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Cuisinart ICE-21 Ice Cream Maker Review

Cuisinart ICE-21 Ice Cream Maker Review

Last Updated on February 11, 2024 7 Comments

It’s not often that the lowest priced kitchen appliance does the best job. Usually, if you want the best results, you have to pay more money.

Which is understandable, but frustrating.

So it gives me great pleasure to say that the incredibly inexpensive Cuisinart ICE-21 outperforms every other cream maker I have ever tested (with one notable, and very expensive, exception).

Keep reading and I will explain why…

Cuisinart ICE-21 1.5 Quart Ice Cream Maker

Cuisinart ICE-21 Specs

Width:

9"

Height:

11.25"

Depth:

9.25"

Weight:

9.9 lb

Loudness:

79-82 Db

Paddle Rpm:

32

Overrun:

40%

Warranty:

3/5 year

Manual:

My Ratings

Build Quality

Usability

Ice Cream Quality

Value for money

Overall

Pros and Cons

  • Small and compact
  • Easy to use
  • Incredibly cheap!
  • Makes great ice cream really quickly
  • Have to plan ahead
  • Bowl takes up room in freezer
  • Small 1.5 quart capacity
  • Limited to one batch at a time

What I like about the Cuisinart ICE-21 ice cream maker

1. It makes really good ice cream

The Cuisinart ICE-21 makes noticeably better ice cream than every other ice cream maker I have tested except the Lello 4080 Musso Lussino, which is usually around 10 times more expensive!

Emptying the Cuisinart ICE-21

The Cuisinart ICE-21 makes better ice cream than almost every other machine!

2. The low price

The Cuisinart ICE-21 [Amazon] is also one of the cheapest ice cream makers you can currently buy. This makes it ideal for both those on a budget and those who are unsure how often they will use an ice cream maker.

3. It’s small

The Cuisinart ICE-21 is one of the smallest ice cream makers you can buy. This means it takes up less room in my tiny kitchen. If, like me, you have limited space: this is a great choice. What's more, the smaller bowl is easier to fit in the freezer.

3. It’s basic

The Cuisinart ICE-21 is just a motor, a dasher, a freezable bowl and an on/off button. This means it's really easy to use. But more importantly, there's less to go wrong! And if the dasher breaks or the bowl loses it's freezing capabilities, replacements are cheap and easily available.

What I don’t like about the Cuisinart ICE-21 ice cream maker

1. Small capacity

The Cuisinart ICE-21 bowl has a relatively small 1.5 quart capacity. All the other Cuisinart freezable bowl machines have larger, 2 quart bowls. And although most ice cream makers with compressors have 1.5 quart capacities too, they at least can make back to back batches.

Cuisinart ICE-21 vs ICE-30

The ICE-21 has a smaller capacity than other machines (eg the ICE-30)

The small bowl size is a bit of a double-edged sword, though: it’s one of the main reasons why the ICE-21 makes such good ice cream (more on why later), and it also takes up less space in your freezer.

But if you need bigger batches in one go, then this may not be the best ice cream maker for you.

To be clear: this is the only disadvantage that is particular to the Cuisinart ICE-21, the next 3 disadvantages apply to all freezable bowl ice cream makers…

2. You have to plan ahead 

With this type of ice cream maker, before you can make ice cream, Cuisinart recommend that you leave the bowl in the freezer for between 16 and 24 hours, although overnight seems to work fine for me.

Now, of course, you can just leave the bowl in the freezer all the time. That's what I do. And if you wash it (with cold water) and put it back in the freezer as soon as you finish using it, it will still be partly frozen, so won’t need as long.

Cuisinart ICE-21 bowl in my freezer

You've got to fit and leave the bowl in your freezer overnight

But maybe space is an issue. Or maybe you forget. In which case, you’ll need to plan your ice cream a day ahead. Or if that’s not acceptable, then an ice cream maker with a compressor is the best option for you!

