Cool down in the kitchen with these scrumptious ice cream makers
It’s not hard to find delicious ice cream in the supermarket nowadays, but often it’s the same old flavours and there’s always something not quite right about them. The very best ice cream maker can change all that, though, helping you to create that perfect ice cream or sorbet flavour that you’ve been craving for so long. Using a machine to concoct your own sweet treat not only means you’re able to fancify the flavours to your liking, but you can also make great vegan, low-calorie and additive-free ice cream as well.
Better still, many ice cream makers allow you to do so much more than simply make ice cream. There are options to create ice drinks, frozen yoghurt, sorbet and more.
We love a good bowl of homemade ice cream, and using an ice cream machine to whip up your favourite flavours just makes life that little bit easier. If you’ve never used or bought an ice cream maker before, we’ll show you what to look out for in a machine in our guide below, including the types of machine available and the pros and cons of buying an ice cream maker.
Already have an idea of what you’re looking for? Read on to see our roundup of the best ice cream makers we’ve tried and tested.
Best ice cream makers: At a glance
- Best ice cream maker for kids: American Originals Ice Cream Maker | £24
- Best easy-to-use ice cream maker: Ninja Creami Ice Cream Maker | £200
- Best gelato maker: Cuisinart Gelato and Ice Cream Maker | £300
- Best budget ice cream maker: Judge Ice Cream Maker | £59
- Best professional ice cream maker: Sage Smart Scoop | £349
How to choose the best ice cream maker for you
What types of ice cream makers are there?
There are two main types of ice-cream makers. The first are manual machines that come with a freezer bowl and must be pre-frozen before you start. These types also have a paddle and motor unit, which must be attached before adding your ingredients. The second are fully automatic machines, which have a handy in-built freezer that cools the bowl to the optimum temperature in just a few minutes.
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What are the pros and cons of each type of ice cream machine?
Manual machines are both cheaper and smaller, some no bigger than a kettle. The need to pre-freeze the bowl means you need to be organised and have enough space in your freezer to store the bowl. You also won’t be able to make large quantities in one go, as you’ll need to re-freeze the bowl between batches, although some machines do come with the option to buy additional bowls. Nonetheless, if you’re only planning on making ice cream occasionally for one to two people, manual machines are still a viable option.
Fully automatic machines enable you to start making ice cream almost immediately as the container needs to be switched on for only a few minutes before your mixture can be added. These machines often have extra features – including different settings for preferred texture – but they can be heavy and bulky, and most will set you back over £200.
How much ice cream will my machine make?
You can expect a manual machine to make around 0.8 litres of ice cream, while fully automatic ones tend to make up to 1.5 litres. But check the machine’s exact specifications to be sure. If it doesn’t tell you, it’s worth checking customer reviews. You shouldn’t gauge the quantity by the size of the bowl, though, as this doesn’t account for the room that the paddle takes up.
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The best ice cream makers to buy in 2024
1. Judge Ice Cream Maker: Best budget ice cream maker
Price when reviewed: £55 | Check price at WayfairOnce you’ve found room in your freezer to pre-freeze the bowl for eight hours, you’ll be ready to experiment with flavours ranging from rum and raisin ice cream to mango sorbet, thanks to the handy funnel. It’s not quite as quick as the Andrew James machine and even when the ice cream is made, you might want to harden it up in the freezer before serving. But we like the fully automatic one-touch operation, the clear markings and the fact that the mixture isn’t prone to separating – and you don’t get annoying crystals of water forming on the top, as you do with many machines. It’s robust, too, so should last you many summers.
Key specs – Built-in freezer: No; Size of bowl: 1.5l; Accessories: Ice-cream paddle; Dimensions (WDH): 19 x 23 x 22cm; Warranty: 2 yrs
2. Ninja Creami: The best easy-to-use ice cream maker
Price when reviewed: £200 | Check price at Ninja
For tasty ice cream, gelato, smoothie bowls and milkshakes in a flash, you can’t get much better than the Ninja Creami. This multi-functional ice cream maker flips the classic churning process on its head, by getting you to pre-freeze your mixture for 24 hours before churning. Once frozen, ice cream only takes two and a half minutes to churn, rather than the 25 to 30 minutes plus 24 hours pre-freeze time you’d expect from traditional style makers.
Not only is it quick, it’s simple to use – even for beginners. There’s an extensive recipe booklet included in the box to get you started, though you can create your own recipes once you’ve got the knack. In testing, the Creami produced excellent dairy ice cream, milkshakes and gelato, as well as super-smooth, dairy-free stuff. It does take a few attempts to get the ice cream just right – factors such as the brand of milk used, as well as the ripeness and size of fresh fruit can all alter the taste and texture. If you’re willing to persevere, though, you’ll see some fantastic results.
