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homemade ice cream vs. store bought ice cream

What will the difference be between making my own ice cream at home vs. buying ice cream from the store?

What are the pro's and con's to homemade ice cream?

And, if I do try to make ice cream at home, can I get away with using those $50 Cuisinart ice cream machines or do I a better ice cream machine?

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  1. Cost...while making home made is great because you can come up with varieties you might not find in the stores, you can probably buy a container for less than you'll spend buying the ingredients to make it, unless you're making something basic like vanilla. The machine you have should work should you decide to make it.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Cherylptw

      I agree re: the cost of making ice cream at home is generally more than buying it - especially when you can find it on sale. I typically buy 1.75 quarts for $2.50 and I couldn't buy the basic ingredients for that if I made it at home. IMO, there isn't any real benefit in preparing ice cream at home. Commercially prepared ice cream is, for most brands, less expensive than what you might make at home. Commercial ice cream products have a broad range of price/quality factors to consider so the actual cost differences will vary.

      1. re: todao

        I've never really thought about the cost, that making it at home would end up being more expensive than buying it.

        But, how can those companies do that- sell it for less than I could make it all the while paying labor costs and still make a profit? Does that mean they're using inferior ingredients, or is it simply economy of scale?

        1. re: hobbess

          Sure, some of those companies are using inferior products, just read the side of the carton. Some whip so much air into the product that it doesn't take as much product to fill the container, ever notice how a carton of Hagen Daaz feels heavier than the cheap stuff! But also, these companies are buying massive quantities of milk, cream, sugar, etc and pay what we would consider to be bargain basement prices.

          My vote goes for making your own ice cream, especially if you have kids. You get to choose the quality of your ingredients and you can make any flavour you like. I have decided to make a lot of ice cream with the kids (4 and 6) this summer. When I let them pick a flavour at the grocery store they will generally choose something like bubblegum or rainbow. Our first batch at home they decided to make caramel coffeecake ice cream, much better choice in my opinion!

          And yes, you can get away with the Cuisinart, that's the one we use with great results.

    2. I have a Girmi ice cream maker that I bought about 5 years ago for $30. This year, I added one of those $50 Cuisinarts. Both work fine and I've made excellent ice cream with each machine, so you'll be fine with the Cuisinart. Do remember to freeze your canister a full 24 hours before you churn the ice cream (trust me--I know this by experience!)

      I prefer homemade ice cream and find it particularly delicious when it's freshly churned and has the consistency of soft ice cream. I usually have some that way and put the rest in a container to firm up. With homemade, you can control your ingredients. It does tend to be denser than store-bought (less air or overrun in the product). I like that! Also, you aren't limited to the flavors at the supermarket. If you want orange ice cream, you can make it. Try to find that in a store (real orange ice cream, not creamsicle.) That said, I do think some of the premium ice creams are quite tasty, but the regular brands are lacking in flavor, though they are cheaper.

      Good points from previous posters on the costs. Making your own ice cream is more costly and time-consuming, but worth it, especially if it's for something special. Also, once you've made a few batches, it becomes easier. And you needn't do it all at once. For a custard style, you make the custard and it needs to chill thoroughly. I've made custard bases up to a couple of days ahead of time. The churning itself only takes 15-30 minutes (unattended). Another plus with homemade is the ability to make only the amount you desire--you can make less than the "half-gallon" in the supermarket. The Cuisinart has a 1.5-qt. capacity and most recipes make 1-2 quarts. I often halve the recipes because I don't want the full quart.

      FYI, if you get an ice-cream maker, do understand that some of the product will freeze on the side of the canister. This is normal. There has been at least one thread on CH about this.

      1. When you make your own ice cream (like the other posters have said) you can make flavors you can't get at the store. You can also control the ingredients, so your ice cream will be a lot more quality than most of the stuff at the grocery store and you can control the creaminess, the texture, etc. It'll also be a lot more fresh, you can make it and eat it right then, whereas who knows how long some of those pints have been sitting on the shelves.

