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From old school to cold school
A tale of three ice cream makers
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Rival ice cream maker - photo by Tom Reed

When we started testing ice cream makers, we initially brushed off the electric Rival ice cream maker, with a drum that churns electrically but requires rock salt to freeze the ice cream. The more modern, frozen-bucket type of ice cream maker, we figured, was newer and better.

Boy, were we wrong.

After about 25 minutes of churning, the old-school rock-salt method produced ready-to-eat, perfect ice cream. The new-fangled frozen-bucket electric model? More like soft serve, which we then had to put in the freezer in order to scoop it.

The verdict? While chipping the ice and sprinkling the rock salt is labor intensive - and best accomplished outside, which unfortunately means dealing with 95-degree heat - less than a half hour later we had ice cream that was ready to go.

Going back in time

  • The maker: White Mountain ice cream freezer
  • The parts: Wooden bucket, metal churning canister, metal churn with wooden tips, hand-crank top
  • How it works: Assemble the churn with the ice cream custard inside the canister. Place it inside the bucket and fit the metal lid on top of it. Fill the bucket with ice and rock salt and start turning and churning.
  • The result: Well, to be honest, we never got that far. It takes about a half hour to freeze the ice cream, but turning the churn is so labor intensive, we started breaking a sweat before five minutes were up. Heck, even on a cold day, this would get pretty boring. If this were 1890 it might make a good activity for the kids while mom's making dinner or scrubbing laundry ... for about 10 minutes.

Old-fashioned, with a twist

  • The maker: Rival
  • The parts: Plastic bucket, plastic churn, metal canister and plastic top with electric motor.
  • How it works: Pour the ice cream custard into the metal canister and assemble it in the plastic bucket. Pour ice and rock salt in and plug it in - it tuns on automatically.
  • The result: Ready-to-eat, delicious ice cream. It worked so well, in fact, that we got fancy and made strawberry and chocolate ice cream, too, which in the past didn't work out so well in our frozen-bucket model.

New doesn't mean better

  • The maker: Krups La Glaciere
  • The parts: Metal-lined plastic canister that is frozen, plastic churn, electric motor
  • How it works: Assemble the parts and pour in the custard through a hole in the top
  • The result: Mediocre. Vanilla froze the best in this machine, but it still needed to be put in the freezer after about 25 minutes in the machine to harden. It's simple to make ice cream with this, but the result is an overly simplified version of ice cream.
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