From sweet, refreshing sorbets to fluffy ice cream, whip up your own frozen desserts in a flash at home with some of the coolest ice cream machines around.
Ice cream makers really don't get the credit they deserve. Apart from convenience, they're perfect if you avoid certain ingredients, and provide the opportunity to get creative with some funky flavours.
What's more, the kids can get involved while learning how ice cream is made. Anyway, no need for us to waffle on – discover which machines made our list of favourites.
The best ice cream makers to buy
Read on to find the best ice cream makers, from professional-standard machines to manual versions. We tested machines from leading brands like Magimix, Cuisinart and KitchenAid.
If you want to learn more about each machine, read the in-depth ice cream maker reviews for more detail, including specifications.
Magimix Gelato Expert
Best professional standard ice cream maker
This super-sized stainless steel ice cream maker with a built-in freezer will impress everyone from home cook to semi-professional chef. The removable and integrated bowls can produce a remarkable two litres of ice cream in under an hour. Choose from three automated programmes for ice cream, gelato or granita or take control with the manual function. This machine does it all, but it comes at a price. Read our full review of the Magimix Gelato Expert.
Cuisinart iced dessert maker
Best value ice cream maker
The Cuisinart is a stylish, pretty-coloured, freeze-ahead machine which makes 1.4 litres of creamy, light ice cream quietly and effortlessly, as well as iced fruit desserts and sorbet. The machine is super-easy to assemble, and in just minutes you’re ready to make ice cream. Along with a five-year guarantee, this machine is excellent value for money. Read our full review of the Cuisinart iced dessert maker.
Lakeland mini ice cream maker
Best space-saving ice cream maker
Don’t be fooled by this machine’s size – it’s a little workhorse making half a litre of delicious ice cream in no time. Without frills or functions, this machine may not be the right one for a large family, but will undoubtedly appeal to those after a delicious treat without fuss. Read our full review of the Lakeland mini ice cream maker.
Judge ice cream maker
Best budget ice cream maker
The Judge ice cream maker is an entry-level, pre-freeze model at a bargain price, but one that produces 1.5 litres of quality ice cream. The machine is well-built and comes with clear instructions, it’s easy to assemble and quiet to use. Apart from flimsy paddle tool, this is a bargain buy. Read our full review of the Judge ice cream maker.
KitchenAid ice cream accessory
Best stand mixer ice cream maker for families
A robust, well-made ice cream accessory that makes almost 2 litres of exceedingly good ice cream quickly and efficiently – but only for those with a KitchenAid stand mixer. Creating that much ice cream in one go will appeal to big families and ice cream lovers, but the large bowl means you also need a large freezer. Read our full review of the KitchenAid ice cream maker.
JML ice cream maker
Best manual ice cream maker
No power needed and no moving parts in this freeze-ahead style ice cream maker, sure to appeal to those who like to keep things simple. It’s a frozen metal bowl without a motor to churn the ice cream; that part is up to the user. An entertaining way to make ice cream with quite remarkable results. Read our full review of the JML ice cream maker.
VonShef ice cream maker with compressor
Best ice cream maker for ease of use
This powerful, professional, stainless steel ice cream maker with digital display comes with a built-in freezer – at a price. The machine effortlessly churns up to 1.2 litres of good quality ice cream in around 40 minutes. We especially like the removable, non-stick bowl with a handy carrying handle – stylish enough to bring straight to the table. Read our full review of the VonShef ice cream maker.
Smeg ice cream maker attachment
Best stand mixer ice cream maker for speed
To use the pre-freeze Smeg ice cream maker accessory you will need a Smeg stand mixer. Once the robustly built, double-layered bowl is frozen, it sits inside the mixer bowl. Everything clicks together so quickly you’ll be making ice cream in minutes. The process is effortless and quiet, with super-light, creamy results in just 20 minutes. Read our full review of the Smeg ice cream maker attachment.