        However, the grocery store is more convenient. You don't have to buy the ingredients, spend the time making it, and then cleaning up all the mess. Store bought is also (sometimes) cheaper, depending on what brand you usually buy. I'm sure a half gallon of the store brand ice cream would be way cheaper than making your own. But if we're talking a pint of Haagen-Dazs compared to a quart of homemade, the price difference would probably be negligible.

        You can definitely get away with the Cuisinart, especially if you don't plan on using it all the time. That being said, I had one for a few years and I used it so much the engine burned out. Now, I have a freezer bowl for my KitchenAid which never fails me. If you have a KitchenAid, I think the extra $10-20 is worth it, it takes up much less space than a separate machine.

        1. I like making homemade ice cream, but it's pricy. I have a couple of really inexpensive recipes that I found on the internet that are family favorites - I have a big churn type ice cream maker that makes the whole batch, but recently switched to a Kitchen Aid attachment, and have just cut these down to 1/3.

          Orange Sherbet -
          2 liter Orange Crush soda
          2 cans Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
          1 lg. can crushed pineapple

          Wendy's Frosty -
          16 ounces Cool Whip
          1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
          1 gallon chocolate milk

          These are good, and cheap to make - and everyone loves them.

          1. Cons of homemade ice cream: Cost and hassle.

            Pros of homemade ice cream: Tastes better, no preservatives

            Making ice cream is not like making beans or cooking rice -- it's definitely in the in the "indulgence" category when it comes to the cooking practicality scale.

            I should also add that as to the cost issue, it should be noted that homemade is only more expensive to commercial national brand ice creams you buy in tubs (e.g. Edys, Breyers, etc.). The cost issue is less magnified (and perhaps even a non-issue) when you compare homemade to artisan ice creams that you buy from dedicated ice cream shops.

            1. I really enjoy making my own ice cream. I like knowing exactly what's going into it, and I like coming up with different flavor combinations rather than those I can find in the store. Plus, there is absolutely *nothing* like homemade peach ice cream in the summertime (with just a bit of amaretto? Yum!).
              Does it cost more to make it yourself? Definitely. But I think of ice cream as a treat and don't mind the extra expense. I have a 2-quart Cuisinart machine that I just love.
              One warning, however - if there is cheap ice cream in the freezer I can just ignore it until eventually it has to get tossed (DH is not as picky as I). Good, homemade ice cream? Will not be ignored!

              1. As cost goes, you have to compare apples to apples. When you make it yourself, you can use the best ingredients. If I bought a comparable ice cream from a farmer's market, I'd be paying a premium, much higher than something from the store. But, home made ice cream is much better than something you'd buy from a store that is mass produced. When I make it at home, I use an cheap Danvier ice cream maker. It's time consuming/labor intensive but I got it for free and it works.

                1. I eat the equivalent of about three scoops of ice cream per year. To me, most commercial ice cream tastes more like stabilizers than cream.

                  So, if I want ice cream, or plan to serve ice cream to guests, I pull out the ice cream maker. For me, taste becomes the qualifier, not cost. [Not to mention that in general, homemade satisfies more completely, so people eat less.] Now, I am not feeding tons of hungry teenagers which could easily change my priorities.

                  So for me, the work and hassle of making homemade ice cream is worth it.

                  1. The advantage of homemade ice cream is the creativity. This week I'm planning to try vanilla with rosemary and honey. Try finding that in the store.

                    I think the cost issue that several have cited above is a bit of a red herring. If you have to buy everything for a single batch, it is definitely more expensive than Breyer's, but not so much more than the high end stuff. But the big point that hasn't been mentioned is that you can often make homemade ice cream for free. We almost always have some heavy cream and some fruit that needs to be used up. It might not make a full batch, but since we try to keep an eye on our waistlines that's actually a good thing. As long as we keep the bowl in the freezer, we can have cantaloupe ice cream for two in about 30 minutes, and two items that would have been thrown in the trash have been turned into a delectable dessert.

