Coffee ice cream being scooped with a spoon

Ice cream, frozen yogurt, and sherbet are easy to make with an ice-cream machine. For the best results, let your ice-cream base mixture ripen, or mellow, overnight to be sure it is very cold.

An ice-cream machine consists of a canister to hold the ice-cream base and a dasher to churn the base as it freezes. Old-fashioned machines and some modern ones are hand-cranked, while other modern machines have motor-driven dashers.

1. Adding the base

The base for ice cream and similar frozen desserts must be very cold when it is added to the canister. If possible, let the base chill and “ripen” for at least 4 hours, or up to overnight, to be certain that it is properly cooled and also that the sugar is completely dissolved and the flavors fully developed. Do not fill the canister more than two-thirds full to allow space for the base to expand as it freezes.

2. Adding the ice

In old-fashioned ice-cream machines, the canister is surrounded with a mixture of ice and rock salt that lowers the temperature of the ice-cream base enough to freeze it; in modern machines, the canister itself contains a liquid that is frozen first in order to freeze the ice cream. The newer canisters must be left in your freezer for the time directed by the manufacturer to chill them completely.

3. Churning and freezing

As the ice-cream base freezes in the canister, the dasher turns through the mixture, breaking up large ice crystals and preventing the ice cream, yogurt, or sherbet from freezing solid. The churning motion of the dasher also incorporates air so that the base grows in volume, completely filling the canister. The result is a soft and creamy frozen dessert with a light texture and very fine, barely perceptible ice crystals. Be patient and do not scrape the sides of the container as the ice cream churns.

The ice cream is properly frozen when it looks like slightly grainy soft-serve ice cream. The granules are actually very tiny ice crystals. Let freshly made ice cream rest in the freezer for at least 3 to 4 hours before serving. This crucial step, known as ripening, firms the ice cream, makes its texture more creamy, and allows its flavors to blend.

Finished ice cream being extracted from ice cream machine

Try a few of our favorite ice cream recipes for a sweet treat!

French Vanilla Ice Cream

Coffee Ice Cream

Caramel Swirl Ice Cream

Hot Fudge Sauce