Strawberry Sorbet
Credit: Victor Protasio

The Best Ice Cream Makers, According to Experts

The Cuisinart ICE-21P1 brings out the best in homemade frozen desserts.
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Ice cream is an essential year-round treat, but as the weather gets warmer, it becomes more of a basic necessity. While there are plenty of top-notch pints lining the freezers of even the most humble market these days, making ice cream from scratch is both easy and fun. A simple base becomes a blank canvas for creative experimentation, not to mention an impressive dessert for your next barbeque or dinner party. 

Whipping up ice cream and other frozen treats at home, your options and creativity are limitless, according to Krystle Swenson, pastry chef at The Green O in Montana. "I'd recommend looking for a model that fits best for your needs when it comes to price point, counter space, and frequency of use," she says. 

We asked 13 ice cream experts which machines they suggest for homemade ice cream. Some prefer frozen bowl machines (which require the bowl to be frozen for at least 12 hours before using it) and others named machines with built-in compressors that don't require pre-planning. We concluded that the Cuisinart ICE-21P1 is the best ice cream maker on the market thanks to its ease of use, great price, and delicious results. Read on for the top nine picks to help you churn out ice cream for sundaes and scoops like a pro. 

Our Top Picks

cuisinart ice 21p1 is the best ice cream maker
Credit: Amazon

Best Overall: Cuisinart ICE-21P1

View at Amazon ($70)

Pros: The lightweight machine is an inexpensive workhorse, has simple functionality, and comes in a rainbow of colors. 

Cons: The motor is pretty loud during the 20-minute churn.

Jeni's Ice Cream founder Jeni Britton's pick, the Cuisinart ICE-21P1, is the latest version of the machine she used to develop all the recipes in her James Beard Award-winning cookbook Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home. (Speaking of, consider the book an essential resource for novice and expert home ice cream makers alike.)

"You don't need an expensive, fancy ice cream machine to make great ice cream at home," says Britton. "I look for the less-expensive canister type. It freezes the ice cream faster." The lightweight machine makes mixing up batches of ice cream both easy and fast — in less than 20 minutes, thanks to the mixing paddle and double-insulated freezer bowl. 

The first time you use the machine, says Britton, freeze the canister in the coldest part of your freezer, that is, the spot that's the lowest and furthest back, for a full 24 hours. "If the canister is not cold enough, your ice cream won't freeze," she says. "Then, each time you make ice cream, immediately wash the canister, dry it, and stick it back in the freezer. If it warms to room temperature it needs another full 24 hours to refreeze."

  • Yield: 1.5 quarts
  • Dimensions: 9.5 x 9 x 11.25 inches
  • Weight: 10 pounds
  • Price at time of publish: $70
cuisinart cool creations ice cream maker
Credit: Amazon

Best Entry-Level Frozen Bowl: Cuisinart Cool Creations Ice Cream Maker

View at Amazon ($128)

Also available at Walmart.

Pros: The three-setting machine features multiple speeds and has a built-in measuring cup for easily adding ingredients, making it downright easy to whip up batches of ice cream quickly once the bowl is frozen.

Cons: Like all freezer bowl machines, this has to stay in the freezer for 24 hours before you can make a batch. So, it takes planning ahead.

When the pandemic prompted Ben & Jerry's team of Flavor Gurus to temporarily work remotely, they were given ice cream makers to test new flavors from their home kitchens. There are several solid ice cream maker options, according to team lead Chris Rivard, but Cuisinart's two-quart model came out ahead "when you factor in the quality, batch size, and cost," he says.

While the machines are not meant for professional long-term product development, they're perfect for easily whipping up different styles of ice cream and sorbet in less than 20 minutes. "Go with a trusted brand," says Rivard. "Cuisinart has been making these for many years." The Cool Creations features three different speed settings, plus a spout with a built-in measuring cup to add ingredients quickly and seamlessly. 

  • Yield: 2 quarts
  • Dimensions: 10.38 x 12.13 x 17 inches
  • Weight: 14 pounds
  • Price at time of publish: $128
lello musso lussino ice cream maker
Credit: Amazon

Best for Large Batches: Lello 4080 Musso Lussino

View at Amazon ($745)

Pros: This fully automatic machine makes a lot of ice cream: up to three quarts per hour. Adding mix-ins is easy and yields standout results.

