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Jul 28, 2005 10:27 AM

Best temperature to freeze ice cream?

  • r

I keep making ice cream in a machine and it's great at first, but after it stays in my freezer for a few days it becomes rock hard. Does anyone know the best temperature to keep a freezer at?

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  1. Ice cream gets hard in the freezer; it's supposed to. Assuming you're using your freezer for other things, you wouldn't want to keep it at a temperature that would keep ice cream soft. Just take the ice cream out of the freezer about 20 minutes before you want to eat it.

    I remember reading somewhere that a surprising large portion of the U.S. population actually use their microwaves to get their ice cream to a scoopable temp - something like 20%. That strikes me as terribly impatient, but if it works for you, more power to you.


    2 Replies
    1. re: curiousbaker

      curiousbaker's exactly right. In fact, if you go to your local ice cream shop and ask, they'll tell you that the storage ice cream is much colder than the stuff they keep out front (which they scoop quite easily, as you can see). If you see someone struggling to scoop, it's because they took one out of storage in a rush.

      Just to add: I've found that every time I let my ice cream sit until it's scoopable, then re-freeze, it gets even harder. Therefore, I'd suggest splitting it into two or three containers before the initial freezing, or at least taking out the part you want to eat and letting that sit out instead of the whole container (which might be difficult if it's really hard).

      1. re: nooodles

        That's right. It's actually important to go from soft-serve in the ice cream maker directly to a deep freeze, so that a minimal number of ice crystals form during the freezing process. After a day or so you can store it at a higher (still frozen) temperature so that the ice cream can be scooped.

    2. Yep, I agree w/ others; you don't want to turn your freezer to a warmer temp...just let the ice cream sit out for a while. I don't like using the microwave since it can be uneven and not gentle enough.

      I personally do not like homemade ice cream after it's been in the freezer too long. I like it best w/in the first 2-3 hrs. after churning, sometimes right out of the canister. IMO, the texture declines significantly if frozen too long. More stabilizers would help w/ this though.

      Employing nooodles' idea of freezing in small batches makes good sense. Otherwise, make smaller batches to begin w/ so you can eat it all soon after. I only make a full canister (about 1.25 qt) when I have guests to help me eat it. If I have an "expired" amount in the freezer that I know I won't enjoy as is, then do what nooodles suggested yesterday, use it for smoothies and shakes.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Carb Lover

        I recently was thumbing through Ludo Lefebvre's book Crave and he echoed what you said about eating it shortling after churning. I think he also suggested letting it warm up a bit and re-churning if it hardens during storage. That would be sort of a pain though.

        1. re: petradish

          This is a tangent, but what were your initial impressions of Crave? Coffee table book or something that's actually practical and inspiring? That Ludo is a hottie (hautie?)!

          1. re: Carb Lover

            Total hautie and he knows it too. My husband got really tired of me going "wow, look at this picture" and it wasn't food-related.

            I think it would be a coffee table book for my purposes. The recipes are a little out there for my style, but the *what if...* spice combos & inspiration is kind of fun. I was surprised to see a couple traditional French recipes, with no funny stuff or overt exotica. I think I need to go look at the book again because I was really distracted the first time. ;-)

            I wouldn't mind scraping the $$ together and actually eating at Bastide.

            1. re: petradish

              Ok, your comments made me go straight to Amazon to catch a glimpse of any photos (as well as read reviews, of course). The link below has a few images from the book. Um, would you like some beach hunk w/ that fish? I can see how you might have been distracted. This guy would instantly melt any ice cream he looked at...ok, sorry to the OP and others for my juvenile chatter today.

              BTW, the book has received excellent reviews. Sounds like a book that would give some cutting-edge inspiration and at least be a fun read. Now I need to see if my public library is hip enough to have it...


      2. I know this doesn't necessarily solve the problem, but the way you churn it and the ingredients you use for homemade ice cream has a lot to do with how hard it gets in the freezer. If you can churn it longer than you think it needs to (as long as it is still getting colder), the less it will harden when it goes into the freezer. Some of that has to do with the motor on your ice cream machine. The more powerful motors are able to churn longer when the mixture is already frozen, enabling a creamier product. The first time I let mine go longer than I would have normally, I threw it in the freezer, got it out 2 days ago and it was firm, but not any more so than store-bought ice cream. But SOOO much better.

        Also, the creamier the ice cream (i.e., more cream, less water content) the less hardened it will freeze. Finally, I believe you can add trace amounts of certain ingredients (which are escaping my memory right now) that will help your ice cream from becoming an ice block...

        good luck.

        4 Replies
        1. re: adamclyde

          Bananas and sweetened condensed milk come to mind, as do whipped egg whites.

            1. re: nooodles

              More sugar as well.

            2. re: adamclyde

              adding stabilizers will help keep the ice cream's texture if it starts to melt and then refreezes. the easiest stabilizer to use is gelatin, but putting too much in can give the ice cream a strange texture.

              sugar is necessary to reduce icyness because it lowers the freezing point of the mixture. frozen ice cream will still have some (very small) unfrozen water molecules (in sugar solution) which make the ice cream soft enough to scoop.

              nonfat milk solids (e.g. powdered milk) also helps reduce icyness and makes the ice cream softer. the high water content of pure milk (without milk solids) makes it hard to create ice cream that isn't at least somewhat icy.