Ice-cream maker reviews: FAQs
What is the perfect ice cream?
When we conducted a taste test of shop-bought ice cream, our experts told us that a great ice cream should:
- Look good. A good appearance being the appropriate colour for the flavour, and any bits (such as nuts and pieces of fruit) should be evenly distributed.
- Feel good. With a smooth, not crumbly, texture that has no ice crystals.
- Taste good. Have a natural, identifiable but not overpowering flavour. It shouldn’t be too sweet and should have a pleasant after taste.
Is it cheaper to use an ice cream maker than buying ready-made?
This depends on what ice cream you buy and how often you make ice cream. If you buy premium ice cream in tubs, paying over £3.50 for 500mls it's possible to make ice cream cheaper in an ice cream maker - depending on recipes and the ingredients you buy.
Making vanilla ice cream using organic ingredients in a Best Buy ice cream maker costs between £2.06 - £2.50 for 500mls. That works out, on average, to be £1.76 cheaper than buying a branded version (based on a cost of £4.10 for 500ml).
But making ice cream at home is not about saving money, it’s about breaking free of the limited range of flavours that are commercially viable for the big manufacturers.
Ditch mundane soft scoop and let your imagination run free.
How long does it take to make ice cream in a machine?
We made two different recipes – rum and raisin with alcohol and a summer fruits one using a custard base and fruit coulis.
It took around 25 to 40 minutes for most ice cream makers to freeze the mixture enough to stop the paddle turning. The rum and raisin was generally slightly quicker than the creamier fruit coulis flavour.
We then left our ice cream for between two and a half to five hours to stiffen up in the freezer. Some machines produce a soft mix, this tends to take longer to get firm enough to serve.
In theory, you can eat the ice cream straight from the bowl, but it will be fairly soft and melt rapidly.
Overall, this time frame is similar to making it by hand. But the advantage of an ice cream maker is the motorised paddle takes all the hard work out of mixing the ice cream and does it more consistently than by hand.
Do you have any tips for making ice cream at home?
- Always store ice cream in the centre of the freezer where the temperature is most constant.
- Its fresh ingredients and lack of preservatives mean that home-made ice cream should be eaten within a week.
- Before serving, leave at room temperature for 15 minutes or in the fridge for 30 minutes to let flavours develop.
- Alcohol doesn’t freeze well at normal freezer temperatures, so don’t be tempted to use too much.
- Never refreeze ice cream: you run the risk of food poisoning, and the texture will deteriorate.
Why does the lid of my ice-cream maker keep coming off?
This is quite a common problem with designs where the paddle and motor assembly are part of the lid and attached to the freezing bowl with a bayonet action (like a bayonet light bulb, which you fit by sliding its prongs into an L-shaped housing).
Ice cream gets stiffer as it freezes. If the paddle gets stuck, either in the stiff mix or on a chunky ingredient, the paddle reverses direction to free itself.
When this happens repeatedly, it causes the lid to unscrew from the base.
It's best to keep an eye on your ice cream maker as it's freezing. If your paddle gets stuck, either try to scrape the blocking ice cream out of the way, leave the bowl to warm up a bit or avoid adding chunky ingredients until the end of freezing.
Why does my paddle keep getting stuck?
There are several possible reasons for this.
Firstly, if you have a pre-frozen bowl, you might be letting the bowl get too cold. The mix freezes by contact with the frozen bowl's surface. If the mixture freezes too rapidly to the surface of the bowl, it makes it hard for the paddle to cut through it and turn.
Try to add your mixture to the middle, not the sides, of the bowl.
Secondly, the paddle might be getting caught on chunky ingredients in your mixture. Check what size chunks the instructions say to use and when you should add them.
Finally, your ice cream might just be ready sooner than you expect.
Why isn’t my freezer bowl freezing my ice cream?
It could be a combination of reasons:
- The bowl wasn’t in the freezer long enough
- Your freezer isn’t cold enough, it needs to be -18 degrees to set
- You put too much mixture in the bowl
- The ingredients are too warm
- The bowl wasn’t kept in an upright position and all the frozen liquid inside is unevenly distributed.
