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Ice Cream Maker Performance

Based on the ice cream maker reviews we read, we found some good inexpensive ice cream makers, that earned enthusiastic praise by users about the soft-serve results and the old-time, natural (i.e., non-artificial) taste. Still, even the most highly-rated models had some detractors and we noted a few reports about inconsistent texture and/or stalled motors for several of the models we researched.

Ease of Use.

As you would expect for a small appliance that's all about sweet pleasure, cheap ice cream makers tend to be user-friendly.
Both the Play & Freeze and Hamilton Beach 68330R require adding the proper blend of rock salt and ice, but other than that, the end product requires nothing more complicated than measuring the ingredients and turning on the motor (or rolling the canister around, as with the Play & Freeze). Cleaning is also straightforward; the models we researched all recommend hand washing the freezer bowl and paddle and wiping down the other parts. Once you've done all the prep work, making the ice cream itself takes 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the model, the recipe, and the desired consistency.

The Cuisinart ICE-20 wins plaudits for ease of use in ice cream maker reviews on Epinions. Compliments range from mess-free and quiet to appreciation for a process that requires no ice, just freezing the bowl for at least eight hours. After adding the ingredients, you'll have ice cream in 20 minutes or less, and you can watch the progress through a clear lid. There's no timer or auto shut off on this model, which is a plus; one user notes in a review on Amazon that this design feature lets you keep the machine working until the preferred consistency is achieved.

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Another cheap ice cream maker that earns stars for dispensing with the salt and ice routine is the Deni 5205 and its gel canister. This convenience is a big draw for consumers, according to ice cream maker reviews on Walmart.com; commenting on the Deni 5201 (the same as the 5205 but lacking the candy crusher), one user praises the simplicity of the process and says she makes a batch almost daily. Several consumers posting reviews on Sears, however, complain that the 5200 model (the same as the 5201 but available only in "clear"; the 5201 offers a choice of colors) shut down when the mixture thickened by before the ingredients froze into ice cream.

The Play & Freeze earns acclaim in ice cream maker reviews on the Target website for being a cinch to use and making sport of making ice cream. Throwing, kicking, or rolling the container around for 20 minutes or so is fun for kids and adults, according to reviews on Amazon, although a few say the filled canisters are too heavy for kids to throw and some get bored after a few minutes. Still, the Play & Freeze is a concept and a process that appeals for its novelty and portability; with no batteries or any need for an electrical outlet, the Play & Freeze can travel anywhere. One scoutmaster reports in a review on the Walmart site that the Play & Freeze was a big hit during a campout; other consumers similarly note its value on road trips and boat rides. Some consumers, however, report that regular-size ice cubes don't fit into the outer shell (you'll need to crush them) and a few gripe about the mess when you try opening the lid to stir the contents midway through the process.

The largest capacity cheap ice cream maker on our list, the Hamilton Beach 68330R, is another user-friendly model. An ice cream maker review on HowStuffWorks gives it a thumbs up because you don't need to pre-freeze the canister (but you might choose to if you prefer harder ice cream). Consumers like the quick clean up, the price, and the four-quart size, and reviews on Amazon say the Hamilton Beach 68330R is a good value. This cheap ice cream maker requires ice and salt, which may account for grumbles about the noise level; one user recommends wrapping a towel around the top to muffle the sound. We did come across some reports of units that stopped working after just a few uses.

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The Rival GC9155 boasts a gel canister that eliminates the need for ice or rock salt, but that seems to be the only thing in its favor. The canister requires at least a 24-hour deep freeze (longer than the other cheap ice cream makers on our list) and well-chilled ingredients, a combination that can delay your gratification. An ice cream machines review on About.com says the advertised 30-minute operating time is insufficient for some ice cream recipes, and consumers posting reviews on Amazon complain that the canister and mixture need far longer freezing and chilling time than the instructions indicate. Another review on Epinions cautions against putting in too many solid bits (like chips or crushed cookies) and notes that you may need to stop the machine every few minutes to scrape down the sides. Other reviews on Viewpoints grumble that the spout for adding solid bits (like candy or fruit) is too small and the seal holding the bowls together broke on one unit.

Ice Cream Quality.

Homemade ice cream is best eaten as soon as it's made, but you can freeze the finished product for several hours for a firmer consistency. Most cheap ice cream makers shut off when the mixture firms up, but the Cuisinart ICE-20 runs until you decide the mixture is at the consistency you like. Ice cream maker reviews by users on Epinions and Amazon rave about the tasty, smooth, creamy results with the Cuisinart ICE-20, and note success with a variety of flavors like coffee, mocha, and strawberry. For the best results, one user recommends adding chunky bits near the end of the process, pre-freezing the bowl at least 24 hours, chilling all the ingredients, and always using pure vanilla.

The finished product from the Play & Freeze has its share of fans and critics. An ice cream maker review in the About.com camping guide says the "hot cocoa" ice cream (requiring four packets of cocoa mix) is excellent, and consumers posting reviews on Amazon and Walmart likewise praise the consistency and taste of the ice cream. On the other hand, some users deride the Play & Freeze in reviews for failing to deliver an edible product.

Although the Deni 5205 produces decent ice cream, according to most ice cream maker reviews on Amazon and Walmart, some consumers gripe in reviews about inconsistent results (runny center and hard ice cream on the sides and bottom of the canister). But the major complaint concerns the candy crusher; reviews on Pricegrabber and Amazon say this plastic component is too flimsy to handle the tough job of crushing hard pieces of candy or even chocolate morsels. Recommended solution: use a knife or food processor instead.

Consumers like what the Hamilton Beach 68330R delivers even though they grumble about noise and occasional durability problems. Ice cream maker reviews on Amazon talk up the soft creamy consistency and several suggest freezing the finished product overnight for results that are more like store-bought ice cream.

Results are inconsistent and reviews uneven for the Rival GC9155. An ice cream makers review on Amazon says only a week of pre-freezing the canister and a full 24 hours of chill time for the ingredients produced something resembling ice cream. Other reviews report a soupy mess loaded with ice crystals or milkshake-like results.


All the ice cream makers on our list offer some kind of warranty. The Cuisinart ICE-20 comes with a three-year limited warranty, which is the longest we found. The Play & Freeze has a one-year warranty on manufacturing defects, and the Deni 5205, Hamilton Beach 68330R, and Rival GC9155 offer one-year limited warranties.

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