                    I would start with the Cuisinart. You can always spend more later.

                    18 Replies
                    1. re: eight_inch_pestle

                      Assuming I'm making something like vanilla ice cream, what makes the home made version better than an premium version like Haggan Daaz 5? Is there a difference in taste or texture?

                      1. re: hobbess

                        One of the things I love about ice cream is the creaminess and mouth feel of it. Can you replicate that texture at home? I"m assuming that the store bought ice creams are made with superior machinery that the home ice cream maker would have trouble matching.

                        1. re: hobbess

                          The biggest part of the equation is the skill of the ice cream maker. I make it like a creme anglais, and it took some trial and error to get it right. I like what I make at home better than Haagen Daaz 5 but the ice cream I can get from a local creamery is far better than what I make at home. It costs more, though, and is hard to get. The difference is creaminess and richness.

                          1. re: chowser

                            I eat ice cream three or four times a year-and I make it myself. Just a note, I have the Cuisinart and not only do you need 24 hours in the freezer, but get your freezer as cold as you can set it to chill the canister.

                            1. re: chowser

                              For the home cook making ice cream, how would you rate them in importance: technique, equipment, or ingredients?

                              If I was going to spend a limited amount of money, would it be better to spend it on ingredients like ripe fruit from a farmer's market or on the ice cream maker?

                              1. re: hobbess

                                Ingredients, technique and equipment, in that order. A decent ice cream maker, used according to instructions, is not an expensive or difficult proposition. Quality ingredients or not make or break the end product. Trial and error and the skill of the chef have a great deal to do with the outcome So for my tight budget, I spent some on a decent workable ice cream machine, and spend much more on what goes into it.

                                1. re: bushwickgirl

                                  Follow up question as to the importance of ingredients in making ice cream:

                                  I found this quote by Sherry Yard, pastry chef at Spago:

                                  "If I go to the farmer's market and a farmer gives me a peach and its kind of mealy, I might buy it and make sorbet. If the farmer has a crispy peach, then I can make cobblers. That's how ingredients affect things."

                                  Why would you use mealy peaches to make a sorbet? For ice cream or sorbet, what's the condition or ripeness you should look for in ingredients like peach if you're going to make peach ice cream?

                                  1. re: hobbess

                                    Fruit normally is pureed when making sorbets, so the texture of the mealy peach won't be obvious in the end, as it would be in a cobbler. A crispy peach for a cobbler would bake nicely, have a good texture and keep it's shape after baking.

                                    For ice cream, I would be quite willing to buy very or overripe peaches, even dead ripe, as I add the peeled cut peaches to the ice cream base after the churning step is nearly complete, rather than as a puree; the overripe fruit will be soft, yielding and hopefully of very good flavor (taste one first.)

                                2. re: hobbess

                                  My first batch, I started with great ingredients, bad technique (oercooked the custard) and the ice cream was icy. It tasted good but not the creamy mouthfeel I was expecting. At the same time, I took a rec class at L'Academie de Cuisine that covered it and they used basic mass produced ingredients and the instructor made an excellent ice cream. Taking the class let me see exactly what the custard should look like but I'll bet you could find it on youtube. There are too many variations in my mind about what "coating the back of the spoon" really means.

                                  If I went back through the beginning stages again, I'd start w/ inexpensive ingredients, play with it until it felt right (the learning curve isn't that steep) and then move to the better quality. FWIW, though I like home made ice cream, it's only a rare treat for us. I buy it more often than I make it.

                                  1. re: chowser

                                    I went to a demo at Williams-Sonoma, hoping to learn technique like what you mentioned. At the very least, I was hoping to taste how the ice cream tasted so I could get an idea how it would taste if I made it at home. I wanted to see if I could taste a difference if they made Philly style vs. French style ice cream. But, they just used starter kits for the ice cream... It came in a box, added stuff like milk, mixed it up, and then poured into the ice cream machine.

