cuisinart ice-21 review

Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker Review (ICE-21)

Uncover the secrets of the Cuisinart ICE-21 ice cream maker. A simple, low-cost appliance that allows you to make fantastic ice cream in the comfort of your own home.

Introduction

The Cuisinart ICE-21 has a special place in my heart: my first attempt at making ice cream was with this machine. It was the first time I’d ever tasted homemade ice cream that had actually been churned – the way ice cream is supposed to be made.

Sure, there are tonnes of recipes available for making no-churn ice cream (some are on this website!). It’s easy – combine some whipped cream with condensed milk and vanilla. Freeze and you have vanilla ice cream! Or do you? I’m going to let you in on a secret. Food bloggers are masters of making food look good. No-churn ice cream looks amazing in the pics. But don’t be fooled, using an ice cream machine will take your frozen desserts to a whole new level.

ice cream in bowl

Freshly made ice cream

The Cuisinart ICE-21 is an extremely popular ice cream maker for good reason. It’s cheap, but not “poor quality cheap”. It’s easy to use and fits into small kitchens. You’d probably have had me shouting “take my money!” right there, but what about the ice cream quality? It is actually very good. I’ll go into more detail about the ice cream soon.

As with every ice cream maker, you can’t have everything. There is a downside to buying an entry level model so keep reading so that you can make an informed buying decision.


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Product Specifications

  • Width 23cm (9.0″)
  • Height 29cm (11.25″)
  • Depth 24cm (9.25″)
  • Weight 4.5kg (9.9lb)
  • Loudness 79-82 Db
  • Paddle Speed 32rpm
  • Power cable 60cm (24″)
  • Overrun 40%
  • Warranty 3 years

Watch the Cuisinart ICE-21 in Action

How does the Cusinart ICE-21 make ice cream?

There are two main types of ice cream maker currently available.

  1. Ice cream makers with a compressor
  2. Ice cream makers with a freezable bowl
compressor v removable bowl

Machines with a built in compressor are more complex.

1. Ice cream makers with a compressor

This type of machine has a built in freezer which provides you with the freedom to make ice cream whenever you feel like it. In theory, you could make ice cream all day. Compressor models are, generally, the more expensive option as they have a lot more complexity.

2. Ice cream makers with a freezable bowl

The Cuisinart ICE-21 fits into this category. An ice cream maker with a freezable bowl that is lined with a special liquid. At room temperature, you can hear it sloshing around. When the bowl is placed in a freezer the liquid freezes hard. Once it’s removed from the freezer the bowl will stay cold for around an hour.

It’s important to understand that the bowl can be used once only, then it’ll need to be frozen again.

There are pros and cons that come with choosing this appliance but we’ll look at those further into the review. For now, let’s take a look at what makes up this machine.

ice cream in a container

Ice cream ready to scoop.

The Cuisinart ICE-21 Components

Now it’s time to take a look at the components that make up this ice cream machine. All the freezable bowl models produced by Cuisinart are similar in that they have four parts.

Cuisinart ICE-21 components

  1. The base
  2. The dasher
  3. The freezer bowl
  4. The lid

1. The base

On first glance the ICE-21 doesn’t have the sleek, high end look that some of its competitors have. But don’t let that fool you. It’s a solidly built piece of equipment that can pump out ice cream for years without missing a beat. The motor is powerful and has no problem churning ice cream, frozen yoghurt, sherbet, sorbet or even frozen drinks.

Cuisinart Base

The base houses the motor.

Underneath the base you’ll see there are four rubber feet to give the machine stability when it’s in action. I also like that there’s a small space to store the unused cord so the counter looks neat and there’s less chance of accidents.

Base of machine

The cord can be stored inside the machine.

2. The paddle

The paddle (or dasher) is responsible for mixing and adding air to the ice cream during churning. It’s solidly built out of plastic and I’ve never experienced a broken paddle (although they can be purchased separately if needed).

Cuisinart Paddle

The paddle is built to last

This is a patent pending piece of technology which is unique in that it doesn’t actually rotate – it is locked into one position. The freezer bowl locks into a 12 tooth gear protruding from the base. So it’s the bowl that spins around rather than the paddle. This technology is used in all the removable bowl Cuisinart models and it offers excellent power. Where other makers will start to struggle at the end of the churn as the ice cream thickens, this powerhorse continues.

A Minor Complaint

Ice cream that’s icy needs to be avoided like the plague. Nobody wants to eat that! Our goal is to produce creamy ice cream that has a smooth mouth-feel. The problem with many domestic ice cream makers is that there’s a small gap between the inside of the bowl and the edge of the paddle. This results in a really thin layer of ice cream freezing around the inside of the bowl. The end result is ice cream that takes a little longer to churn than it’d take if the paddle touched the side of the bowl.

