Nothing's sweeter in summertime than whipping up your own ice cream. An ice cream maker lets you control the quality of the ingredients - and experiment with recipes. You can forget the old-fashioned hand-cranked rock-salt-and-ice machines. The latest ice cream makers rely on a bowl-like insert (stashed in the freezer for up to 24 hours before you use it) and the flip of a switch; dessert is ready in about a half hour. Pricier ones have built-in compressors - like a refrigerator's - which eliminate the need to plan ahead.
Cuisinart ICE-30BC Ice Cream MakerTop-Choice Churner
Test winner Cuisinart ICE-30BC ($80, amazon.com) makes up to two quarts of thick, velvety-smooth ice cream or sorbet in about 45 minutes. Drop fruit or candy in through the top; the machine mixes it in. The base's cord compartment makes for tidy storage.
Related: Tastiest Low-Calorie Frozen Treats
Cuisinart ICE-50BC Ice Cream MakerPrep-Free (But Pricey)
Cuisinart's ICE-50BC, a large, compressor-equipped machine ($300, amazon.com), hogs counter space but creates a quart and a half of ice cream or sorbet without advance planning. It's also the only one of our top picks that automatically turns off when finished.
Hamilton Beach 68230 Ice Cream MakerBudget Buy
To make a well-mixed though somewhat less rich ice cream, look to the no-frills Hamilton Beach 68320 ($30, amazon.com). Adding berries or other mix-ins through the lid's spout is a cinch; the ice cream maker is also simple to assemble, operate, and clean.
Hamilton Beach 68660 Ice Cream MakerPortable ProThe diminutive Hamilton Beach 68660 ($25, amazon.com) is battery-powered - fun for bringing dessert prep outdoors. It does a particularly nice job on sorbet, which came out smooth and thick. The downside: It makes only three servings.
Related: The Scoop on Ice Cream Serving Sizes
KitchenAid Ice Cream MakerMaster Mixer
For owners of post-1990 KitchenAid stand mixers: The KICA attachment and bowl ($100, amazon.com) lets you whip up two quarts of airy frozen desserts. As with other machines with inserts, the bowl must be put in the freezer before each use.
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