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I don't know about you, but I can’t think of a better way to cool off on a hot day than with a refreshing, satisfying, and icy-cold shaved ice or snow cone. They remind me of being a kid when I'd visit the shaved ice stand after summer camp on days that felt special. I’d agonize over the dozens of flavor possibilities, never wanting to miss the very best one. There was no better ending to a day after running around in the sticky heat than with sweet, fluffy ice cone and a moment to bask in the summer weather.
You can recreate that feeling at home with your own snow cone machine. A high-quality machine, like the SNOWIE 2 Snow Cone Machine, should produce ice that is fine and fluffy. Here are the best snow cone and shaved ice machines to transport you to those quintessential summer days, wherever and whenever you happen to be.
Best Overall: SNOWIE Little Snowie Max Snow Cone Machine
What We Love: Precise stainless steel blade, attached dome shaper, fast and durable motor, easy to clean and store
What We Don't Love: Some reviewers think older models were better made, relatively expensive
Plenty of online customers sing the praises of the Little Snowie 2, modeled after the brand’s beloved commercial ice shavers. The Little Snowie 2 makes wonderfully soft and fluffy snow in just 3 seconds with its high-speed motor and stainless steel blade.
With all that power, it’s a pleasant surprise that it’s easy to carry, clean, and store. A bonus: snowballs made with the Little Snowie are so fine and powdery that flavors saturate the ice rather than pool into the bottom of the cup, so your summer treat is satisfying the whole way through.
Dimensions (LxWxH): 8 x 6 x 12 inches | Weight: 11 pounds | What’s Included: Six flavor powder sticks (makes 6 pints of liquid flavor syrup), two mixing bottles with pour spouts, eight Snowie reusable snow cone shovel spoons
Best Budget: Hawaiian Shaved Ice S900A Electric Shaved Ice Machine
What We Love: Easy to set up, store, and clean; simple to use; makes very fluffy ice
What We Don't Love: Can’t always keep up with big events, not as durable as pricier models
This is a wonderful snow cone machine for the price, with a three-piece design that is easy to assemble and then disassemble again for easy storage. Plus, it's compact enough to stash away. The precision-cut stainless steel blade combined with cylindrical ice blocks makes fine and fluffy snow, and it takes just minutes to put together multiple delicious cones.
Two ice molds are included to freeze the ice blocks, as well as a non-skid mat to keep everything steady.
Dimensions (LxWxH): 8 x 6.5 x 14 inches | Weight: 3 pounds | What’s Included: Support base, two ice molds, non-slip mat
Best Manual: MANBA Ice Shaver and Snow Cone Machine
What We Love: Sharp and rust-resistant blades, easy to transport and store, affordable
What We Don't Love: Elbow grease required
For the price of just a few shaved ice cones at the fair, you can own your very own snow cone powerhouse. The manual crank makes it okay for kids to use, although it takes some strength to churn out shaved ice. The sharp, high-quality blades make the work a bit easier, and it's constructed of BPA-free material so you can feel safe using it for the entire family.
This handy, compact machine is easy to operate, clean, transport (for shaved ice on the road!), and store. What's more, it comes with a simple-to-use flexible silicone mold that can accommodate 15 ice cubes, which produces quite a bit of shaved ice.
Dimensions (LxWxH): 7.3 x 5.1 x 7.9 inches | Weight: 1.7 pounds | What’s Included: Ice crusher, ice cube mold
Related: The Best Ice Makers
Best for Parties: Great Northern Popcorn Company Premium Shaved Ice Machine
What We Love: Powerful, high-quality construction, makes incredibly fluffy shaved ice
What We Don't Love: Must use block ice (or freeze ice in a washed-out milk jug), not kid-friendly
If you are serious about churning out many delicious snow cones for a crowd, look no further. Great Northern is an industry leader in the concession market, and it has a reputation for quality. The brass and stainless steel construction and easy-on-the-eye finish make this a machine you’ll want to display at the center of your pool party.