A solution is to stop the machine and scrape the sides of the bowl to remove the hardened ice cream. It’s crucial that you do this as quickly as possible as you don’t want the ice cream to melt, even a little.

This issue with the gap effects the Breville Smart Scoop as well. Actually. it seems to be a common problem with most ice cream makers.


Overrun

As ice cream gets churned, air is incorporated into the dessert. If an ice cream had 50% overrun, that means the ice cream base has increased by 50% at the end of churning.

The Cuisinart ICE-21 claims to add 40% overrun which I think is perfectly fine. Commercial machines can incorporate well over 100% overrun into their products; however, premium ice cream overrun will be much lower. This is the type of ice cream we’ll be emulating in the Cuisinart!

3. The bowl

The bowl is a solidly built component which contains cooling liquid between a double-insulated wall. You can hear the sloshing sound of this liquid when it’s at room temperature. To use the bowl you’ll need to freeze it for 6-24 hours (preferably overnight).

Cuisinart Bowl

The freezer bowl

This bowl allows the user to make 1.5L (1.5Qt) of frozen dessert. This is the smallest bowl on offer in the Cuisinart range but it’s still a decent size.

The bowl is 18cm in diameter so this can be a challenge for some homes with limited freezer space. If your freezer seems to constantly be jam packed to capacity, you may want to consider a machine with a built in freezer so that you don’t need to store the bowl in the freezer. For the rest of you, keep reading!

4. The lid

Like the paddle, the Cusinart’s lid is built to last. The plastic is clear which is really handy to see how your ice cream is progressing.

Cuisinart Lid

The lid

The easy-lock functionality allows the user to easily attach the lid, unlike some other appliances which are not so easy to attach.

An ingredient spout allows you to add mix-ins like chocolate, nuts, fruit and sauces without stopping the freezing cycle. This is important as the ice cream needs to be churned as quickly as possible to improve texture. Stopping the churn cycle to add ingredients would be counter-productive.

Cuisinart Lid Lock

Be sure to align the lid with the groove in the base.

Making Ice Cream with the Cuisinart ICE-21

There are a few steps you’ll follow to make your ice cream. Whether you choose the Cusinart or some other brand, the steps are the same.

Keep in mind that before you start step 1, you’ll need to have frozen the bowl overnight. When you do this, I recommend you place the bowl in a freezer bag or cover in cling wrap first. This protects the bowl and stops ice crystals forming inside.

Place the bowl at the back of the freezer to make sure it gets nice and cold. Temperature fluctuates at the front of the freezer which isn’t ideal.

ice cream making process

Step 1: Preparation

Creating the ice cream base is a really important step. You can have the best ice cream maker in the world but it’ll make no difference if you have the ingredient proportions wrong.

It’s not difficult though. Simply check out my ice cream recipes which have been tried and tested. Cuisinart also include a recipe booklet in the box so you’ll have plenty of flavours to make from the get-go.

Cuisinart Recipes and Info

The manual has a selection of recipes.

If you decide to make ice cream from other recipe books you’ll need to check the yield to ensure it won’t overfill your 1.5L bowl!

Step 2 Pasteurisation

For homemade ice cream this is an optional step depending on what recipe you use. There are many egg free ice cream recipes available that will mean you don’t need to heat your milk mixture. The heating process is primarily to kill off any harmful bacteria in the eggs.

Making the custard base

Making a chocolate ice cream base with egg yolks is simple.

Keep in mind that even if you don’t use eggs, the heating process can have another purpose: flavour infusion. If you use ingredients like spices you’ll need to heat your ice cream base with the additional ingredients to allow the flavours to impart.

Step 3 Ageing

Ageing is all about letting your ice cream mixture chill for at least a few hours, but preferably overnight. It’s essential when you’ve cooked off an ice cream custard. It allows the flavours to further infuse and improves the final ice cream structure. 

Ageing ice cream base in fridge

Place the container at the back of your fridge.

Tip: Adjust the fridge temperature to maximum coolness as this will help your ice cream churn faster. I’ve also heard some food bloggers freeze their mixture for half an hour to get it really cold then give it a quick blitz to break up any ice crystals. Feel free to give it a try!

Step 4 Freezing

This is the part I enjoy the most (other than eating it). Now it’s time to make the ice cream!

Bowl freezing

Freeze the bowl in a bag to protect and avoid ice crystals. Turn freezer to coldest setting.