Can you taste the difference if you use lower-fat ingredients?
The quick answer to the question is yes, but this depends if you are comparing ice cream with different fat levels or if you simply serve one recipe.
We carried out a taste test using exactly the same recipe for luxury chocolate ice cream, made with extremely high cocoa solid chocolate, cream, eggs, sugar and milk. The only difference between the recipes was the type of cream and milk that we used – there was a 24% difference in the amount of calories between the lardiest and the lightest recipe.
The highest contained whipping cream and full cream milk, adding up to 1,749 calories per batch. The lightest used single cream and skimmed milk and contained 1,329 calories.
We asked a rather willing gang of more than 30 Which? researchers to name their most and least preferred of our four recipes.
Unsurprisingly, the highest calorie load was the big winner; 47% of people who tried it preferred it.
But there was less difference between the high calorie and lower calorie versions when people were asked to name their least favourite; 43% of people named the higher calorie versions as their least preferred.
We think you can shave some calories out of ice cream without creating an absolute abomination. We also got the distinct impression that if you had only been given the lower fat versions of these ice creams at a dinner party, your guests would not have upped sticks in disgust.
I’ve seen an ice-cream-making gadget that you fill with salt and ice then roll around until it’s frozen. Does it work?
We experimented with a £25 ice cream ball and found the experience underwhelming.
Although you can make ice cream with it, the big problem is getting your hands on enough ice to complete the freezing process.
It might keep the kids occupied for an afternoon, but for real ice cream fans we’ve got a Best Buy that’s the same price.
My sorbet is too tart, what’s going wrong?
The freezing process reduces the sweetness of fruit.
Test the ripeness and sweetness of any fruit before you begin and add some sugar to the recipe if it tastes a bit tart to begin with.
Do I have to wait for my freezer bowl to return to room temperature before I wash it?
Check your instructions, as they vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.
Returning the freezer bowl to room temperature means it isn’t exposed to extreme changes in temperature – which reduces the risk of damaging it.
The freezer bowl is a sealed unit and you risk damaging it if you heat it up too much by washing it in hot water or a dishwasher.
Our Favourite recipes
Vanilla ice cream - makes around 568 - 750mls
4 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
300ml semi-skimmed milk
300ml double cream
2tsp vanilla essence
Place the egg yolks and caster sugar into a bowl and beat together
Heat the milk in a saucepan on the hob gently until it starts to boil. Remove from the hob.
Pour the milk over the egg and sugar mixture and beat together.
Return the mixture to the saucepan, place on a gentle heat and stir constantly until the mixture thickens and forms a film over the back of the spoon.
Do not let the mixture boil otherwise it will separate
Remove the pan from the heat and let the mixture cool
When cool, stir in the cream and vanilla flavouring, transfer it to a jug and chill in the fridge
When ready, turn the ice cream maker on and pour the mixture in through the dosing hole and allow to churn until desired consistency is reached.
Transfer to a plastic tub and freeze until firm
Mint choc chip ice cream - around 568 - 750mls
Follow the same recipe as vanilla above, but replace vanilla extract for peppermint flavouring and add 100g of dark chocolate chips, through the dosing hole, just as the ice cream looks like it's starting to thicken.
Lemon sorbet - makes 500ml
290g caster sugar
435 ml hot water
Zest 5 washed lemons and juice all six
Put the sugar and hot water into a bowl, stir until dissolved and add the lemon zest. Leave it to soak for 10 minutes
Add the lemon juice and then leave to cool. Chill in the fridge once cool
Once chilled, turn the ice cream maker on and pour through the dosing hole
Churn until desired consistency is reached, remove and transfer to a plastic tub for freezing until firm
Berry frozen yoghurt - makes around 700mls - 1 litre
440ml low fat vanilla yoghurt
225g mixed berries, pureed and with seeds removed
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Whisk the sugar and milk together until the sugar has dissolved.
Stir in the yoghurt, berry puree and vanilla extract. Cover and chill in the fridge
Turn the ice cream maker on, pour the mixture through the dosing hole and churn until desired consistency is reached
For a firmer yoghurt, transfer to a tub and freeze until firm