Homemade ice cream is truly a special dessert. They’re rich, creamy and can be customized with any flavor or mix-in that you can think of. And since ice cream is usually store-bought by most of us, it is very impressive to friends and family when you make your own. There are all kinds of ice cream makers on the market, from models that cost less than $50 (and sometimes quite a bit less) to expensive models that go for several hundred dollars. Before jumping in and buying one, many will wonder the same thing: Do I need an ice cream maker to make homemade ice cream?
The short answer is no, you do not necessarily need an ice cream maker to make homemade ice cream. There are a few ways to make homemade ice cream without an ice cream maker. For instance, you can make ice cream using the granita method, and freeze your ice cream base and stirring it occasionally to distribute the ice crystals until it is completely frozen. You can also opt for a no-churn ice cream recipe that uses whipped cream to incorporate air into the mix. Or, if you’re looking for something a little more creative, I’ve made great ice cream using dry ice before (this technique can be done with a mixer or by hand).
That being said, it is easier, faster and you will get better results when you do have an ice cream maker. Ice cream makers are designed to speed up the process of freezing an ice cream base. When you speed up the time it takes to freeze the mixture, and add some churning action, you end up with smaller ice crystals and a much smoother finished product. An ice cream made with the granita method just won’t get quite as smooth as something made with a machine. You also have a lot more options when you use an ice cream machine, and you’re not just limited to no-churn recipes. Instead, you can make rich ice creams in any flavor, experiment with low fat ice creams (which can turn out very icy with some methods) and fruity sorbets.
So, while you don’t need an ice cream maker to make homemade ice cream in general, it is worth the investment if you’re in to making homemade ice cream on a regular basis because it makes the process faster and turns out top notch ice cream. If you don’t make any ice cream, frozen yogurt, sorbet or even slushy daiquiri-type drinks on a regular basis, however, it is just another tool taking up space in the kitchen and it isn’t worth adding one to your collection when you can make homemade ice cream without an ice cream maker.