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Summer is upon us and that means barbecues and ice cream. So, if you're considering buying an ice cream maker, here's what you need to know.
There are three popular types of ice cream maker: frozen bowl, compressor and kitchen mixer attachment.
This is the less expensive type of ice cream maker. You can buy one from upwards of £20.
These machines feature a motorised paddle to churn the ice cream and a removable bowl.
As the name suggests, you’ll need to remove the bowl and freeze it overnight (for at least 12 hours) before you can use it to make ice cream. The ice cream ingredients must be churned in a frozen bowl.
This is a key part of the process, so if you're going to invest in this type of machine, make sure you have enough freezer space to accommodate it, at least for a day or so before you want to make ice cream. Many people keep their ice cream bowls stored in the freezer permanently.
Once your ice cream is churned, in most cases you’ll need to put it back in the freezer for a few hours to achieve a firmer consistency.
The price of the ice cream maker will partly depend on the volume of ice cream it can make, with smaller ice cream makers giving you the space to churn half a litre, larger ones about 2 litres. But remember, the more ice cream it can make, the more freezer space you’ll need to find for the bowl in your freezer.
This Judge 1.5 litre ice cream maker is a great budget option. You can buy it from Amazon in the UK for £24.99.
The more expensive ice cream makers, which typically start at about £100, have an inbuilt compressor to freeze the ice cream. This means you don’t have to pre-freeze the mixing bowl, so you don’t need to save freezer space. You will, however, need a fair amount of counter space as they tend to be larger than frozen bowl ice cream makers.
Compressor ice cream makers tend to take a bit longer on the churning front. They’ll need perhaps 90 minutes to make your ice cream, but when it’s done, it’s ready to eat. Some will keep it cool for you if you’re not ready to dig in immediately.
Some have different settings for soft and hard ice cream, and the priciest will give you separate setting for sorbet, gelato, frozen yoghurt and ice cream.
They may also feature additional functionality, such as a yoghurt-maker.
If you make ice cream regularly, it's probably worth investing in a self-contained ice cream maker of this kind. But if you’re going to go for it, we’d recommend being prepared to spend £200+ and getting something really good.
This 1.5 litre Cuisinart ice cream maker is one of the best out there but be warned: it’ll take up a lot of counter space (it's 23cm x 56cm x 29cm). You can buy it from AO.com for £249.
Kitchen mixer attachment
If you have a stand kitchen mixer, there’s a good chance you may be able to buy an ice cream maker attachment to go with it. The attachment essentially turns your stand mixer into a frozen bowl ice cream maker, so you’ll have to freeze the bowl beforehand, as you would with any ice cream maker that doesn’t have a compressor.
The advantage of getting it as an attachment is that you can get more use from your stand mixer and keep your single-use kitchen appliances to a minimum. However, the attachment alone is likely to be more expensive than a decent-quality frozen bowl ice cream maker.
Smeg and Kitchenaid both make them.
You can buy the Smeg attachment from AO.com for £99. Bear in mind that it’s only compatible with the Smeg mixer with stainless steel bowl.
The KitchenAid attachment is available from Argos for £74.99.
Other accessories for ice cream making
You'll need a silicon scraper or wooden spoon as you shouldn't use metal utensils to take the ice cream out of the frozen bowl.
If you're planning to make several batches of ice cream, you may also want to buy cardboard tubs to store your ice cream. You can buy a set of 50 from Amazon in the UK for £12.89.
What else to consider when buying
When buying, apart from price, you should also consider:
- your available counter space – some ice cream makers with an inbuilt compressor can be large and bulky. This also means they can be heavy and difficult to drag out from the cupboard
- your available freezer space – frozen bowl ice cream makers and kitchen mixer attachments need to go in the freezer before use, for at least 12 hours
- noise – ice cream makers will need to churn for somewhere between 20 and 40 minutes, so look out for quieter machines
- is it easy to clean? Some ice cream maker parts, such as the paddle and bowl, are dishwasher-safe