Cons: It's expensive, and it may not be worth the cost for novice or once-in-a-while ice cream makers.

The Lello 4080 Musso Lussino ice cream maker helped Milk Jawn founder Amy Wilson go from whipping up batches in her home kitchen to launching a pop-up business in Philadelphia that led to a brick-and-mortar shop.

The Italian-made machine makes the finished product "incredibly smooth and creamy," Wilson says. "I also love that it has its own compressor. There's no need to plan ahead or buy multiple freezer inserts if you want to churn lots of flavors at one time."

Adrienne Borlongan, founder of Los Angeles-based Wanderlust Creamery, calls the sleek stainless steel maker the "Tesla of home ice cream machines" for its pro functionality and ability to make back-to-back batches without any downtime thanks to that compressor that operates like a commercial machine. "It's expensive, but it will last a lifetime," she says. 

Alec Jaffe, founder and CEO of Alec's Ice Cream, upgraded to the Lello when he started getting serious about ice cream making, noting he couldn't wait 12 hours to make one batch. "I had days where I made ice cream for 12 hours straight and it kept churning out perfectly creamy ice cream every single time," he says. "We still use this machine for the first stages of our [research and development] process today."

  • Yield: 1.5 quarts
  • Dimensions: 17.72 x 11.81 x 11.81 inches
  • Weight: 40 pounds
  • Price at time of publish: $745
breville smart scoop ice cream maker
Credit: Amazon

Best Overall Compressor Ice Cream Maker: Breville Smart Scoop

View at Amazon ($484)

Pros: Twelve settings allow for a full range of hard (or softer) ice cream. You can use it to make ice cream ahead of time and keep it frozen. It also comes with a cleaning brush. 

Cons: It's a pricier option. 

The Breville Smart Scoop's controls are easy to use for adjusting temperatures and textures, and it's a great model for experimenting with recipes, according to self-described ice cream nerds Robb Duncan and Violeta Edelman, who own Dolcezza in Washington, D.C. Its keep-cool setting allows ice cream to sit frozen in the barrel for three hours, allowing you to make a batch ahead of time to serve at that fancy dinner party at the proper temperature, according to Duncan and Edelman. 

The Breville's built-in compressor also eliminates the need to pre-freeze the bowl. "It freezes without drama or elaborate pre-planning," Edelman says. "Make sure all mix is as cold as possible before using, as it'll freeze faster. If your mix won't freeze hard enough, even at the firmest setting, you may need to reduce the sugar in the recipe," Duncan says.

  • Yield: 1.5 quarts
  • Dimensions: 15.75 x 11 x 11 inches
  • Weight: 30 pounds
  • Price at time of publish: $484
lello musso pola ice cream maker
Credit: Amazon

Lello Musso Pola 5030

View at Amazon ($1,200)

Pros: The made-in-Italy machine has a compressor that makes it simple to churn out up to six quarts of gelato or ice cream an hour, without any pre-freezing. 

Cons: Costing over $1,000 weighing in at nearly 70 pounds, it's a big investment for both your wallet and your countertop.

While the Lello Musso Pola 5030 price point is high, compared to other models, the investment may be worthwhile for a durable machine that produces such stellar ice cream, according to Swenson. "It doesn't require a bowl or a core to be frozen before use, so you can continually spin batches of ice cream back to back," she says of the machine, which also features a hefty refrigeration system (removing the need for pre-cooling a bowl before use), a stainless steel blade, and the ability to make six quarts of ice cream, sorbet, or gelato in an hour.

"I could see it being a great investment for anyone who has access to a lot of fresh produce, whether it be homegrown or a CSA subscription. These ice cream machines are a great way to use up an abundance of seasonal fruit by incorporating it into frozen treats," she says.

  • Yield: 2 quarts
  • Dimensions: 20 x 14 x 12.25 inches
  • Weight: 69.3 pounds
  • Price at time of publish: $1,200
cuisinart 2 quart ice cream maker
Credit: Amazon

Cuisinart Pure Indulgence Automatic Ice Cream Maker

View on Amazon ($95)

Also available at Walmart.

Pros: This sleek stainless steel machine makes it simple to make ice cream in a flash. The wide mouth also makes it simple to add in ingredients and mix-ins for perfect chocolate chip, cookies and cream, or cherry chunk recipes. 

