How to Make Perfect Homemade Ice Cream

Katie Sweeney

There’s nothing better than dipping a spoon into a churning ice cream maker and tasting homemade ice cream. It’s one of life’s little pleasures, and if you’ve never done it, stop what you're doing right now and order yourself an ice cream maker! Homemade ice cream is divinely creamy, smooth, and oftentimes much softer than store-bought ice cream. The flavor is usually richer and more delicate than your average Ben & Jerry's pint, and if you make it correctly, it will be so good that you won’t be able to stop yourself from indulging in another bite! In honor of National Ice Cream Day, which is today, I’m sharing everything you need to know about making the most delicious homemade ice cream.

  1. If you're using an ice cream maker that has a frozen canister, place the canister in the freezer a few days before you plan on making the ice cream. Also make sure there is room in your freezer for the finished product.
  2. Pick up a few plastic or paper containers from your local Whole Foods—the ones that you put salads or soups in. After the ice cream is made, you can store it in these containers.
  3. Use the best-quality ingredients you can afford. Local whole milk, fresh strawberries from the farmers market, Dutch cocoa, etc.
  4. Invest in an ice cream making cookbook. David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop is my ice cream bible. Yes, you can find tons of ice cream recipes online, but there is a science to making ice cream. If you aren’t familiar with the technique, it’s best to start with a trusted source, and I promise you can’t go wrong with Lebovitz’s book. He’s a world-famous blogger and ex–Chez Panisse pastry chef who lives in France, and his recipes are foolproof.
  5. Know the basics. There are two types of ice cream: one that involves egg yolks and making a custard, and another that uses simply cream and milk but no eggs. The most traditional kind of ice cream is the custard variation.
  6. When making a custard-based ice cream, you always follow this method: Heat milk (or cream) with sugar in a saucepan until almost simmering. In another bowl, whisk egg yolks until thick. Add the warm milk to the egg yolks, incredibly slowly and whisking constantly. This is the most difficult step, as you don’t want to make scrambled eggs! Once the two components are combined, you heat until thick and almost boiling. Working quickly, strain the mixture into a bowl that sits in an ice-water bath. Note that it doesn’t matter what the flavor of the ice cream is; this process always remains the same.
  7. When the ice cream base is ready, it’s best to chill it overnight in the fridge before you put it in the ice cream maker.
  8. Plan ahead. If you want to serve cherry bourbon ice cream with apple pie at your midsummer dinner party on Saturday night, you should make the base on Thursday. It will sit in the fridge overnight, then put it in the ice cream maker on Friday. Churn the mixture, which should then chill in the freezer for another night so it will have the correct consistency on Saturday.
  9. Be kind to yourself! Like anything in the kitchen, making ice cream takes practice. Start with a simple flavor like vanilla, and if your first batch doesn’t turn out, give it another try. I promise once you master the basics, you’ll learn to love making it.
  10. After you’ve got the technique down, experiment with flavors. Steep the warm milk with fresh mint and spin in melted chocolate at the end of the churning process to make the best mint chip ice cream you’ll ever taste. Purée fresh white peaches and pour into the ice cream maker when it’s almost done churning. Add toasted almonds for a savory crunch.

In need of an ice cream maker? Cuisinart’s classic machine is affordable and wildly easy to use.

What’s your favorite kind of ice cream?

Add a Comment

More Stories
1