must be kept in the freezer for at least 16 to 24 hours before use. If you want the ability to make ice cream spontaneously, you’ll need to store the base in the freezer, which might be difficult for those with small spaces.
Design: Simple and compact
This machine is all about simplicity. It’s designed with clean lines, and very few bells and whistles. There’s only one button, and a quick glance at the directions is more than enough to understand how it operates.
The machine is almost a foot tall, and about 9 inches wide. It takes a decent amount of storage space, but most at-home ice cream makers are a similar size, so I don’t consider this a strike against this model. The cord is slightly short, so you’ll have to clear a space right next to an outlet when you want to use it. I churned my ice cream on my kitchen table and it had some trouble reaching the outlet underneath.
This model comes in seven different colors including classic white, a bright cherry red, and two shades of pink. Ice cream machines aren’t typically countertop appliances, but this minimalistic device wouldn’t look out of place there.
Cuisinart describes the base and cover material as "thermoplastic." Although it’s attractive, the material feels a little brittle and thin. I suspect a drop on the floor would cause it to crack, so handle it with care.
The freezer bowl, however, feels heavy duty. It’s insulated and filled with liquid. It’s designed to be stored in the freezer until the liquid is frozen solid. You can check to see if the bowl is ready by shaking it and listening for the sounds of sloshing liquid.
Performance: Effective, but needs time
The difference between a cube of frozen milk and a bowl of smooth, delicious ice cream is churning. Churning your ice cream incorporates air and prevents large ice crystals from forming.
Like most home models, this is a "cold scrape" ice cream machine. After setup, the liquid ice cream base is poured into the freezer bowl. As the base comes into contact with the sides of the bowl, it freezes. Basically, all this machine does is spin. While the bowl rotates, the fixed mixing paddle scrapes the frozen ice cream off the side of the bowl and incorporates it back into the mixture. As the ice cream continues to churn, it slowly solidifies.
The quicker you freeze your ice cream, the less time ice crystals will have to form. The key to success with this model of ice cream maker is thorough chilling everything. Freeze the bowl solid. Make the base of your ice cream a day in advance, and chill it overnight. Once you take the freezer bowl out of the freezer, work quickly. Even 10 minutes sitting out on the counter will let it start to thaw.
This machine is all about simplicity. It’s designed with clean lines, and very few bells and whistles.
Be sure not to overfill the freezer bowl! The freezer bowl has a stated 1.5-quart capacity, so make sure to check your recipe will work with that size. Since ice cream expands as it churns, due to the forming of ice crystals and the importation of air, it can be difficult to guess just how much your base will expand. For example, the recipe I used called for 3.5 cups of liquid. After about 20 minutes of churning, my ice cream was well frozen, but a small amount had started to spill over the edges of the freezer bowl. Overfilling the bowl can also compromise the effectiveness of the machine, since it will take more time to chill a larger amount of liquid, giving the base and the freezer bowl more time to warm up and form ice crystals.
I’ve already mentioned that I have issues with the claim "frozen desserts ready in 20 minutes." In addition to the 16-24 hours required to chill the freezer bowl, most ice cream recipes recommend allowing the finished product to sit for a few hours in the freezer before serving. When the ice cream comes out of the freezer bowl after churning, the texture will be similar to soft serve. If you’re hoping for hard, scoopable ice cream, you’ll need to scoop it into a container and allow a few hours for it to set up in the freezer. Additionally, if you're making an ice cream cake, you will have to quickly assemble it after churning.
Features: No bells or whistles
This model is extremely simple. It doesn’t include any bonus features, but it’s also unlikely that you’ll need them. If you like to add mix-ins like nuts, candies, or other flavorings, you can add them directly to the freezer bowl of the ice cream once the base is almost done churning.
Cleaning: Extremely easy
Cleaning this machine is very easy. Just rinse out the bowl, and wipe down the remaining parts. Even the laziest dessert lovers won’t find much to complain about here.
Price: Very reasonable
At around $70, this is Cuisinart's most affordable ice cream maker, with the next tier of ice cream makers being slightly larger and more expensive. This is a great buy for beginners on a budget.
Cuisinart ICE-21R Ice Cream and Sorbet Maker vs. Cuisinart ICE-70 Ice Cream Maker
There are a lot of fairly affordable frozen dessert makers that can help you churn a good batch of ice cream with the Cuisinart ICE-21R Ice Cream and Sorbet Maker being a good entry-level option. Once you have the bowl frozen, its easy setup, operation, and cleanup will get you on your way to sundae heaven. But the smaller capacity can get in the way of real experimentation or big batches for larger households. The 2-quart Cuisinart ICE-70 Ice Cream Maker, which we also tested, is the next level up of ice cream makers and might be worth the investment. It has presets for gelato and sorbet and will produce 4 pints of ice cream in one batch. Plus, our home tester loved it.
If you're just getting started making ice cream, the Cuisinart ICE-21R Ice Cream and Sorbet Maker is a solid option at a reasonable price point. It does everything you need without fuss or drama.
- Product Name Frozen Yogurt, Ice Cream and Sorbet Maker
- Product Brand Cuisinart
- MPN ICE-21R
- Price $69.95
- Weight 9.9 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 9 x 11.25 x 9.5 in.
- Color Red, Cream, Light Grey, Pink, White, Yellow
- Capacity 1.5 Quarts
- Material Polypropylene