Cooks Professional ice cream maker
Best lightweight ice cream maker
Unlike most built-in freezer machines, which tend to be on the heavy side, the Cooks Professional is light enough to carry round the kitchen. With automatic programmes which both cool and heat, you can create hard and soft ice cream and homemade yogurt. The machine takes two hours for a firm cream, much longer than similar models, but the results are excellent. Read our full review of the Cooks Professional ice cream maker.
How we tested ice cream makers
Due to the wide variations in the type of ice cream makers we tested, for a balanced and fair taste and texture comparison, all were tested using our delicious ultimate vanilla ice cream recipe.
For each machine, we churned the mix to a soft-serve density and taste tested it. We then put the mix in a tub in the freezer to harden.
We taste tested again after 24 and 48 hours to check the texture, noticing that all the ice creams needed around 15 minutes out of the freezer before we were able to scoop them easily.
We timed how fast the machines froze the mix, as, generally, a quicker freeze means smaller ice crystals and smoother ice cream.
Effective freezing properties: most importantantly, the machines had to freeze the mixture quickly and evenly for a smooth texture. We looked for sturdy churning paddles that scraped ice cream from the edges of the bowl, breaking up large crystals in the process. We rejected models that left a thick, icy build-up on the sides.
Size: on freeze-ahead models, we looked for bowls that were compact enough to fit in the freezer easily.
Easy-to-clean: hygiene is paramount for making dairy ice cream safely. Some paddles are dishwasher-safe, but most parts will need hand-washing and thorough air-drying before packing away. Machines need to come to room temperature before stowing in a cupboard to avoid condensation and mould. Some models helpfully come with cleaning tools, but for those that don’t, small bottle brushes are essential for cleaning joins and crevices.
Durability: we looked for machines with durable parts that were easy to assemble.
Noise levels: though not vital, we preferred machines that were relatively quiet.
Capacity and overall footprint: we looked at the bowl capacity and footprint for both ease of use and storage.
Instruction manual: how helpful was the instruction book and did it include recipes?
Packaging: excessive use of plastic and polystyrene in packaging was negatively scored.
If you enjoy making ice cream at home and value smooth-textured scoops, an electric machine is a worthwhile investment.
Nearly all ice creams and sorbets need agitating as they freeze in order to break up large ice crystals and beat in air. This can be done by hand by freezing the base in a tub and beating every 30 minutes with a fork until solid.
This method works, but the results will never be super-smooth. Ice cream machines churn the mix constantly with a paddle while it freezes, resulting in a much silkier texture.
What should I buy?
There are two types of electric ice cream makers.
This straightforward design includes a bowl with walls that are filled with a gel coolant. Although some bowls require eight hours in the freezer before use, most need at least 24 hours. When ready, a lid with a motorised paddle is attached to the bowl to churn the ice cream mix. Freeze-ahead machines are relatively cheap and can make excellent, smooth-textured ice cream. They tend to freeze the mix very quickly (20-30 minutes), which is ideal for making small ice crystals. Though they don’t take up much space on the counter, the freeze-ahead bowls can be quite bulky. These models can only churn one batch of ice cream a day, since the bowl has to come up to room temperature before washing, drying and re-freezing.
A more expensive option, machines with built-in freezers generally require just a 10 minute freeze before use, which means they can make several batches of ice cream a day. After use, the bowl can be washed straightaway, ready to freeze another batch. Their footprint is larger than freeze-ahead models, and to avoid damaging the compressor, the machine has to be stored upright without being moved around too much. They can take a bit longer to freeze the ice cream than bowls, but generally the results are smooth and consistent, with minimal build-up of solids around the edges. If you plan to make ice cream regularly and have the counter space, a built-in freezer model is a good investment.
Ice cream maker recipes
Why not browse some of our popular ice cream recipes and give them a try in your ice cream machine?
More advice on buying electronic kit
This review was last updated in May 2020. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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