Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.
If you’ve been considering having an ice cream maker in your kitchen, we’re here for you! The choices available in the market are wider than ever before, with newly-designed models that work in novel and interesting ways, as well as the best of the classic models. There are two basic questions you’ll want to ask yourself to determine which ice cream maker is best for you: How much ice cream do I want to make at a time? And how much work do I want to put into making the ice cream?
It's important to note that ice cream makers can make any recipe with certain capabilities into a semi-frozen or frozen treat. This means Tomato Gazpacho made into a semifreddo for lunch or throw in a Frozen Strawberry Daiquiri or a Frozen Virgin Pomegranate-Citrus Sangria into the mix! Really, the possibilities are endless. The other great bonus to making your own frozen treats is that they can be made sugar-free, dairy-free, or all-fruit, if you need to take charge of what ingredients are in your food.
Here are the best ice cream makers around, each with its own personality, assets, and abilities. We’re sure there’s one here that’s just right for you!
Best Overall: Cuisinart ICE-30BCP1 Ice Cream Maker
A long-time favorite of the Simply Recipes team, this Cuisinart ice cream maker remains the best of its kind because it really does have all the right stuff: good looks, strong build, great performance, and lasting power.
The sleekness of its brushed stainless-steel design may make it easy to tuck away in a cupboard, but it also looks good right out on your kitchen countertop. Just pre-freeze the two-quart container, place it on the base, add your ingredients, and turn it on. Less than a half-hour later, you’ve got two quarts of ready-to-eat custom, homemade ice cream!
Other details that make this ice cream maker stand out are its spout for adding creative mix-ins to your ice cream and built-in cord storage. When you're done churning, the freezer bowl, lid, and mixing arm are easy to clean in the sink.
Best Budget: Hamilton Beach 68330N Automatic Ice Cream Maker
This Hamilton Beach ice cream maker is a hybrid of the old-fashioned hand-churn type combined with the newer type electric models. It’s versatile, with the ability to make up to four quarts of ice cream, gelato, or frozen yogurt with your choice of mix-ins in approximately 30 minutes.
The design has a vintage look with a top churner and space around the bowl for the ice and rock salt. To use it correctly, you’ll have to allow slightly more time than with the models that are fully automatic, as well as making sure you’ve got the right kind of ice and salt to put in the outside compartment. It does come with more than 20 recipes to help you discover your inner Ben & Jerry.
"The fact that this is both hands-on (adding ice and salt) and automatic (I didn't have to churn!) made it so fun to use. I was also pleasantly surprised at how creamy—not watery—the ice cream turned out, even before I put it in the freezer. And the color from the M&Ms I mixed in didn't seep into the ice cream!" — Fran Sales, Associate Editor
Best for Kids: Chef'n Sweet Spot Ice Cream Maker
Made by the Chef’n company in Seattle, this ice cream maker is quite different from other ice cream makers in its design, how it works, and what you can do with it. The best part is kids can make their own dessert to explore their creative side.
If you’ve ever visited an ice cream parlor that makes rolled ice cream, you’ve watched as a creamy mixture is poured onto a freezing surface, stirred, then rolled into neat little bundles that can be set into a bowl in a flower-like display. That is exactly how this ice cream maker works. Just make sure to put the pan in your freezer for 24 hours before use. The set includes two paddles to create rolled ice cream, but you can also easily create regular stirred-but-not rolled ice creams, sorbets, or other frozen treats.
Related: The Best Blenders
Best Soft Serve: Cuisinart ICE-45 Ice Cream Maker, Soft Serve Mix-it-In
One of the few soft-serve home ice cream makers, this is designed to stay out on your kitchen countertop. It actually looks like an ice-cream shop soft-serve machine with a cone holder and three built-in condiment dispensers that add your mix-ins by pressing the levers on the side of the machine.
The removable freezer bowl does have to be placed in your freezer for at least 8 hours (preferably more) before using but the rest of the job is fully automatic! Once you turn the dial, it churns for about 20 minutes before you can start indulging. It makes up to 1.5 quarts of soft-serve ice cream or frozen yogurt.
