With ice cream season heating up, there's no better time to search for a budget-friendly ice cream maker. Churning up a batch of the sweet creamy treat at home is cheaper than buying a carton at the store and certainly more fun for family and friends. Equally important is control over what goes into every quart, a clear boon for health-conscious consumers and those with food allergies.
Cheapism.com identified the best entry-level ice cream makers, most costing less than $45, and all capable of delivering the goods within 40 minutes. These basic models score well with consumers for performance, although a minority complain about disappointing ice cream and limited durability. For the best results, thoroughly chill the ice cream base (the mix of ingredients) and follow the manufacturer's instructions to the letter. Freshly churned ice cream has a soft-serve consistency that appeals to some consumers, while others prefer to let the finished product “ripen” or “cure” in the freezer for a couple of hours for a firmer, scoopable consistency.
This is a 4-quart ice cream maker that uses rock salt and ice to keep the contents cold while churning and wins the gold ribbon for this type of machine. In online reviews, consumers use superlatives such as “awesome” and “yummy” to describe the finished ice cream. They are equally enthused about the price and the build quality and appreciate the automatic churn, which saves muscle power and invites children to be fully involved. The Hamilton Beach 68330R(starting at $30) also churns out frozen yogurt, sorbet, and gelato.
Taking second place among cheap rock salt/ice models, the 4-quart Nostalgia ICMP400 (starting at $30) from the brand's Vintage Collection wins plaudits from users for producing creamy treats with uniform consistency. They also like the old-time aesthetic, comparatively quiet operation, and dependability. This ice cream machine is available with a wood or plastic outer bucket, and also comes in a 2-quart size. A 6-quart version comes in wood only.
Many ice cream makers use an insulated bowl that requires a stint in the freezer for at least eight hours and up to 24, depending on the model and freezer temperature, before preparing a batch. Cheapism's top choice in this category, the 1.5-quart VonShef Ice Cream Maker (starting at $40), wins consumers over with well-churned ice cream, a low noise level, speed, and ease of use. An opening in the lid lets users add mix-ins during the last few minutes. Buy an extra freezer bowl for $15 to make a second batch immediately after the first.
The runner-up among entry-level freezer-bowl ice cream makers, the 1.5-quart Hamilton Beach 68320 (starting at $35), delivers above-average performance that satisfies the urge to indulge for a large chunk of ice cream fans. Users value the easy cleanup, straightforward process, and savings over store-bought ice cream.
Perched slightly above Cheapism's target price, the 1.5-quart Cuisinart ICE-21 (starting at $54) treats users to creamy and refreshing ice cream, sorbet, and frozen yogurt -- although some say the more fat in the base, the better the results. The insulated bowl requires a minimum 16 hours in the deep freeze, but the ice cream may be ready in as little as 15 minutes. Extra bowls go for $30 each.
Take the YayLabs Ice Cream Ball (starting at $40) to the beach, a campsite, a picnic, or the backyard and churn up a batch. This novelty product relies on rock salt and ice to chill the base while users roll, throw, or shake it around. Kids think it's a blast but may lose interest before the process is complete. Made of polycarbonate plastic, the ice cream ball is available in pint and quart sizes.