5 Mistakes to Avoid When Making Ice Cream

updated Sep 5, 2022
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(Image credit: AnjelikaGr)

It’s a welcome treat any time of year, but there are few things more satisfying than homemade ice cream on a hot summer day. The two just have a magical way of going hand in hand. While it’s easy to make ice cream at home, there are a few key steps to always remember and a couple pitfalls to watch out for.

1. Using dairy with a low fat content.

I’m all for making healthier choices, but there’s a time and place for it — and that place is not homemade ice cream. This sweet frozen treat is reliant on dairy with a solid fat content, like heavy cream. It’s what gives ice cream its rich flavor and smooth, creamy texture. Substitutes like low-fat or skim milk don’t freeze as well, seriously lack in flavor, and leave ice cream with an icy texture.

→ Follow this tip: When you’re making ice cream, it’s time to embrace fat content. You’ll get a better-tasting ice cream with a smoother consistency for it. Opt for heavier cream, a mixture of heavy cream and whole milk, or half-and-half.

2. Not letting the ice cream maker bowl get cold enough.

It’s as simple as this: If the freezer bowl that goes with your ice cream maker isn’t cold (like, really cold), your ice cream is never going to freeze.

→ Follow this tip: In order for the machine to freeze the ice cream as it churns, it needs to be cold — like, totally and completely, rock-hard, ice cold. Plan to place the bowl in the freezer at least a day prior, or better yet, keep it stored in a bag in the freezer.

3. Pouring a warm ice cream base into the machine.

Confession: I did this the very first time I made ice cream at home. In the back of my mind I knew better, but I was in a rush and didn’t think there would really be a difference if the base was room temperature instead of cold. Yes, there’s a difference — a big one! A warm, or even room-temperature ice cream base won’t freeze.

→ Follow this tip: Before even thinking about churning your ice cream, make sure the base is totally chilled before pouring it into the machine. The colder, the better!

4. Overfilling the machine.

You want to get as much as homemade ice cream as possible out of your machine. I get it, we all want that. But filling that machine to the top is definitely not the way to go. Remember, you also want a good-quality ice cream. Not only does the ice cream need to aerate as it churns, but if the machine is overfilled, it will only end up spilling over the sides.

→ Follow this tip: Most recipes will note this, but if not, a good rule of thumb is to fill the machine no more than three-quarters of the way full.

5. Over-churning the ice cream.

While the ice cream base does start to freeze while churning away in the machine, this process doesn’t end with the firm, super scoopable treat you’re ultimately waiting for. No matter how long your ice cream maker keeps churning, it’s just not going to happen. What will happen, however, is developing an ice cream with an icy texture.

→ Follow this tip: While churning starts to freeze the ice cream, the real work will happen after it’s transferred to the freezer and left to harden for at least a few hours. That’s when the ice cream will firm up. Churn just until the ice cream is thick, and about the consistency of soft serve, then transfer to another container and store in the freezer.

What’s your best advice for making homemade ice cream?