Cons: Remember to pre-freeze the canister, which can take up to 24 hours. 

There are plenty of features that make Cuisinart's Pure Indulgence a solid home ice cream maker option — like its heavy-duty motor, generous two-quart capacity, and retractable cord for simple storage — but perhaps its best feature is the extra-large spout for easily adding ingredients.  "It gives you the opportunity to add chips, nuts, fruit, and so on when it is still spinning, without taking the ice cream out first," says Marko Krancher, executive pastry chef at The Rittenhouse in Philadelphia, who lists cappuccino chunk, strawberry, and Nutella as his favorite flavors to make with the machine. 

  • Yield: 2 quarts
  • Dimensions: 8.25 x 8 x 11.25 inches
  • Weight: 13.5 pounds
  • Price at time of publish: $95
ninja creami ice cream maker
Credit: Amazon

Ninja CREAMi

View on Amazon ($200)

Pros: Simple and kid-friendly, the Ninja CREAMi is lightweight and compact, saving countertop space. In addition to ice cream and sorbet, it turns frozen fruit into a quick treat.

Cons: As easy as the machine is to use, you have to freeze the canister for 24 hours prior to ice cream making. 

With Ninja's special "creamify technology," the CREAMi finely shaves and churns ice particles in a way that's unlike traditional home ice cream makers. Appealing to the market of home cooks who may think making ice cream is too difficult or time-consuming, this machine is "easy to handle," according to Victoria Montenegro, restaurant chef at The Ritz-Carlton Georgetown in Washington, D.C. "It's also great because it is easy to clean, and has space in the corner to add sprinkles or chocolate chips," she says. 

A roster of seven simple, one-touch programs range from ice cream and sorbet to milkshakes and smoothie bowls. Not to mention, it can make batches of cold, creamy desserts out of nothing more than frozen fruit, be it pineapple, bananas, or berries. 

  • Yield: 16 ounces
  • Dimensions: 6.52 x 12.07 x 15.95
  • Weight: 13 pounds
  • Price at time of publish: $200
cuisinart compressor ice cream maker
Credit: Amazon

Cuisinart ICE-100 Compressor

View on Amazon ($290)

Pros: Fully automatic with no bowl to pre-freeze, you can make ice cream anytime and quickly. It comes with two paddles: one for ice cream and one for gelato. 

Cons: The machine has a large footprint, and it's fairly noisy when churning. 

Another Cuisinart pick, the ICE-100 Compressor has a commercial-grade compressor that keeps the machine cold while it's churning. As a result, you skip the step of pre-freezing the bowl, which means "you don't have to take up space in your freezer with a giant bowl or plan ahead," says Georgia Wodder, executive pastry chef at the restaurants at 85 Tenth Avenue, including Mel's, Al Coro, and Discolo in New York City. Maria Arenas, the pastry chef at Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale, Arizona also likes the machine for its separate paddles for ice cream and gelato. 

  • Yield: 1.5 quarts
  • Dimensions: 16.73 x 12 x 9.33 inches
  • Weight: 27 pounds
  • Price at time of publish: $290
ktichenaid ice cream maker attachment
Credit: Amazon

Kitchenaid Ice Cream Maker Attachment

View at Amazon ($90)

Also available at Kitchenaid.

Pros: The saved counter space of making ice cream with a multi-use machine is a big draw. It's easy to clean, and has the capacity to make two quarts at a time — slightly more than most makers. 

Cons: The bowl requires pre-freezing, and with Kitchenaid models constantly updating, you have to make sure you're purchasing an attachment that will fit your machine. 

The Kitchenaid ice cream maker attachment comes with a freeze bowl and a dasher (the core of the ice cream freezer), and makes two quarts of ice cream or gelato in about 25 minutes. The best reason to go with this option, though, may be your kitchen storage. "The attachment bowl is amazing for those home bakers who already own a KitchenAid machine," says Saura Kline, pastry chef at Local Jones in Denver. "This attachment fits almost all KitchenAid models and does the same great job as any standalone machine, without taking up more space in your kitchen." There are several models available, so just be sure to choose the correct one for your machine. 

