How to Make Ice Cream with an Ice Cream Maker

Here, a step-by-step guide with photos.

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March 09, 2022

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Delicious strawberry ice cream in a bowl.

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Delicious strawberry ice cream in a bowl.

Photo by: MmeEmil/Getty Images

MmeEmil/Getty Images

By Fraya Berg for Food Network Kitchen

Fraya is a chef and a contributing writer at Food Network.

It's work making ice cream at home because the homemade stuff is often tastier than the pints you can buy from even the most artisanal scoop shop. Plus, it's affordable and surprisingly simple to make. We walk you through all of the steps to making ice cream in an ice cream machine, from the ingredients to how to churn and freeze. And if you don't have a machine? Head over to our story How to Make Ice Cream without an Ice Cream Maker.

Ingredients for Ice Cream

Cream, milk, sugar and flavor are the basic ingredients in ice cream. Let’s look at them one-by-one.

Cream: It’s called ice cream for a reason. The richness of heavy cream gives ice cream its structure and “mouthfeel:” the sensation of the fat melting on your tongue. The cream also forms the scaffolding that holds the miniscule water droplets that are in liquid before it’s frozen.

Milk: Milk is added to cream in your ice cream mix to dilute the fat in the heavy cream: too much fat will actually taste too fatty after it’s frozen. Adding milk adds more protein, creating a stronger scaffolding to trap the water when the mix freezes.

Sugar: Sugar has two roles to play in ice cream. It’s certainly there to sweeten your ice cream, but it also makes it softer. There are several forms of sugar you can use. White sugar, brown sugar and honey are the most familiar. Invert sugar, commonly known as corn syrup (which is not the same as high fructose corn syrup), will add stability, creaminess and body to ice cream, and adding just 2 teaspoons to a batch make a difference.

Flavor: Flavors come from so many of the ingredients in ice cream: the form of sugar you choose, extracts like vanilla or mint, purees of fresh fruit and sugar, nuts and chocolate

Eggs: Eggs are last on our list because they aren’t an essential ingredient in ice cream. Most commonly, the above ingredients are mixed until the sugar dissolves and then frozen while churned. However, there's another style of ice cream that leans on a custard base. This style requires you to make custard first. Eggs add extra creamy flavor.

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Photo by: Martina Lanotte / EyeEm/Getty Images

Martina Lanotte / EyeEm/Getty Images

Flavoring for Ice Cream

When you’re starting your ice cream journey, choose a few recipes and make them as written to become familiar with your ice cream maker and ice cream in general before making your own flavor combos. And if you just want to experiment with flavors, grab a container of chocolate or vanilla at the grocery store and start from there: you’ll save time can try multiple flavors in a day.

  • Vanilla: Use vanilla extract or vanilla beans from a pod.
  • Chocolate: Choose between melted chocolate, cocoa powder or both.
  • Fresh and frozen fruit: They need to be cooked with sugar or mixed with sugar so they don’t freeze completely: the sugar keeps them soft enough to eat without crunching a fruit ice cube.
  • Nuts: Toast them to enhance their flavor.
  • Saucy ingredients: Stir in flavors like fudge or caramel after the ice cream has finished stirring and before packing the ice cream in a container for the freezer.
  • Alcohol: If you’re using alcohol like brandy or liqueur, keep in mind that the alcohol will keep the ice cream from freezing as firmly as it normally would. You can offset that effect by decreasing the amount of sugar.
coffee halva chocolate chip ice cream

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coffee halva chocolate chip ice cream

Photo by: The Picture Pantry/Getty Images

The Picture Pantry/Getty Images

What’s the Best Ice Cream Maker?

There are two types of ice cream makers to choose from. One type is a self-contained unit with a compressor that cools the churning chamber. The other type is not self-contained; you freeze a cylinder and put it in a machine that spins and churns. We tested both types and came up with a list of The 5 Best Ice Cream Makers.

How to Make Homemade Ice Cream with an Ice Cream Maker

Making ice cream is a lot easier than it looks. Just follow our step-by-step guide to making this creamy, delicious classic.

Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream

This vanilla ice cream is everything you would want in a classic-rich and creamy with a pure, balanced flavor that can hold its own whether you serve it in a cone, with pie or as a base for candy or cookie mix-ins.