Get everything ready before you remove the bowl from the freezer. You don’t want any wasted time, allowing the freezer bowl to start warming. Consider the following:

  • Positioning your Cuisinart in the right spot and plugging it in.
  • Ensure you have the lid and paddle ready to go.
  • Have your ice cream mixture ready to pour. You may want to give it a quick strain to remove any lumps.
  • Have a spatula ready.
  • If you’re adding mix-ins, place them in the fridge to chill.

Now you can remove the bowl from the freezer and take it out of it’s freezer bag. Place it on the base, add the paddle and finally the lid. It will all click into place easily.

Connecting up the ice cream maker

Connecting the pieces takes seconds. You can’t get it wrong.

Finally, start the ice cream maker. The Cuisinart ICE-21 panel is really simple – no complex setting of any kind. Simply flick on the start button and the bowl will start rotating. You can now pour the ice cream through the chute and begin the waiting process.

Cuisinart Front

Simply switch on to start making your ice cream.

As the bowl isn’t big and the motor is powerful, you’ll discover that it only takes about 20 minutes to make delicious ice cream. This time varies depending on the volume of ice cream you’re churning, the recipe used, room temperature and freezer bowl temperature.

You’ll only get one shot at making the ice cream. If you’ve been waiting 45 minutes and it still isn’t hardening there’s something wrong. Unfortunately you’ll need to re-freeze the bowl overnight again which is something I’ve had to do on several occasions. Twice it was because I didn’t properly cool the ice cream mixture… rookie error 😉

Step 5 Adding Extras

Drop them in at the end of the churning process when the ice cream is pretty much ready to be removed. Don’t add them too early. Some add-ins like biscuit and brownie will turn into crumbs giving the ice cream an unpleasant texture. Also, it puts unnecessary strain on the motor to churn extra volume.

candy mix-ins

Adding mix-ins is the fun bit.

Chill your add-ins before tossing them in. If they’re at room temperature there will be a small amount of ice cream melt which should be avoided.

Step 6 Hardening

Finally, once the churning in complete your ice cream will look similar to soft serve. It won’t be that hard texture of ice cream bought from the supermarket. To get it this hard, it’ll need to be frozen for about 2 hours.

As the churning ends, turn off the machine and remove the lid. Once you’ve pulled out the paddle and scraped off the ice cream into a container, you can easily scoop out the rest of the ice cream from the bowl. Use a soft spatula that won’t damage the bowl.

Ice cream ready for hardening

Use a shallow container if possible.

To freeze the ice cream, use an airtight container that has plenty of surface area. The traditional ice cream containers that you get when you buy premium ice cream at the supermarket are not ideal. They are great in the freezer as they fit neatly into small areas, however they don’t allow your ice cream to freeze as quickly. A nice shallow, wide container is good. If it doesn’t have a lid you can cover with cling wrap.

I also recommend placing a layer of cling wrap on the ice cream (it needs to be touching it). This stops ice crystals forming.

Tips for hardening your ice cream

  1. Place your ice cream at the back of the freezer as this is the coldest position and doesn’t have as much temperature fluctuation as at the front.
  2. You could also adjust the freezer to maximum coldness to speed up the freezing process and help produce better ice cream.
  3. Chill the container in the freezer before adding the ice cream.
  4. Shallow containers with more surface space freeze the ice cream faster and produce better ice cream.
  5. Place some cling wrap on top of the ice cream before adding the lid. This stops ice crystals forming.

Some Examples of Cuisinart-Made Desserts

A trio of sorbets

Which is best? Red wine, mango or lemon sorbets? I couldn’t decide so instead made them all. The Cuisinart makes incredible sorbet, perfect for a hot summer day. But this picture highlights one down side to the ICE-21: it can only make one batch of frozen dessert a day (unless you have multiple bowls) so this trio took a few days to create.

Trio of sorbets

Vanilla ice cream

There’s nothing “vanilla” about homemade vanilla ice cream. This ice cream used the Philadelphia method. It’s egg-less which gives it a nice white colour. If you enjoy a soft serve texture to your ice cream, this recipe can be completed in under half an hour as there’s no cooking involved.

vanilla ice cream

Blue moon ice cream

I know this one’s more popular in parts of Asia and the US, but here in Australia it isn’t common. It’s another simple recipe that provides a bit of wow factor for its colour. Lovely served next to a slab of decadent brownie.

blue moon ice cream

Cleaning the Cuisinart ICE-21

Cleaning this appliance is very simple as it has so few parts. The freezer bowl, lid and paddle can be added to hot, soapy water and cleaned with a soft cloth. Avoid abrasive cleaning agents.