And this machine isn't all looks—its high-powered motor operates at 1725 rpm and can plow through more than 350 pounds of ice an hour (so invite the whole neighborhood!). It comes with a one-year warranty, too. Just make sure to keep the kids away: The machine's blades are super sharp and produce occasional shards of ice.
Dimensions (LxWxH): 15 x 12 x 30.5 inches | Weight: 60 pounds | What’s Included: Machine with brass and stainless steel construction, heavy-duty motor, adjustable stainless steel blade
Best for Kids: Hawaiian Shaved Ice S700 Electric Snow Cone Machine
What We Love: Kid-friendly, compact, includes one-year warranty
What We Don't Love: Shaved ice not as fine and fluffy as some reviewers prefer, noisy
This kid-approved Hawaiian snow cone machine is fun and easy to use. Simply remove the lid and place ice into the hopper. Then, replace and turn the lid to engage the motor. An added safety feature prevents the machine from operating when the lid is off, making it safe for little hands (although adult supervision is always recommended).
The machine’s compact footprint makes storage easy, and adults can enjoy its treats, too.
Dimensions (LxWxH): 10.5 x 6.5 x 11 inches | Weight: 3 pounds | What’s Included: Electric snow cone machine, one-year manufacturer's warranty, locking lid
Related: The Best Popcorn Makers
Best Retro: Nostalgia SCM525BL Vintage Countertop Snow Cone Maker
What We Love: Creates fluffy ice, side shelf holds two snow cones and syrups, joyful design
What We Don't Love: Loud, wheels can get stuck
Easy to use and assemble, the Nostalgia snow cone maker does a top-notch job at shaving ice to fine snow-cone consistency thanks to its precision-cut stainless-steel blades. True to its name, the fun design includes a chamber that's clear from all sides, so you can watch the shaved ice pile up as it’s shaved. (This is weirdly satisfying.)
There’s a safety switch, and it’s small enough to fit on a countertop and stash away when you’re not using it.
Dimensions (LxWxH): 12 x 11 x 15.3 inches | Weight: 5 pounds | What’s Included: Two 8-ounce reusable plastic snow cones, ice scoop
Related: The Best Coolers
What to Look for in a Snow Cone or Shaved Ice Machine
Manual vs. Electric
Manual models rely on your own elbow grease to crank through ice. So while these are relatively affordable and you won’t need an electric outlet, your frozen treat may require a bit of a workout. If you’re planning on snow cones for a crowd or you crave these delicacies often, investing in an electric machine makes sense. These vary in wattage, capacity, and speed; choose one that makes sense for your kitchen and needs.
Avoid soap when taking care of your shaved ice maker, and never immerse it in water. The best way to clean your machine is with a vinegar and water solution. Mix the two in a spray bottle and spray down the shaving plate, ice chamber, and ice chute, then carefully wipe them out with a soft cloth. Be careful—the blades that cut through ice are incredibly sharp.
Without delicious sugars and syrups, you’d just have a cup of ice. Some models come with a variety pack of syrups to get you started, and you can also find them by the gallon. For the full snow cone experience, stock up on paper cones and colorful straws—especially the ones with a little spoon on one end.
What's the difference between shaved ice and snow cones?
Some use the terms interchangeably, but the two frozen treats are distinctive. Snow cones are made with larger pieces of crunchy ice. Often served at carnivals and ballparks, the syrup settles on the bottom of the snow cone cup after a few minutes in the heat. Shaved ice has a finer, fluffier texture (think real snow). Traditionally shaved from a block of ice, shaved ice is sometimes known as SnoBalls, Shavers, or Hawaiian Shaved Ice.
What kind of ice do you use in a shaved ice machine?
Commercial snow cone stands use solid blocks of ice for their treats, but for a home model, any type of ice cubes will do. You can buy a bag of ice at the grocery store, but shaved ice experts recommend freezing your own. That way, you have ultimate control over the quality (use filtered water or whatever water you prefer), and you’ll save money, too.
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
Hannah Howard has been writing about food and beverages for over a decade, including the memoirs Feast and Plenty. Hannah is very sensitive to the heat and is always looking to cool down with the quintessential frozen treat; she's obsessed with iced lattes, ice cream, and shaved ice.
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