Food Network Kitchen's Homemade Ice Cream How To

Food Network Kitchen's Homemade Ice Cream How To

Photo by: Tara Donne ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Tara Donne, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

1. Make a Custard

First, make a custard from milk, cream, sugar and eggs. This is the time to add flavors, like vanilla bean, coffee or cocoa.

Food Network Kitchen's Homemade Ice Cream How To

Food Network Kitchen's Homemade Ice Cream How To

Photo by: Tara Donne ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Tara Donne, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

2. Consistency Is Key

Cook the custard over medium heat until it reaches 170 degrees F (use a candy thermometer to be sure). It should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Food Network Kitchen's Homemade Ice Cream How To

Food Network Kitchen's Homemade Ice Cream How To

Photo by: Tara Donne ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Tara Donne, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

3. Strain

Use a mesh strainer to remove any lumps or ingredients used to infuse the custard.

Food Network Kitchen's Homemade Ice Cream How To

Food Network Kitchen's Homemade Ice Cream How To

Photo by: Tara Donne ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Tara Donne, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

4. Chill

Next, chill the custard well by refrigerating it or using an ice bag.

Food Network Kitchen's Homemade Ice Cream How To

Food Network Kitchen's Homemade Ice Cream How To

Photo by: Tara Donne ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Tara Donne, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

5. Churn, Stir or Whip the Custard

Then churn, stir or whip your mixture to break down ice crystals that form as ice cream freezes. This makes the ice cream smooth and velvety. You can use a machine or a do-it-yourself method. With a machine, you simply flip a switch and the ice cream maker does the work for you. But you may prefer not to spend money on a stand-alone ice cream-making gadget. In that case, you can easily construct an ice cream maker from everyday kitchen items like plastic bags, a blender, ice and salt.

Food Network Kitchen's Homemade Ice Cream How To

Food Network Kitchen's Homemade Ice Cream How To

Photo by: Tara Donne ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Tara Donne, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

6. The Finished Product

When you're finished churning, the ice cream will still be soft. This is the time to add mix-ins like chocolate chips or brownie bits. You can dive right in and eat it. Or you can stick it in the freezer for 6 hours or more. Ice cream keeps for up to 3 months. But why wait? Ice cream tastes best right after it's made. Either way, dig in and reward yourself with a scoop or two of your frozen creation.

Ice Cream Maker Recipes

Full-flavored chocolate ice cream depends on the quality of the chocolate you choose. Go for the good stuff, at least 60 percent cacao: you only need 6 ounces.

This strawberry ice cream starts with a vanilla custard base. Then you stir in fresh berry puree. If you decide to add whole berries, be sure to sugar them and let them sit before stirring into the custard.

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Photo by: Kang Kim

Kang Kim

One of the very best reasons to make your ice cream at home is that you can get flavors that you can’t expect to find at the grocery store. You won’t believe how subtly tasty sweet corn can be.

entwine, May 2011

entwine, May 2011

Photo by: Yunhee Kim ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Yunhee Kim, 2011, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Don’t be dissuaded from trying this combo: wine and cream definitely go together. The smoky sea salt is a great compliment to the oaky chardonnay.

Food Stylist: Stephana Bottom
Prop Stylist: Paige Hicks ,Food Stylist: Stephana Bottom
Prop Stylist: Paige Hicks

Ice_Cream_031.tif

Food Stylist: Stephana Bottom Prop Stylist: Paige Hicks ,Food Stylist: Stephana Bottom Prop Stylist: Paige Hicks

Photo by: Andrew Purcell

Andrew Purcell

Chocolate covered cherries, let us introduce you to ice cream. You’ll be glad you met.

Vanilla Ice Cream Recipes

With two kinds of vanilla and pure maple syrup, this frozen custard ice cream is packed with flavor.

This ice cream is so simple to make: the mixture is cream and milk and sugar and doesn’t contain eggs, so it doesn’t need to be cooked and cooled before churning.

Using a vanilla pod brings the purest vanilla flavor to the custard as it simmers. You can save the seeds and add them back to the puree before churning.

Full fat coconut milk has just the right amount of fat for making ice cream: almost exactly the same as a 1:1 mixture of heavy cream and milk, so you can expect this to be just as creamy as non-vegan vanilla ice cream.

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