The ice cream makers come in two styles: pricey self-refrigerating appliances that churn out continuous batches, and cheaper models with removable coolant-lined canisters. The latter must be frozen (usually overnight) before each use, requiring both precious freezer space and super-cold temperatures. To get the scoop on both styles, we churned vanilla ice cream and lime sorbet in six models (two self-refrigerating and four canister models ranging from $30 to $330.99), surveying texture, overrun percentage (the amount of air whipped into the ice cream, which can span from 0 to 100 percent), and noise, plus general user-friendliness. Flavors being equal across the board, this was a texture contest.
Whynter Ice Cream Maker
This self-refrigerating model makes continuous batches of creamy, dense, smooth ice cream, without the need to freeze a canister. The ice cream is firm enough to eat right away, and the second batch came out faster and even smoother than the first. Simple and intuitive, the timer can be set for up to 60 minutes for walk-away convenience. Canister and blade are removable for easy cleaning.
Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker
Our Best Buy (and previous favorite) made ice cream that rivaled the smooth texture of our top choice. Though a bit noisier than our winner, it was simple to use and one of the most compact models we tested. True, its canister must be frozen before each use—and new batches of ice cream refrozen for a few hours before serving for a densely packed texture—but given its modest price, you can hardly go wrong.
Immersion blenders come in a number of styles. In addition to making smoother textures and being the overall easiest to use, we found the Breville excelled at tougher tasks that others just couldn’t handle. It was one of the only blenders to make super-smooth peanut butter and to crush ice. Its 42-ounce blending jar was also the only one big enough to fit the ingredients for two smoothies. It’s one of the pricier hand blenders out there, but we think the Breville Control Grip is far less likely to languish in a junk drawer or at the back of a cupboard than other, inconvenient offerings.
An immersion blender’s motor needs to have enough torque to create a vigorous vortex so that food circulates in the mixing vessel and passes through the rotary blade multiple times. “If there’s a lot of movement, that’s good,” said Volker Frick, the former executive chef at Kettle Cuisine. “How deep does [the vortex] go? And how quickly does it spit it back up?” An effective vortex will create a smooth puree, while a subpar one will leave stringy or chunky bits in soup or smoothies. Because these machines are designed to be used one-handed (you’ll likely hold a pot or mixing cup with your other hand), the best ones are comfortable to hold.