What Are the Different Types of Ice Cream Churns?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 23 October 2019
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Ice cream churns are a necessary tool to making great homemade ice cream. There are many different types of ice cream churns available for home use, each with different pros and cons. Some of the most popular types of ice cream churns include manual, electric rock salt and ice, freezer bowl, and compressor churns.

A manual ice cream churn is a nostalgic piece of kitchen equipment which may be more charming than practical. This type of churn uses a hand crank to turn a paddle or dasher in the ice cream container, surrounded by a freezing layer of ice and rock salt. Hand-churning ice cream can take 30-45 minutes, and can be quite tiring. If planning on using one of these nostalgic ice cream churns, consider calling in a few friends or family members to take turns with the crank.


An electric rock salt and ice machine helps eliminate the physical effort of hand cranking, but can still take some work. These machines attach the dasher to an electric churn, so that the machine can be switched on to churn automatically. The ice cream bowl is surrounded by a second, insulated bowl, where layers of ice and rock salt need to be added to freeze the mixture. The user may need to keep a close eye on the ice and salt, adding more as it begins to melt during the churning. While an electric rock salt and ice version can be a little easier on the arm muscles than a manual version, it does require a careful eye and some clean-up.

One of the most popular and inexpensive modern ice cream churns is the freezer bowl machine. For this appliance, the walls of the ice cream bowl contains a gel mixture that must be frozen overnight in a freezer before use. Once the bowl is frozen, the ice cream can be churned automatically, and is ready in about 30 minutes. The downsides to this model include the foresight to freeze the bowl at least 12 hours before using the machine, and the fact that the bowl will only stay frozen long enough to make one batch of ice cream at a time. A good way to maximize the usefulness of this type of churn is to simply keep the bowl in the freezer all the time, so it is ready when needed.

Compressor ice cream churns are for the serious ice cream maker, and are usually far more expensive than more common models. They include a fully automated freezing and churning system, so that the ice cream ingredients can be poured in, frozen, and churned at will. While compressors offer the advantages of not needing to plan ahead or stick to single-batch churning, they are often large, heavy, and expensive. Nevertheless, for those who are true ice cream aficionados, a compressor may be the best choice.


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