                                    And, to be honest, I really wasn't blown away by the ice cream. To me, it just tasted like ice cream, not better nor worse than buying it in the store. But, I'm not sure how much of it was due to using a start kit and how much of it was my palate being unsophisticated enough to pick up the difference.

                                    1. re: hobbess

                                      I wouldn't go by a starter kit from W-S to judge what home made ice cream can be like. I wonder what's in it. Homemade ice cream, like Haagen Daz five, doesn't need guar gum and all the other things often added to ice cream.

                                  2. re: hobbess

                                    Ditto bushwickgirl's sentiment.

                                    Ingredients are key.

                                    Technique you can never have enough of, and is probably too precious that no amount of money can buy you enough.

                                    As to equipment, try a second-hand store or yard sales or even flea markets. You can find really well-made and very serviceable ice cream makers for literally pennies on the dollar.

                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      I bought a Donvier back when the Frugal Gourmet was on TV and recommended it. That's the manual kind, where you freeze the canister ahead of time. You pour in a chilled mixture, then just turn the paddle a few times over a period of 20 minutes. It does a decent job making about a pint of ice cream. (There's a quart size model too.) You have to either store the canister in your freezer (it's half again the size of a coffee can) or have the foresight to put it in the day before. There are a bunch on eBay, for as little as $10.

                                      1. re: greygarious

                                        I had a Donvier way back when. Somehow the blades got twisted, so I had to scrap it.

                                        1. re: souschef

                                          As happens with other models too, you have to turn the paddles right away, and then every few minutes, or the sides freeze too solid for the blades to turn. Too much force damages them. Commercial ice creams tout being "slow-churned" as a good thing. I'm not saying it is or isn't, but the Donvier and others like it allow you to make slow-churned without bags of ice and rock salt.

                                3. re: hobbess

                                  To me, the advantage to making it at home is the flavor - you can get a real custard-style ice-cream. Commercial ice creams tend to mimic that richness in flavor and texture by adding either stabilizers (the cheap stuff) or tons of cream (the premium stuff). I know ice cream's not health food, but the amount of full-fat cream in the commercial varieties astonishes me.

                                  Like chowser, I make mine with a creme anglaise. Starting with a custard will definitely give you the mouth feel you're craving. I don't even own an ice cream maker; I just use the still-freeze method and it comes out fine. One disadvantage, especially with this method, is that homemade ice cream will tend to melt more quickly at room temperature.

                                  1. re: hobbess

                                    I agree with chowser, it takes practice but you can make ice cream better than HD. I like to make my ice creams a bit fluffier than HD, but if I want that same dense texture I won't churn it as long, and then I'll let it completely freeze in my freezer before I serve it.
                                    In my opinion though, if I want vanilla I'd rather just buy it at the store and not bother with all the cleanup at my house.

                                4. re: eight_inch_pestle

                                  I'm curious as to your comment of sometimes making the ice cream for free; even if you already have the items for the ice cream in your fridge, don't you still have to pay for them initially?

                                5. The only con to home-made ice cream is no left-overs. It tastes very much better than even the stuff from the specialty ice cream shops that charge you several dollars a scoop. The first time I made ice cream my wife told me that she never again wanted the commercial stuff. I use the Cuisinart.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: souschef

                                    I think I've also read that you really shouldn't keep home-made ice cream too long either. Without the stabilizers that store bought ice cream have, home made ice cream should ideally be eaten in a day or two.

                                  2. My husband is lactose intolerant, so we already have to pay through the nose for vegan "ice cream" and don't have the breadth of choices that dairy-eaters do. So for us, making it at home is far superior on all fronts. I use a $9 machine I bought at the thrift store and it works like a charm. I haven't broken it out yet this year, but last summer we use it to make all kinds of delicious flavors, like ginger vanilla and balsamic blackberry. YUM!!!

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: junquegrrl

                                      Does anybody have any problems making french style ice cream where you make a custard first with a budget ice cream maker like the Cuisinart?

