Ice Cream Maker Comparison
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Ice Cream Maker Buying Guide
What is an Ice Cream Maker?
It is extremely easy to make homemade ice cream due to the advancements that have been made in ice cream makers in recent years. You don’t need to use rock salt and ice anymore unless you want to. The compact and electric ice cream makers make loads of delicious ice cream sometimes in just minutes! With all of the models and styles available, you need a guide that can give you all the information you need to make a good decision. This ice cream maker’s buyer’s guide will give you that information and much more.
The History of Ice Cream
Ice cream has been around since the early 1800s and started out as a dessert just for the elite. As sugar began to go down in price over the years, more and more people got to try this delicious and unique frozen treat. It wasn’t until 1843 that the creator of the hand-cranked ice cream freezer as it was called back then, applied for a patent. Her name was Nancy M Johnson.
This ice cream freezer had a center paddle to mix everything up and a movable crank. It took about 45 minutes of crank turning to create ice cream which surprisingly was a lot less labor than the old method of stirring it with a spoon. This ice cream freezer was extremely popular and sold quickly. As time passed the ice cream freezer went through about 70 “upgrades” or improvements that made it even better.
This old fashioned crank style ice cream maker is still available today although it has been upgraded to a new improved version that works better and more efficiently. Despite the fact that there are many different styles of electric ice cream makers available on the market and have been for over 50 years now, the old fashioned hand crank style is still wildly popular and thousands are sold each year.
Types of Ice Cream Makers
There are several different styles and models of ice cream makers to choose from in today’s market. Each one has its own unique features and capabilities. We have outlined them below so you can learn about each kind and decide which one is the best fit for you.
Gel Canister – This style of ice cream maker requires the canister to be frozen for about 24 hours before using. Some consumers purchase two canisters so they can make two flavors of ice cream during the same cycle.
Compressor Canister – Compressor styles have a built in freezer. This allows the canister to cool within a few minutes rather than for 24 hours, making it much more fun to use since you can use it spur of the moment. This capability allows users to make several batches of ice cream in short order.
Traditional Ice Cream Makers– the older bucket style of ice maker is still on the market and people are still buying it, largely because they love the childhood memories it brings to mind. This style uses rock salt and ice to get the right ice cream consistency. They will either have a manual or electric crank and some offer both for you to choose from. This style is a bit messier than other methods, but it is still a favorite that keeps consumers coming back to them.
Portable Ice Cream Makers – The portable ice cream maker is perfect for camping trips or when you’re on vacation or at a relative’s house for the holidays. These cool little balls are easy to use and do a great job. Just put the ingredients into the container and shake and roll the ball until your ice cream is formed. A lot of fun at picnics too and really keeps the kids busy!
Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker – Many manufacturers offer an ice cream maker that produces soft serve ice cream. You can also make sherbet, sorbet, frozen yogurt too! Some units have additional features like a pouring dispenser that you can use to add sprinkles with and even a cone holder. Soft serve ice cream makers are available in gel, compressor and traditional styles with the gel unit being the most economical.
Things to Think about Before and During Shopping
There are several things that you need to think about before you start looking around at all the ice cream makers that are available. Think about what your personal needs and preferences are and then look for ice cream makers that have those features. We’ve outlined several things to look at when comparison shopping.
- If convenience is something that is important to you, you will probably prefer the compressor style ice cream makers. These models make ice cream fast and do well for small needs.
- If you have a large family or will be using the ice cream maker for picnics, BBQs and other larger get togethers, you will want to look at the old fashioned crank style models. The reason for this is that the crank style models make 4-6 quarts of ice cream at a time while the compressor styles only make about one and a half to two quarts.
- How easy a unit is to clean is always something that you will want to know when choosing an ice cream maker. No one wants to have tons of clean up to do after having so much fun. Electric ice cream makers are relatively simple to clean; all you need to do is take the paddle, canister and lid and put them in the dishwasher or wash by hand. Most are that simple to clean.
- Check durability of the parts of the unit you are interested in. The paddle will get the brunt of the work, so having a flimsy plastic paddle will only frustrate the users. Be certain that the paddle and other key elements are made of sturdy, durable materials that will stand up to the use they will receive.
- Having a see-through lid enables children and others to watch the ice cream as it is mixed up. This is good for two reasons; the kids will love watching their ice cream take shape, and two you will know when it is done and can stop being mixed.
- Aluminum canisters are the best at transferring the cold of the ice to the ingredients much quicker which means the ice cream will form faster as well.
- What kind of storage capacity do you have to work with? Compressor devices are heavy so you will want to set them on the counter top and leave it there if at all possible since you won’t want to lug it back and forth from storage to counter whenever you want to make ice cream.
If you’ve decided on a classic style, you will want to make the ice cream outside since they can be very messy and salt and ice can splash out. The gel models are much lighter and smaller and can be stored easily. The one factor you need to remember is that the gel units require 24 hours of freezing before use, so make sure it will fit in your refrigerator.
Ice Cream Maker Features and Accessories
There are many great features and accessories that you can look for in an ice cream maker. Not all models have the same features, so be sure to look and see what the models you’re interested in have to offer.
Electric Timers and Auto Shut Off – these are great for when you start your ice cream maker and then need to go off and do other things. Even at a picnic, people get distracted. The models that have electric timers or auto shut off or both will sound an alert once when the ice cream is the right consistency. If it’s not in the same room you’re in or it’s outside and you’re not, you’ll still need to be aware of the time.
Special Lids – Some models have lids that have special enhancements such as openings where ingredients can be poured in,etc. Also make sure that you get one with a clean lid so you can keep an eye on the progress of the ice cream.