If you’ve spilt ice cream onto the base then it can be cleaned with a warm, damp cloth.

Does the Cuisinart Make Great Ice cream?

Heck yes! Especially for its price tag. There’s no doubt you’ll impress family and friends with the ice cream made by this machine.

The beauty of this ice cream maker is that it produces the ice cream in around 20 minutes. That’s fast for a budget domestic appliance like this one. One of the best ways to create ice cream that has that lovely smooth, creamy texture is to churn the ice cream as fast as possible. That’s why this ice cream is so good.

Of course, the recipe is another major factor in making good ice cream. An ice cream maker can’t really help with that so you’ll need to find yourself some tried and tested recipes.

vanilla ice cream

It’s hard to beat freshly churned vanilla bean ice cream.

Best 3 Features of the Cusinart ICE-21

  1. The size of the unit: It fits easily into small kitchens and can be stored in a cupboard if it doesn’t fit on the bench.
  2. The price: It’s an entry level model, perfect for price conscious consumers.
  3. The ice cream: It produces very good ice cream.

3 Reasons to Give the Thumbs Down

  1. Noise: It isn’t quiet. Watching TV with the machine running nearby is a challenge.
  2. Freezable bowl: You need to be organised to pre-freeze the bowl before making the ice cream. It also takes up a fair bit of space in the freezer.
  3. Bowl size: At 1.5L (1.5Qt) it’s okay, but a larger 2L (2Qt) bowl would be preferable.
Best ice-21 alternatives

There are two good alternatives to the ICE-21

Top Alternatives to the Cuisinart ICE-21

1. Prefer a built in compressor? Consider the Cuisinart ICE-100

cuisinart ice-100

The top-end Cuisinart model

The Cuisinart ICE-100 is a high-end domestic ice cream maker. Although it has the same size bowl as the ICE-21, the first big difference is that it has a built in compressor. If you like the convenience of being able to make ice cream whenever you like, this may be a better option for you.

A unique feature about this model is that you receive two paddles: one for making ice cream and the other for making gelato. There is a difference between the two and being able to incorporate more air when making ice cream is definitely useful.

What’s good about the ICE-100

  • Makes amazing ice cream
  • Built in compressor
  • Two paddle options

What’s not so good about the ICE-100

  • Expensive
  • Uses up more kitchen bench space
  • The keep cool function isn’t great

2. Want a bigger bowl? Choose the Cuisinart ICE-30

Cuisinart ICE-30

This model offers amazing affordability.

The Cuisinart ICE-30BC is another simple, entry level ice cream maker that is hard to beat for affordability. If you don’t make a lot of ice cream, but like the ability to make your own occasionally then this is a great option. It doesn’t use lots of space and the price is much lower than the more expensive compressor models.

As far as quality goes, the ICE-30 is capable of making some great ice cream. It’s worth noting that although the bowl is 2L (2Qt), I’ve found that making less than capacity results in better ice cream.

What’s good about the ICE-30

  • Affordable
  • Doesn’t use a lot of bench space
  • Well built, quality product

What’s not so good about the ICE-30

  • Having to freeze the bowl each time
  • Quite noisy when operating

Conclusion

The Cuisinart ICE-21 is a fantastic entry level model for those that want to try their hand at making ice cream at home. But there’s no need to stop there. Get busy churning out pints of gelato, sorbet, soft serve and even frozen drinks (slushies).

The beauty of this ice cream maker is its price. There’s nothing worse than buying an expensive appliance, feeling motivated, only to see it gathering dust months later. For the price of around half a dozen pints of store bought premium ice cream, you can own your own shiny Cuisinart. Now you have access to unlimited pints of ice cream that taste just as good, if not better, than the premium stuff. Better still, you don’t have all the added stabilisers and other ingredients that seem to plague store bought products.

If you think the 1.5L (1.5Qt) bowl capacity is a little small, I recommend the Cuisinart ICE-30BC as it has a bigger 2L (2Qt) bowl. The extra size really is noticeable.

For such a simple machine, the Cuisinart ICE-21 produces very smooth, premium ice cream that a chef would be proud of. Cuisinart are a well established brand and they know how to make ice cream makers that last.

The beauty of this appliance is it’s simplicity. With so few moving parts there’s less potential for equipment failure. However, if you do have any issues it’s good to know there’s a reassuring 3 year Warranty backing up your purchase.

The Cuisinart ICE-21 is a solid unit and I recommend it to any budding ice cream maker.

Are you interested in seeing the ice cream I made for this review? Here it is!

chocolate ice cream with sprinkles

Chocolate ice cream made by ICE-21