Best Single Serving: DASH My Pint Electric Ice Cream Maker
It’s surprising how easily this portable ice cream maker churns 1.5 cups of fresh ice cream at a time. Like many home ice cream makers, it's important to freeze the container for eight hours or more, and equally important to use chilled ingredients. Then all you have to do is push a button and the rest is automatic. The base is used as the freezer bowl, the lid is used as the churn.
It’s battery-operated and has a 1-year warranty. You’ll also have the opportunity to access online recipes developed with perfect measurements for this personal serving ice cream maker.
Best Splurge: Breville Smart Scoop Ice Cream Compressor
This compressor-style ice cream maker from Breville is the easiest of all types to use since there’s no advance preparation required. All you have to do is have a recipe and the ingredients!
Though it’s fully automatic, you can also change the settings to operate manually. It’s quite flexible, with 12 settings to create different consistency levels, a great feature for ice cream sandwiches where softer is better. There’s a flip-back lid that allows you to easily add mix-ins, and timer indicators let you know when it's time to do that and when the ice cream is ready. It makes up to 1.5 quarts in under an hour and has a holding feature that keeps the ice cream at the right temperature for three hours after it’s ready.
"Using this was fool-proof (don't let all the buttons fool you). Each button was clearly labeled and the menu options were self-explanatory; all I had to do was pour in my mix, set the mode and time, and watch it churn. I liked the Keep Cool option, too, because I couldn't get to scooping the ice cream out right away." — Fran Sales, Associate Editor
Best Attachment: KitchenAid KICA0WH Ice Cream Maker Attachment
The KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment adds another way to use the iconic stand mixer! Simply place the bowl in your freezer for at least 24 hours ahead of time and you’ll be ready to make up to two quarts of any type of iced dessert you like: ice cream, sorbet, fro-yo, or gelato. This attachment set is composed of the dasher, the bowl, and the drive assembly. As with other KitchenAid products, the set is exceptionally well made and very sturdy.
Related: The Best KitchenAid Mixers
If you’re looking for entertainment along with your ice cream, there are two great options on this list: the Chef'n Sweet Spot Ice Cream Maker (view at Amazon) and the Cuisinart Soft Serve Mix-It-In maker (view at Amazon). Our best overall choice, the Cuisinart ICE-30BCP1 Ice Cream Maker (view at Amazon), continues to churn out great ice cream and will last you through many pints.
What to Look for in an Ice Cream Maker
There are a few different ways ice-cream makers operate. Old-fashioned hand-churn makers require ice and rock salt to freeze the liquid mix and you turn a handle until the mix is frozen. The most popular models today are the pre-frozen models, where the bowl must be frozen in your freezer for up to 24 hours and the rest of the operation is automatic.
A hybrid of the two is an automatic model that requires salt and ice to be placed around a built-in bowl while the churning operation is done by a machine. Also available is the pre-frozen with hand mixing model that is specifically designed to make small batches at a time as well as rolled ice cream.
Finally, compressor models have a built-in motor that does everything automatically and runs on electricity. All you do is add your ice cream mix, and the machine will freeze and churn it completely plus hold it frozen for several hours afterward.
Ice-cream makers have a wide range of how much ice cream is made per batch, how large (or small) to buy depends on your needs, and how you will store the machine when not in use. For those who plan on making ice cream regularly, an ice cream maker that can handle 1 to 2 quarts—2 to 4 pints—might be best. Keep in mind that many ice cream recipes are developed for a full 2 quarts, and you should not overfill the machine (it will cause icy ice cream).
Smaller, more personal-sized ice cream makers are good for experimenting and getting kids involved. Larger machines (up to 6 quarts) are great if you want to make big batches, though they usually don't handle smaller batches well and can be hard to store.
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
Karen Resta is a NYC-based writer specializing in food culture and history, cooking, pastries, and restaurants. A former executive chef who began her professional journey as a pastry chef, she travels around the globe as a photographer and writer, always finding the best authentic food and pastries along the way. She spends a lot of her free time in her kitchen and is passionate about finding quality within your given budget. Having the right tools and knowing how to use them makes all the difference in baking and cooking, and she curated this list with that in mind.
Read Next: The Best Waffle Makers