We’ve picked products we think you’ll love and may earn commission from links on this page. Read about why you can trust BBC Good Food reviews. This page was updated in May 2020.
Ice cream makers can be a very simple appliance to use, whether you’re using a pre-freeze model that requires the bowl to be frozen first, or one with a built-in freezer.
Making your own ice cream means taking control of what goes in, what comes out, and with these handy tips and recommendations to use along the way, you’re going to love the results.
Read on to find expert advice on getting the best results from your machine, plus ice cream maker recipe inspiration. If you want to upgrade your machine or are new to ice cream makers, be sure to read our review.
Our product picks include pocket-friendly mini ice cream makers (Lakeland mini ice cream maker, £19.99), budget-blowing professional standard machines (Magimix Gelato Expert, £499) and more affordable, mid-range ice cream makers (VonShef ice cream maker with compressor, £149.99). Our buyer’s guide will help you find the right machine for you.
How to use an ice cream maker – top tips
1. Plan ahead
No matter which type of machine you’re using, you’ll need to plan. A pre-freeze bowl needs to be in the freezer preferably overnight to make sure it’s frozen solid (you can check it is by shaking, there should be no liquid sloshing around). If you have the room, store the bowl in the freezer all the time, that way it’ll always be ready to go.
2. Ensure your ingredients are cold
Even a built-in freezer model which is off and running at the flick of a switch, needs the custards, base creams and anything else you are going to add to be as cold as possible.
Adding warm, or even room temperature ingredients to an ice cream machine will cool down its core temperature, meaning the churn takes longer – and a longer churn means heavier ice cream. At worst, the pre-freeze bowl will warm up too much and rather than ice cream you will have sloppy cream.
Get those custards, creams and fruits into the fridge and chill them right down, a few hours will be good, overnight is the best. Cooked custard bases and cream can get a helping hand by pouring them into a bowl and set it in a bigger bowl one-third full of iced water or ice cubes.
Finally, keep those ingredients in the refrigerator right up until the machine is whirring away and you are ready to pour the cream into the machine.
3. Go full-fat
Ice cream is a treat and though it may be possible to make a good low-fat one, it’s much harder. The best ice cream is full of flavour thanks to the richness of the ingredients and needs plenty of fat for it to churn well, this is not the time to skimp.
Use full-fat milk, double cream, fresh free-range eggs, real vanilla, fruits, nuts and chocolate, whatever the recipe calls for. When you eat ice cream, you want to enjoy the best.
4. Beware some ingredients
Be sparing with some ingredients you add to your ice cream. Alcohol makes a rich background flavour – who doesn’t love a little rum and raisin? – but too much and the ice cream won’t churn.
Sugar has the same effect, so make sure your sweetness is added when cooking the base cream and has fully dissolved. Even fruit, if not cold or finely chopped, will make the ice cream softer than desired.
5. Let it sit before serving
Unless you’re eating your homemade ice cream immediately, you’ll be storing it in the freezer. Commercial ice cream coming straight from the freezer is mostly soft and scoops easily. Homemade ice cream though, will be rock hard as it doesn’t have the stabilisers or additives to keep it soft. Don’t compare your ice cream to shop-bought varieties.
Instead, think ahead and take the ice cream from the freezer around 10-15 minutes before you want to eat it. Leave it on the kitchen worktop (not near a heat source, you don’t want it to melt) and it will be perfect. Also, when packing your ice cream into tubs for the freezer, less is better. Too deep makes it hard to soften for serving – at best only fill the tub half way.
6. Always start the motor before pouring
Never add your ice cream base to the freezer bowl without the motor running. If you do, the cream will freeze onto the sides of the bowl and could potentially damage the machine.
7. Care for your machine
You have made fabulous ice cream; now your machine needs some TLC. Once your ice cream is made, the paddles, lids and accessories can be washed immediately either in the dishwasher or by hand according to the manufacturer’s advice.
The bowls, however, must always be put to one side and left to defrost thoroughly. Plunging a still frozen or extremely cold bowl into hot water can damage it beyond repair, at worst it can crack which, with pre-freeze bowls, can cause the refrigerant to leak.
8. Use a good recipe
Once you start making delicious homemade ice cream, your only limitation is your imagination. A good source of tried, tested, and trusted recipes is a great way to expand your repertoire.
Ice cream maker recipes
Vanilla ice cream
Vanilla is a classic ice cream and this recipe won’t let you down: Angela Nielsen’s ultimate vanilla ice cream recipe.
More great vanilla ice cream recipes:
Classic vanilla ice cream
Vegan vanilla ice cream
Fruit ice cream
Most fruits work well in ice cream, especially those with pronounced flavours. Here are some of our favourites.
Fruity ice cream recipes:
Strawberry crème fraiche ice cream
Strawberry and balsamic ice cream
Raspberry ripple ice cream
Gooseberry ice cream
Nutty and chocolate ice cream
Don’t stop with fruit, adding other treats will add flavour and texture, too.
Chocolate, nut and spiced ice cream recipes:
Coconut, caramel and pecan dairy-free ice cream
Malt chocolate ice cream
Vegan chocolate ice cream
Buttermilk, brown sugar & rye bread ice cream
Cinnamon ice cream
Pistachio ice cream
Honeycomb ice cream recipe
For even more inspiration, see our ice cream recipe collection.
What do you make in your ice cream maker? Share your favourite recipes below…