Buying Guide to Ice Cream Makers

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7 Things to Know Before You Buy

Homemade ice cream may take longer to make than opening a store bought pint, but the freshness and quality is unbeatable. And what could be better than personally choosing the flavor and favorite extras that go into this delicious dessert. Plus you can turn the prep work into a fun family activity with a great tasting treat as everyone's reward.

So here's the dish on what you'll need to know before you invest in an ice cream maker.

Fact #1: Hand Cranked vs. Electric vs. Compressor

If ice cream isn't ice cream unless it is slow churned, we suggest investing in a hand cranked ice cream machine. While more labor intensive, it is perfect for homemade aficionados. For those who'd rather kick back and relax, there are electric mixers that do the churning for you. And fans looking for a combination of homemade and convenient can opt for a machine with a compressor. A compressor chills ingredients at temperatures below freezing (electric and hand cranked makers can't get this cold), can also make continuous batches of ice cream, and are the easiest to use since you basically add the ingredients and turn on the switch.

Fact #2: Size Matters

Check the size before you buy. We're not just talking about the physical size -- although you want to purchase a device that's easy to store -- but how much of the cold stuff it's going to make at one time. Those flying solo may not want a machine that makes up to six quarts. On the flip side, families with tons of ice cream loving kids will want to invest in a product that doles out more than a few scoops at a time.

Fact #3: Well-Insulated

Look for extras like a hermetic seal and double insulated bowl. They're going to give you a smooth, creamy consistency through and through. Plus a double insulated bowl eliminates the need to add ice.

Fact #4: Variety is the Spice of Life

Why buy a machine that just makes ice cream when you can buy one that can also churn out frozen yogurt, sorbet or gelato?

Fact #5: Mess-Free

DIY ice cream shouldn't end up being a sticky disaster. Snag a machine with a large spout and ingredients will end up in the mixer -- not all over your counter.

Fact #6: Time is of the Essence

When selecting a machine keep in mind electric machines require pre-freezing of the canister which depending on the machine can range from a few hours to overnight, so a little advance planning is required.

Fact #7: Easy-to-Clean

After a delicious dessert, the last thing you want to encounter is a tough clean up. Look for a machine that's easy to take apart, so you can tidy up without getting an ice cream freeze headache.