                                      I've gone through several reviews for ice cream makers, and the best one was on Slate. It seems so obvious now, but it was the only review I read that actually tested ice cream makers on their performance making philly style vs. french style.

                                      Its conclusion was that the Cuisinart was an excellent choice if you were only going to do philly style ice cream but that it had problems trying to french style. This becomes an issue because when you're going to make the more exotic flavors, most of the time they're french style ice cream.

                                      1. re: hobbess

                                        I only ever make french style ice cream, I have yet to find a philly style recipe that I like, and I am quite happy with the results that my Cuisinart gives me. I'm sure I could get better results with a much more expensive machine, but that's just not an option for me right now!

                                        1. re: hobbess

                                          I have two cheapo ice-cream makers (one a Cuisinart) and I usually make custard-style ice creams. Haven't had any problems.

                                          1. re: hobbess

                                            I make the custard-style ice creams all the time in my Cuisinart, and haven't had a problem. I do make the Philly-style occasionally, usually when my nieces are begging for ice cream and they want it *right now*.

                                        2. I have a cheesy pink, cheap Rival ice cream machine that has outlasted a Cuisinart and a $300 top of the line White Mountain machine. Got it at Walmart 15 years ago and it keeps chugging along. I make ice cream and sorbet a lot. It takes about half an hour to make up the ice cream in the morning. Then I put it in the canister in the fridge to chill. It takes maybe 45 minutes to churn 2 quarts. As far as cost goes, maybe commercial ice cream is cheaper but it no way compares to homemade. On the other hand sorbets are way cheaper than commercial and are far superior homemade.

                                          I just came across this site: http://icecreamireland.com/ It's loaded with tons of recipes for interesting flavors as well as all kinds of recipes for ice cream add ons. You may need a metric converter for the recipes: http://southernfood.about.com/library...

                                          1. Last year someone posted about improvising ice cream for unexpected guests. She used frozen fruit and a can of sweetened condensed milk, and I think some cream, in the food processor. In less than a minute, soft-textured ice cream. I tried it with great success, using some yogurt instead of cream. The sweetened condensed milk is essential as it provides thickness. You need the volume of fruit to balance the intensely sweet condensed milk so this would not work for non-fruit ice cream. I only used part of a can so I froze the remainder and used it with refrigerated fresh fruit - that worked too, but was softer.

                                            I would prefer minimizing the sugar and it occurs to me that using cream cheese, a little milk/yogurt, and Splenda, blended with frozen fruit, might work. I have yet to try that. If the consistency is wrong, I'll pour it into popsicle molds.

                                            1. No comparison, none whatsoever. Perhaps there was in 1954, but there isn't now.

                                              Get David Lebovitz's A Perfect Scoop, you won't be sorry.

                                              I've still not gotten past the Vietnamese coffee ice cream, it's easy and I'm lazy and the result is dangerous and out of this world.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: anonymouse1935

                                                David Lebovitz's new book is on my list, but maybe I will have to get this one too!

                                                1. re: roxlet

                                                  I've seen a listing of the recipes in Ready for Dessert, and there's a lengthy section of ice creams and other frozen desserts, some of which I think are recipes from The Perfect Scoop. So that should get you started!

                                              2. Home made ice cream will likely taste better and have no preservatives but will be more expensive. It most likely will not be as creamy and may not have the same mouth feel as commercial ice cream.

                                                The size of the ice crystals in home made ice cream is usually larger because commercial ice cream machines can freeze the ice cream much faster resulting in smaller crystals and a creamier texture.

                                                The commercial ice creams have emulsifiers and additives to attain a creamier texture.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                  I really don't get the whole "it's more expensive" argument at all. I make ONLY custard-style ice cream, which breaks down like this (these are bay area, CA prices, so I imagine it would be cheaper in other places...and everything is organic good-provenance, so you'd be looking at half the price if you went for the bargain basement versions):

                                                  organic free-range eggs - .50 cents
                                                  sugar - .25 cents
                                                  organic half and half and/or whole milk - 1.50
                                                  vanilla extract, fresh fruit and/or other flavouring - 1.50

                                                  That's under four dollars for 1.5 quarts (the limit on my Cuisinart) - much cheaper than anything worth buying in the supermarket, and half the price of anything using all organic and high-quality ingredients.