  • Yield: 2 quarts
  • Dimensions: 10.9 x 10.3 x 10.3 inches
  • Weight: 6 pounds
  • Price at time of publish: $90

Conclusion

For ice cream lovers, a home machine can be practical for whipping up relatively inexpensive, extra-fresh batches whenever the mood strikes. It's hard to beat our top pick, the Cuisinart ICE-21P1, for its low price and ability to make consistently excellent batches. For a machine that cuts out the 24-hour bowl pre-freeze, the Breville Smart Scoop's compressor-charged model is our pick. At nearly $500, it's an investment. But for serious ice cream makers, the 12 settings that allow for a wide array of ice cream consistencies makes it a winner. 

Factors to Consider

Settings

The less expensive machines on this list have one or two settings for churning and keeping the ice cream cold after making a batch, and that's enough for the needs of many home ice cream makers. If you're looking to tinker a little more, however, opt for a machine with more settings that can produce a wider range of styles and consistencies. 

Type of Machine

The two main types of ice cream makers we featured are freezer bowls and compressors. The former requires the bowl to sit in the freezer for up to 24 hours, while the latter employs a compressor that cools the ice cream while it's in the process of churning, so less forethought is required. Another machine category is the hand crank, which uses manual power to churn the ice cream.  

Batch Size

Most ice cream machines either have an output of 1.5 quarts or two quarts. (The Ninja is smaller, with a 16-ounce yield.) While the batch size is pretty consistent from model to model, consider how much the machine can consistently make. The Lello Musso Pola, for example, can churn out six quarts per hour with its powerful compressor. 

Machine Size

As an ice cream machine isn't necessarily a kitchen-must have for most home cooks, it's important to consider where it will live. Some machines are more compact, while others will take up a chunk of counter space. Those who need to save space should consider the Kitchenaid Ice Cream Maker attachment

The Research

We interviewed more than a dozen experts, including the founders of ice cream brands Jeni's, Dolcezza, Milk Jawn, and Alec's; pastry chefs from restaurants around the country; and a Flavor Guru from the iconic Ben & Jerry's. They told us which machines they loved using at home, and why. Factors they highlighted were ease of use, settings for tinkering with batches, freezer bowls versus compressors, and price point. 

Q+A

Q: How do you make ice cream? 

A: Start by blending the ingredients for the ice cream base. Depending on the recipe, it's usually a mix of milk, cream, sugar, and egg yolks. Before adding it to the machine, heat the mixture to pasteurize. If you're using a machine with a compressor, you can add the mixture directly to the maker. Otherwise, make sure to pre-freeze the bowl for between 12 and 24 hours. Follow the machine's instructions for when to add mix-ins. 

Q: How do you make vegan ice cream?

A: Vegan ice cream is made using plant-based milks like almond, coconut, and cashew. Belinda Wei, co-founder of Los Angeles-based vegan creamery Dear Bella prefers oat milk to make vibrant flavors like Mango Sticky Rice, Thick Mint, and Taiwanese Pineapple Cake. "Oat milk is a wonderful alternative milk to use when making vegan ice cream," she says. "It has a good amount of fat, protein, and a neutral flavor."

Q: How do ice cream makers work?

A: Ice cream makers work when paddles continuously turn inside a frozen canister, either automatically or manually using a hand-crank. As they move, the mixture slowly freezes against the walls of the canister. The constant movement aerates the ice cream base, which prevents ice crystals from forming and creating a smooth (crunch-free) finished product. 

Our Expertise

Regan Stephens is a Philadelphia-based writer and editor who has worked for nearly two decades in digital and print magazine production. She's worked on staff at People, Teen People, and Philadelphia magazines, and her writing has appeared in publications like Travel + Leisure, Fortune, and Conde Nast Traveler. She has contributed to Food & Wine for the last five years. For this piece, she spoke with the best in the ice cream business, including Jeni's founder Jeni Britton, Ben & Jerry's Flavor Guru Chris Rivard, Wanderlust Creamery founder Adrienne Borlongan, Dear Bella co-founder Belinda Wei, Dolcezza founders Robb Duncan and Violeta Edelman, Milk Jawn founder Amy Wilson, and Alec's Ice Cream founder Alec Jaffe, as well as pastry chefs Krystle Swenson, Marko Krancher, Victoria Montenegro, Georgia Wodder, and Saura Kline.