Extra Canisters – If you purchase a gel canister model, you may want to consider getting an extra canister. This allows you to make more than one flavor of ice cream at a time. Gel canisters have to be places in the freezer for 24 hours prior to making the ice cream so having the ability to make two flavors at once is much more efficient and convenient.
Container you can Freeze – Once the ice cream is made you will need to have a freezer safe container to store it in so it doesn’t melt. Some models come with them or offer them as additional accessories.
Ice Cream Scoops – This is an accessory that you will probably have to get in addition to your ice cream maker. Not all of them come with it, but if it does the description will tell you. They are great for scooping ice cream put of the freezer container and make the job much faster.
Recipe Books – Most models and styles of ice cream makers have a recipe book of some kind that comes with your purchase. This book is great for giving you new and interesting ideas of frozen desserts you can make.
How your Ice Cream Maker Works
Most ice cream makers have the same basic process when it comes to making ice cream. There will be a paddle or dasher of some kind that mixes all the ingredients on a constant basis, much like a mixer does with cake batter. While the paddle mixes the ingredients, the container will rotate due to the scraping going on, on the inside of the container. The exterior container has a gap where the cooling agent goes; generally salt or ice or both.
The function of the cooling agent is to force the ice cream maker’s ingredients to keep cold throughout the process. Air is mixed in to the ingredients, which contributes to the smooth creaminess of the ice cream. It normally takes anywhere from 20-45 minutes to make a batch of ice cream. After the ice cream is made, if you stick it in the freezer for a few hours, it’ll be the perfect consistency and ready to eat.
Tips for Making Great Tasting Ice Cream
Once you have your ice cream maker, there are some great tips that can help you make the most of it.
- Make sure the canister is sufficiently cold before getting started. If you have a gel canister, set it in the back of your freezer where it is coldest and let it sit for 24 hours.
- Before adding the ingredients, shake the container to make sure it doesn’t slosh. If it does, it will need to be chilled longer. You may find that you will need to lower the freezer temperature while the canister is in there to get it cold enough.
- Chill your ingredients. This will also help the ice cream freeze much faster since everything it comes in contact with will be cold. The optimum temps are from 38-40 degrees. Don’t remove the canister from the freezer until you are ready to dump the ingredients in.
- Add sugar to the ice cream to make it taste really good and sweet. Ice cream’s main ingredients have 9-12% milk solids and 10 % milk fat. If sweetener isn’t added, it may not taste as good as it will when you DO add sweetener of some kind.
- If you’re making homemade ice cream for a special dinner or party and making it is not part of the evening’s entertainment, make it the day before and allow it to harder in the freezer overnight at the very least. This improves the texture and the flavor too. Make sure to freeze the ice cream in shallow freezer containers. Cover it with plastic wrap before freezing so it doesn’t freeze too hard.
- Don’t overdo the sugar. Ice cream gains sweetness during the freezing process, so if you’re following a recipe (and this is a good idea) only add the amount specified in the recipe.
Cleaning your Ice Cream Maker Properly
It is important to clean your ice cream maker after every use. Not doing this can cause harmful bacteria to grow due to the dairy products that are used to make ice cream, not to mention the added ingredients. Any of these can cause problems if not cleaned away properly. You will need to read your ice cream maker’s instruction manual to ensure that it doesn’t have special directions that you need to follow when it comes to cleaning. Make sure you don’t leave out any steps and try to take short cuts when you’re cleaning.
- Referring to the instruction manual, take the ice cream maker apart as much as you are supposed to. Pay attention to how the parts go together so you can put it back together properly. Any parts that you remove can be set aside until you are ready to wash them separately.
- Take off the handles and any other parts that came into contact with users’ hands. These will all need to be cleaned as well. Opening the freezer compartment of your ice cream maker, drain any used ice cream mix from it, scraping any that doesn’t pour out and any that is sticking to the blades.
- Now it’s time to flush your ice cream maker thoroughly with cold water running through the inner chambers until the water that runs out is clear. This will take the longest. Once the water is running clear, run plain hot water through the compartments.
- Wash everything with anti-bacterial dish soap and extremely hot water. You will need to pour this hot soapy water into the freezing chamber of the ice cream maker. If your ice cream maker comes with a wash setting, run this now. If it doesn’t, use a regular kitchen scrub brush with a handle to get all of the inner moving parts clean. Once that is done, drain the machine of all the soapy water and flush it thoroughly with clean hot water until all traces of soap are gone.
- Take all the parts that you removed from the ice cream maker and put them in hot soapy water until they are completely covered. They will need to stay in the hot soapy water for at least 30 minutes before you scrub them clean. Drain the water and refill with clean hot water and 1-2 tablespoons of bleach. Put all of the freshly cleaned removable parts in this bleach water until the water cools. This will kill any bacteria that could be present. Rinse the parts once last time and set them on towels to air dry before putting everything back together.
- Once everything is dry, put latex gloves on or wash your hands thoroughly and reassemble the ice cream maker parts the correct way. You can use the instruction manual to accomplish this properly. Once it as back together it can be put back on the counter or stored away until you are ready to use it again.
Ice cream us as popular now as it was decades ago and the purchase of ice cream makers for home use has grown over the years. This buyers guide gives you the information you need to know about types of ice cream makers, what to look for, additional features and accessories and much more. After reading this, you will be ready to find the one that will work for your family’s needs and preferences and be ready to make tons of delicious ice cream all year long. BBQs will never be the same once you get your ice cream maker!
- Cuisinart – http://www.cuisinart.com/
- Maxi- Matic – http://www.maxi-matic.com/
- Nostalgia – http://nostalgiaelectrics.com/