While this ice cream maker is on the expensive side, it’s ease of use and speedy churning times make it well worth the price, especially if you’re serious about making your own, all-natural ice cream. The Creami comes with three one pint tubs as standard, which is plenty, but if you’re a big family that likes to keep a lot of ice cream at the ready, you can also buy additional tubs from the Ninja website.
Read our full Ninja Creami review for more details
Key specs – Built-in freezer: No; Size of bowl: N/A; Accessories: 3x 1 pint tubs; Dimensions: 16.5 x 27 x 40.5cm (WDH); Warranty: 1yr
3. American Originals Ice Cream Maker: The best ice cream maker for kids
Price when reviewed: £24 | Check price at AmazonThis dinky little ice cream maker is ideal for young children because it makes just a small amount of ice cream at a time. It’s also great for any adults that want a quick treat without having to store excess ice cream in their freezer. Simply place the bowl in your freezer for a minimum of 12 hours and it’s cold enough to start churning. Add your ingredients, pop on the lid and you’ll have ice cream in around 45 minutes.
Inside the box, you get a selection of recipes to try, but we made a classic choc chip and a vanilla ice cream. The lid struggled a bit with the chocolate chips and kept moving around, but it worked perfectly when blending the smoother vanilla. It’s certainly not perfect, but at this price it’s an easy, fun and relatively quick way to make ice cream without taking up too much kitchen space.
Key specs – Built-in freezer: No; Size of bowl: 0.6l; Accessories: None; Dimensions (WxDia): 16.2 x 9.75cm; Warranty: 1 yr
4. Cuisinart Gelato and Ice Cream Maker: The best gelato maker
Price when reviweed: £300 | Check price at Amazon
Close your eyes and imagine you’re in Italy. It shouldn’t be too hard with this machine, which comes with a special gelato paddle to help incorporate air into your cold culinary delights. Meanwhile, for the richer, denser texture of ice cream, you can just swap paddles and still get excellent results.
Either way, you can get your finished product in under 45 minutes, and we found it the easiest to use of the fully automatic machines that we tried, thanks to clear instructions and easy-to-follow (and delicious) recipes (although don’t be tempted to rush them). Icy drinks and frozen yoghurt do well, too, and the high-end metallic finish gives a professional look. But it’s big (about the same size as a large slow cooker), cumbersome and loud.
Key specs – Built-in freezer: Yes; Size of bowl: 1.5l; Accessories: Ice-cream paddle; Dimensions: 29 x 56 x 23cm; Warranty: 5 yrs
5. Sage Smart Scoop: The best professional ice cream maker
Price when reviewed: £370 | Check price at John LewisThere seems to be no end to the bells and whistles on this clever machine – 12 hardness settings, four pre-set programmes, a manual mode, a flashing light when it’s time to add mix-ins (such as raisins or chocolate chips) and an automatic hardness sensor. Plus, our favourite feature of all: an ice cream van jingle when it’s ready. If it’s not quite time for pud, simply use the keep-cool function, which keeps it at the required texture for up to three hours. The result of all this attention to detail is that you get professional results for ice cream, sorbet, gelato or frozen yoghurt, as well as having some fun on the way.
The instruction booklet has 16 great recipes and some top tips from Heston Blumenthal, although it would be nice if the parts were dishwasher-friendly, and the ice cream isn’t the easiest to remove from the machine. The bowl could be bigger, too, while the machine itself is huge.
Key specs – Built-in freezer: Yes; Size of bowl: 1l; Accessories: Ice-cream paddle, cleaning brush, spatula; Dimensions (WDH): 26 x 39 x 23cm; Warranty: 2 yrs
6. Cuisinart Style Collection Ice Cream and Dessert Maker: The best for frozen fruit
Price when reviewed: £139 | Check price at AmazonThe Cuisinart Style Collection is more than your average ice cream maker. It has a paddle specifically designed for blending down fruit and other soft ingredients as they freeze, resulting in luxuriously smooth and refreshing sorbet-style desserts.
You need to pre-freeze the bowl for at least six hours before use. And if you prefer your ice cream on the firmer side, we recommend putting it back in the freezer for approximately 30 minutes at the end. This might sound like a long time, but this process is par for the course for an ice cream maker in this price range.
Once the pre-freeze stage is complete though, it makes ice cream, sorbets, frozen yoghurt or indeed frozen fruit in as little as 25 minutes. What’s more, if you want to jazz up your ice cream with other ingredients such as chocolate chips or fruit pieces, these can be added mid-churn through the machine’s lid.
We’re big fans of the design, too. It comes in a lovely, soft pistachio colour and is fairly compact, so it won’t be an eyesore on your kitchen counter.
Key specs – Built-in freezer: No; Size of bowl: 1.4l; Accessories: Ice-cream paddle, frozen fruit paddle; Dimensions: 21 x 29 x 21cm; Warranty: 5yrs