10 Best Ice Cream Makers | March 2017
- budget-friendly price
- comes with a recipe booklet
- must pre-freeze the bowl
- can add ingredients while mixing
- touchpad control panel
- quieter than many other models
- comes with an ice cream scoop
- churn blade is bpa-free
- auto stops if cream is over-frozen
- three-hour keep cool setting
- automatic and manual modes
- child safety lock
- bright blue digital lcd
- commercial-grade compressor
- bowl is removable for easy cleaning
- dedicated buttons for each dessert
- integrated cord storage
- works with a variety of milk types
- can make a variety of frozen treats
- all stainless steel design
- easy two-button operation
A History of the Ice Cream Socio-Economic Revolution
When I was growing up, the jingle of the ice cream truck was exciting, and equally creepy.
Maybe I was born too late for 1950s nostalgia, maybe it was the truck's rust and peeling paint, or it was the hung-over look of the driver.
Possibly, also, I sensed that this uber-processed "ice cream product" was not the best thing for my growing young body. Wait, that's a lie, seeing as our pantry was always stocked with Gushers, Fruit Roll-Ups, and Dunkaroos.
Let's stay on point though; leaving aside a small cadre of wild-eyed hobbyists, most ice cream hasn't been home-made for quite a while.
The history of ice cream has always been about economics and class. Back when Roman Emperor Nero ordered his servants to retrieve straw-wrapped bundles of snow from the mountains and mix it with fruit and honey, he was continuing a royal tradition. Even today, kids all over the world are still into Snow Shakes.
Before Nero, monarchs from Japan, Turkey, India, and Arabia were also known to make icy syrup deserts for their royal banquets. If we've sparked your interest, check out this in-depth history.
For most of human history, ice cream has been a delicacy reserved for the elite. Who else could obtain and preserve such an ephemeral commodity long enough to serve and enjoy it?
Fast-forward to the ice industrial revolution: By the early part of the 19th century, ice was available for delivery at affordable prices in many parts of the world. Ice cream became de rigueur at the garden parties of the well-to-do, consumed from porcelain cups with tiny silver spoons; of course, it was still not exactly a pleasure for the commonfolk.
The was until the immigrants arrived in America! Insert our highest gratitude for Italians here.
As these jobless migrants landed in the land of opportunity, they used their culinary prowess from their homeland to show Americans good food: the most important here being ice cream.
The immigrants began an ice cream revolution for the masses, on cheap wooden wagons with large metal cranks rumbling down New York's cobblestone roads.
By the 1860's, there were thousands of wagons with thousands of folk lining up for this delicacy: rich and poor alike. Finally, the great ethnic and economic diversity that was (and is) America could come together in a common indulgence, or, as Ralph Waldo Emerson saw it, in materialistic gluttony.
Fast forward a couple of centuries, and the days of immigrants making ice cream in wooden wagons are long over. Now we're left with the bad choice, between mass-produced products of questionable nutritional viability, and the 100% organic, gluten-free, cruelty-free, locally-sourced, fair-traded boutique, ice cream of the fashionable downtown and hipster districts.
The time has come to reclaim our ice cream history, to make ice cream on our own terms again. Crankers of the world, unite!
The Ins and Outs of Ice Cream Makers
Ice cream makers work much like cement trucks: they constantly stir the mixture to prevent it from hardening solid. In the case of ice cream makers, they're in constant motion to prevent unwanted ice crystal formations.
How exactly does an ice cream maker work? Though much has evolved from the hand-cranked bucket of the late 19th century, it still relies on the same essentials: ice, cream, and circular motion.
The mixture has to remain cool during the "cooling process", and has to constantly be in motion as mentioned above: This is why compressor models stay cool during operation, and freeze bowl models must be pre-frozen.
While in motion, air is incorporated into the churning mixture, to give it that beautiful creamy texture we all know and love.
As for the actual machine, along with all those widgets mentioned earlier, there are generally three major components to each unit: the external drum, the central churn, and the container. These are fancy words for the hole you place the container, the part that mixes everything together, and the container bowl where all ingredients are placed.
Some makers have external motors that also rotate the canister, though these are typically commercial grade.
The method above may be consistent from one machine to another, but not all devices are created equal. How do you know which kind you need?
Ask yourself some questions:
Is this intended as an activity for friends and kids? If so, the traditional salt-and-ice hand-crank machine is fun, but takes a lot of work to make sure there is a continuous ice, and salt supply. That's where the kids come in; good thing child labor laws do not apply here, we are fairly certain.
Do you know when you will need the ice cream? If you're on top of the ball, and know when you'll need ice cream ahead of the allotted time, a freeze bowl will suffice. You'll save money, and will be able to pre-freeze your container ahead of time. If you're the type of person who's always late for appointments, you'll want to splurge on a compressor model, where you'll be able to satisfy the urge in under half an hour.
As for which ingredients to use, that's completely up to you. However, for the diet conscious consumers, remember that low-fat dairies do not produce the same results as whole-fats would; mostly in the creamy texture department. We're sure there's some science behind that, but for now, just take our word. Think of it this way, the top quality ice cream at the grocery store, that never seems to go on sale, has at least 12% milkfat, (no wonder it tastes so decadent.)
It is difficult to decide which ice cream maker to get, but it is even harder to decide the first flavor you'll make.
How Women Rule the World, One Ice Cream Maker at a Time
Prior to ice cream makers, there was the spoon-stir method. Yes, it is as horrible and time consuming as it sounds.
Nancy Johnson from Philadelphia patented the first hand-cranked ice cream freezer in the U.S., back in 1843. This first model took about 45 minutes of turning to complete a batch; it sounds like a lot to us now, but it was much easier than the spoon-stir method previously mentioned.
Her idea not only simplified the ice cream making process, but it was truly revolutionary--for the first time in history, people could make ice cream in their own homes. Luckily too, at that time, rock salt was a commodity everyone could afford. Nancy ended up selling her patent, for $200 to a William Young, who kindly named the machine after her, the Johnson Patent Ice-Cream Freezer.
In 1851, Jacob Fussel from Baltimore established the first large commercial ice cream plant. How did come up with such an idea? It was an inventive attempt to save the surplus milk from his dairy farm, before it went sour, where he came up with the idea to turn it into mass-produced ice cream. In turn, this cold product became even more affordable for consumers, and eventually established ice cream parlors all over the country.
By the 1880s, smaller home ice cream makers proliferated. Though they still used the same concept as Nancy's original design: They consisted of a metal inner pail with a paddle attached to a crank handle; this was placed inside a wooden bucket filled with the freezing mixture of ice and salt. The cream seeped from the outer bucket into the metal pail, where it was churned until frozen.
Today, we're more accustomed to electric models, that require much less attention and produce more consistent results. They may not produce the same nostalgia as traditional cones, or the jingle of an ice cream truck, but they have been around longer and the result is much, much more satisfying.