How to Make Ice Cream without an Ice Cream Maker

Skip the machinery and make handmade ice cream — literally.

An ice cream maker may be the easiest way to make homemade ice cream, but it's not the only way. With a little bit of kitchen science, you can make soft, smooth ice cream without any special appliances. 

The key is preventing the formation of large ice crystals. Larger crystals mean a crunchy, icy texture whereas microscopic crystals keep things smooth and creamy. Since the constant churning motion of an ice cream maker prevents the formation of large crystals, for this method we’ll employ other tricks to keep the crystals small. 

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1 Prepare Base

Most ice cream bases begin with milk, cream and sugar, but there are a few additional ingredients that will help stop the formation of large crystals. For that reason, custard-style ice cream bases with egg yolks work well. Start your base by combining half and half, sugar and egg yolks in a medium sauce pan.

Low fat or low sugar ice cream bases tend to not work as well when made by hand and will create an icy product.

2 Chill the Base

To quickly chill your ice cream base, place it in a bowl over a second bowl full of ice and whisk until it is chilled. When you're ready to begin freezing, pour the ice cream base into a large, shallow non-plastic dish. Using a shallow dish increases the surface area and speeds the freezing process. 

Make sure your base is thoroughly chilled before beginning the freezing process — it helps the liquid freeze faster, which also prevents large crystals.

3 Freeze & Scrape

Cover the dish and place it in the freezer for about 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, the edges will just begin to solidify. Scrape the frozen edges from the side of the dish with a spatula or whisk and vigorously stir them into the rest of the liquid. Freeze for another 30 minutes, scrape the edges, stir and freeze again.

4 Whisk in Crystals

Keep repeating the freeze-and-stir process every 30 minutes. Once the ice cream begins to thicken slightly, use a whisk or immersion blender to vigorously beat the mixture instead of just stirring with a spoon. 

Whisking breaks up the crystals better than a spoon and incorporates air, making for a fluffier product.

5 Add In Goodies

When the ice cream reaches "soft serve" consistency, it's ready for add-ins. Gently fold in anything from frozen fruit or strawberry syrup to chocolate chips, caramel drizzle or chopped peanut butter cups. After folding in the extras, return the ice cream to the freezer for one more hour to set.

Avoid adding in banana slices because they will turn black.

6 Enjoy or Store

Homemade ice cream is best consumed the day it's prepared, but it can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week. Pressing a layer of cling wrap onto the surface of the ice cream, even if using a resealable container, will help keep the ice cream soft during storage. Once you've found your favorite ice cream base, the sky is the limit for add-ins, so have fun and get the kids involved in ice cream making this summer

Find more summer how-tos here »

Plus: Get a full recipe for this ice cream » 

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About Budget Bytes

Beth from Budget Bytes is a food lover and a number cruncher who dishes up healthy recipes on her blog that won't put a huge dent in your wallet. She is the author of the cookbook, Budget Bytes: Over 100 Easy Delicious Recipes to Slash Your Grocery Bill in Half, and she also works as a microbiologist in a hospital laboratory. Follow her on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.