                                                  I occasionally use guar gum or other MG-type stabilisers if I need it to freeze quickly and have always been pleased with the results. But I've never had an issue with ice crystals - in fact, I think the homemade stuff is better in terms of texture. The only time it didn't freeze perfectly was the first time I used it and just couldn't wait until the bowl was frozen. :-)

                                                  I know that we will never buy ice cream from the supermarket again...making our own is sort of an addiction, actually. Besides, where would we find passion fruit ice cream anyway?

                                                  1. re: guster4lovers

                                                    Wow, who knew the Bay Area was so cheap! I"m in Indiana and my OG half-and-half is $2.60 for a pint (and I'd use the whole pint in the ice cream). OG free-range eggs are about $3.50/dozen at the farmers market, or about 30 cents/egg. Assume 3-4 eggs/batch of ice cream. Fresh fruit is variable, so no direct comparison here.

                                                2. Americas Test Kitchen did an Ice Cream Machine comparison and the Cuisinart did just fine. I used my Cuisinart frozen bowl to keep a batch of Margaritas cold without diluting the mix, for a party.

                                                  1. I guess for me the difference is getting to experiment and getting to try unique things I don't run across in commercial ice cream.

                                                    Yes, you can TOTALLY do it with a $50 Cuisinart machine.

                                                    I recommend starting with Ben & Jerry's Sweet Cream Base which you can keep in a pitcher in your fridge. Then pour some on whatever puréed or macerated fruit is fresh and wonderful and add whatever else strikes your fancy. Great place to launch a whole new culinary adventure from. I also highly recommend the 1 or 2 liter Cambro food storage tubs for keeping your ice cream in the freezer. They have a super tight seal that really limits the ice crystals from forming.

                                                    Ben & Jerry's Basic Sweet Base

                                                    Recipe By: Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream and Dessert Book
                                                    Yield: 1 quart

                                                    • 2 large eggs
                                                    • 3/4 cup sugar (superfine sugar or sugar that's whirled in the food processor first whisks up in a flash)
                                                    • 2 cups heavy or whipping cream
                                                    • 1 cup milk

                                                    Whisk eggs in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the sugar a little at a time, then continue whisking until completely blended, about 1 minute more. Pour in the cream and milk and whisk to blend.

                                                    Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze following the manufacturer's instructions.

                                                    Rainey's Notes:

                                                    • I add a pinch of salt and some vanilla.

                                                    • This recipe is easily doubled. If you churn half in your ice cream machine you can add other flavors to the second half. You can also keep half of the liquid base available in the fridge for several days for a second batch.

                                                    • Brown sugar can be substituted for 1/3 of the sugar for boosting the flavor without being obvious. Or use brown sugar for all of it for Brown Sugar Ice Cream. Muscovado sugar is another possible flavor with a sweet muskiness.

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: rainey

                                                      Easy enough, and good call on the brown sugar for a different flavor, and the pinch of salt!

                                                      1. re: rainey

                                                        Because I am completely lazy, I used a blender to make the base. Super easy and fast. And I would just cut up some fruit and throw it in the blender. A few pulse, and it's ready for the ice-cream machine.

                                                        1. re: gnomatic

                                                          Right! But if it will remain in identifiable pieces best to macerate it in sugar for 4-6 hours depending on the size of the pieces. That will draw the water out of the fruit into a syrup. Throw the syrup and the macerated fruit in along with the base for flavor.

                                                          The reason I recommend macerating pieces is that they will remain soft. With all their natural water they freeze so hard they're unpleasant in texture and not very available in flavor.

                                                          1. re: rainey

                                                            Omitting that step is why the strawberries in commercially made ice cream are unpleasant frozen chunks, and rather flavorless.