Ever since ice cream was invented, people have been trying to figure out better and easier ways to make it. The invention of the ice cream maker meant that people no longer had to gather and store snow and ice in order to enjoy the treat.
Hand cranked ice cream makers meant that you could enjoy the treat any time of year, all you needed was some ice, salt, and cream. Home ice cream makers led to the growth of ice cream and its increased popularity. Over the years ice cream makers have evolved from the original hand cranked version into self-powered machines. Chefs have a wide variety of options for how they can make ice cream including the use of dry ice and liquid nitrogen. If you are serious about making ice cream at home, we strongly recommend the Breville Smart Scoop or, if you are not ready to make the investment, simply use dry ice to make ice cream.
What to Look for in an Ice Cream Maker
When purchasing an ice cream maker here are some important factors to consider:
Strong Paddle - When looking for an ice cream maker you want to make sure the paddle is strong and won’t break during use.
Strong Motor - As ice cream begins to freeze it becomes harder to stir. Therefore it is important that your ice cream maker has a strong motor so that it does not burn out during the ice cream making process.
Consistent Freezing Temperature - Since the point of an ice cream maker is to freeze your ice cream, it is important that the model you choose has a consistent freezing temperature. This means not only does it get cold enough to freeze ice cream, but it stays that temperature throughout the ice cream making process.
Easy to Clean - Everyone hates clean up. And nothing will keep you from using your new shiny ice cream maker faster than is being difficult to clean. Make sure you consider the ease of cleaning when you are purchasing an ice cream maker. One important thing to look for is whether or not the bowl can be removed. This will make cleaning much easier and save you a lot of hassle in the long run.
Easy to Store - Another important thing to consider when selecting an ice cream maker is whether or not it will be easy to store. Now this may not seem that important, but if you get it home and can’t find anywhere to put it, well you might be regretting your purchase. Make sure you consider the size of your kitchen and shape of your storage space before making your purchase and save yourself a headache.
Texture – It’s also important to be sure the ice cream maker consistently adds air to the ice cream in order to get the desired cream ice cream texture.
Types of Traditional Ice Cream Makers
Traditional ice cream makers use the same basic design to churn a cream mixture and slowly turn it into ice cream. Traditional ice cream makers vary in the level of automation and the cost. The more automated, the bigger and more expensive they become. Check out some types of traditional ice cream makers here:
Hand crank ice cream makers are called this because the operator uses a hand-cranked mechanism to turn the paddle. These machines usually consist of an outer bowl, small inner bowl, hand crank and a paddle.
The ice cream maker freezes the ice cream by putting a mixture of salt and ice in the outer bowl. The ice cream mixture is then put in the smaller inner bowl. When the ice cream maker is turned the salt and ice absorbs the heat from the ice cream maker, causing it to freeze. I good hand crank ice cream maker costs around $200.
Pro – No working motor mean there is nothing to break or repair, so there is little cost of owning one of these machines and you can expect them to last a while. Who knows you might even be using your grandmothers! They also produce consistently delicious creamy ice cream!
Con – The downside of this type of ice cream maker is that it require manual effort in order to work. Just as your grandmother did in the past, you will have to sit and crank the ice cream maker. While some people may find this type of nostalgia appealing, others may not enjoy having to sit and make the ice cream in this fashion.
The Science of Making Ice Cream with Rock Salt
With the modernization of kitchen appliances, the everyday cook and chefs alike can buy an ice cream making machine. But, originally, ice cream was made using rock salt. Here we’ll discuss a bit about how that process works.
When salt and ice are mixed, it creates extremely cold water as the ice causes the ice to melt but retain its temperature. When using salt and ice, the water created by the salt and ice is colder than the ice cream base thereby cause the ice cream to freeze. Basically only a little water melts before some of the dissolved salt lowers its freezing point. When the ice starts to melt, it can absorb the heat from the water but the water will not freeze.
These are the most common types of ice cream makers on the market today. They are also one of the most affordable, with basic prices ranging from $20-$100.
Pro – This type of ice cream maker has the great benefit of being completely automatic. After you put the frozen bowl in the machine and add the ice cream mixture, the ice cream maker does all the work. While this may not give the same feeling of accomplishment that hand churning your ice cream does, it certainly is a lot less labor intensive.
Con – The downside of this type of ice cream maker is that you need to plan ahead. Since the bowl has to be placed in the freezer, sometimes as much as 24 hours in advance, it is unlikely that there will be any impromptu ice cream parties in your house. One work around for this is to just keep the bowl in the freezer all the time. Unfortunately if you don’t have a second freezer this take up valuable freezer space.
Kitchen Aid Attachment
Another option for making ice cream at home is to purchase the ice cream attachment for your KitchenAid mixer which is also a Pre-Freeze Bowl.
Pro – If you already have a KitchenAid mixer there is no need to buy an additional machine.
Con – You have to already own a KitchenAid mixer.
These ice cream makers are pricey but have the added bonus of eliminating the need to plan ahead. It also allows you to do multiple batches of ice cream right after each one which is great for experimenting different recipes on when you are planning a large party. Self-refrigerating ice cream makers have built in compressors that does the freezing for you. This provides a consistent temperature during the freezing process. It also provides a convenience and saves freezer space.
We have the Breville Smart Scoop and it works great! It not only creates incredibly smooth ice cream thanks to its powerful compressor but it also automatically senses the hardness of the mixture based on your selection (12 hardness settings; sorbet, frozen yogurt, gelato, and ice cream) and keeps it ready until it's time to serve.
Pros – You can make ice cream anytime you want with no planning required! They also produce a consistently good product time after time.
Cons – These machines can be pricey, and are generally significantly more expensive than their pre-freeze counterparts. Also, since they have the freezing unit built in they are much bulkier and more difficult to store.
Unlike consumer level machines, professional grade ice cream makers contain their own freezing unit. This mean that you do not need to take the bowl out and freeze it ahead of time. This provides instant convenience as well as consistent temperature during entire process. Professional ice cream makers have a blast chiller for their freezing component, which means they freeze ice cream in minutes.
Pro – Makes ice cream in minutes. Their high freezing power will minimize ice crystal formation and produce a smooth and creamy ice cream.
Con – Expensive and large. They could cost around $10,000.
Types of Modern Ice Cream Makers
Unlike traditional ice cream makers, modern ones think outside of the box when it comes to ways to create the cold creamy treats we love. Some use improved technology, while others use chemistry to create whimsical and delicious ice cream treats.
The Pacojet breaks the mold when it comes to ice cream makers. Unlike traditional ice cream makers, with the Pacojet you put the ice cream mixture into the machine already frozen in the beaker they provide. The beaker is then attached to the machine, where razor sharp blades shave the frozen mixture. The machine can be used to precision-spin any type of food into a creamy consistency. It is basically a powerful grinder that transforms a block of frozen food into a fine powder that is so fine that it feels creamy, even when there is not cream in it!
Pro – The Pacojet is very fast, creating an individual portion in about 20 seconds. It is also great for anyone who wants to make “out of the box” ice creams. Any food substance can be put into the Pacojet, including different types of meat, fish, fruits and vegetables. It doesn't matter if large ice crystals form during freezing because the Pacojet will grind them into small ones.
Con – Very expensive, around $5000. Produces small batches and it requires to completely freeze the ice cream base before making the ice cream so it is not efficient for a large busy restaurant or ice cream parlor.
Dry Ice Ice Cream
This modern technique for making ice cream includes the use of dry ice. This is the best method to obtain high quality ice cream at home without investing in a professional machine. Dry ice has a very low temperature of -109.3 degrees Fahrenheit (-78.5 degrees C). This style of making ice cream does not require a special kitchen tool, but rather can be made in stand mixer. Blend the dry ice with the blender or food processor, to turn it into dust. Then combine the dry ice powder with the ice cream mixture in a stand mixer and stir until the ice cream freezes. Incorporate one spoon of dry ice at a time.
Pro – No special ice cream maker required. It’s much faster and instantly creamy. Inexpensive.
Con – Working with dry ice can be tricky if not done properly. Dry ice may also be difficult to purchase in some areas. You'll have to go out and purchase dry ice right before making the ice cream since you can't store it for more than a few hours. Consuming dry ice is dangerous so you need to make sure it sublimates completely before consuming it but storing it overnight in the freezer will ensure all dry ice is gone.
Learn how to make Perfect Ice Cream with Dry Ice
Nitro Ice Cream
Making ice cream with liquid nitrogen has become trendy in recent years. Liquid Nitrogen has even lower temperatures than dry ice, −196 °C ( −321 °F). It has grown in popularity partly because it allows you to make a batch of ice cream in 5 minutes without having to use expensive and bulky ice cream makers. In addition to its speed, liquid nitrogen also produces a wow factor that is sure to please restaurant goers and audiences alike.
Liquid nitrogen is a colorless, liquid that occurs when the temperature of nitrogen is lowered to an extremely low temperature. Due to its composition, liquid nitrogen causes rapid freezing when it makes contact with other items, specifically “living” tissue. Many chefs use liquid nitrogen to prepare ice cream and other frozen desserts. It was first introduced into the culinary world in 1980 in a cookbook titled Fancy Ices by Mrs. Agnes Marshall.
Liquid nitrogen ice cream, often called instant ice cream, is made by combining liquid nitrogen directly with the ice cream ingredients such as milk and cream as well as other ingredients like mashed fruit or chocolate syrup for flavoring. When making liquid nitrogen ice cream, it’s important to always wear gloves and glasses as well as never touch the nitrogen when in a liquid state. Because nitrogen boils at such a low temperature, it will completely boil off after the instant freeze reaction and leave you with delicious, instantly frozen ice cream.
You can also use liquid nitrogen to freeze a dollop of ice cream foam so it has an outside crust with creamy inside. Or you can freeze ice cream until it becomes brittle and then smash it to break it in chunks for a new presentation.
Pro – Makes ice cream fast! Does not require an ice cream maker. It maintains its creaminess because of the smaller ice crystal formation.
Con – Liquid nitrogen can be hard to find and may be dangerous if not handled properly.
Making Ice Cream with Liquid Nitrogen
Throughout this class, we’ve frequently mentioned ice crystals and air. The faster you freeze the ice cream base, the smaller the ice crystals that are formed. Using liquid nitrogen to make ice cream will instantly freeze the ice cream. The process of instant free prevent the production of ice crystals. Because of the extremely low temperature, liquid nitrogen is ideal for sorbets and gelato that contain liqueur that have a low freezing point.