3. The bowl takes up space in the freezer

If you’ve got a small freezer (like me), then you might struggle to fit the bowl alongside all the other stuff in there. And this can be quite annoying. On the other hand, the small 1.5 quart capacity means the bowl takes up less space than other the bowls of other machines!

How good is the ice cream, gelato and sorbet from the Cuisinart ICE-21?

Since this is the least expensive of the Cuisinart ice cream makers, you might expect the ice cream from the ICE-21 to be poorer than from its more expensive brothers. But that's not the case at all.

The faster an ice cream maker freezes the mixture, the smoother the results and the better the ice cream.

And because the ICE-21 makes smaller batches, in a smaller bowl, in which more of the mixture is in contact with the sides, it freezes the ice cream really, really quickly. In fact, it's the fastest machine I've used, with typical draw times of 15 to 20 minutes!

Cuisinart ICE-21 with ice cream

The Cuisinart ICE-21 makes very smooth ice cream, very quickly

For context, bear in mind that other machines like the ludicrously expensive Breville Smart Scoop might take up to 40 min before the ice cream is ready to be removed!

And this means the ice cream the ICE-21 churns out is better than all the other machines except the Lello 4080.

It doesn’t have the fancy gelato and sorbet settings that you’ll find on the ICE-70 or the ICE-60, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t make gelato or sorbet well either. You just need to be mindful of how long you leave the mixture in the machine.

So if you simply want the best ice cream and can’t afford the Lello, the ICE-21 is probably the machine for you!

How does the Cuisinart ICE-21 work?

There are three types of domestic ice cream makers. And the difference between them, is the way they freeze the mixture:

  1. With ice and salt
  2. With a built-in freezer/compressor
  3. With a removable bowl that's pre-frozen in your kitchen freezer

The Cuisinart ICE-21 is type number 3. It uses a small bowl that's lined with a special type of liquid gel. When the bowl is placed in a freezer, over time, the gel freezes solid. This gel keeps its temperature really well, so when the bowl is removed from the freezer, it stays very cold for a long time.

When you want to make ice cream, you remove the bowl from the freezer, attach it to the machine, add the mixture and the bowl transfers the coldness to the mixture as it's being churned. Simple!

4 separate parts of the Cuisinart ICE-21

The 4 separate parts of the Cuisinart ICE-21

Let's look at the different parts that make up the ICE-21 and how they work together. As with all these machines from Cuisinart, there are just 4 parts that make up the ICE-21:

  1. The base that contains the motor and the on/off switch
  2. The removable, freezable bowl
  3. The "dasher", that churns the ice cream
  4. The transparent lid that holds everything in place

The base of the Cuisinart ICE-21

The base of the ICE-21 is made from white plastic. It has the Cuisinart logo embossed on the front. And a simple on/off switch. There are no other decorations or controls.

On the underside are 4 rubber tipped feet that keep the machine stable while in use. And some ventilation grills to help prevent the motor from overheating.

Underneath the Cuisinart ICE-21 base

Underneath the Cuisinart ICE-21 base

The power cable come out the back and is just 24" (60 cm) long, which could be a little short for some kitchens.

On the top of the base is a 12 tooth gear which is turned by the motor underneath. This gear slots into a hole in the bottom of the removable bowl. So when the motor turns the gear, the gear turns the bowl.

Cuisinart ICE-21-motor-2 base with gear

The gear on the top of the base that rotates the bowl

So, as with all the Cuisinart ice cream machines (and unlike all other ice cream makers), it's the bowl that rotates, rather than the paddle. There are very good reasons for this, as I'll explain later.

There's nothing flimsy about this base. It has a decent weight that prevents it rattling or moving about. And the motor is powerful enough to churn thick mixes without the gears slipping with those horrible clunking noises you get with some machines.

The Cuisinart ICE-21's removable bowl

The bowl is thick and heavy, with a 1.5 quart (1.4 liter) capacity. It measures 5.5" (14 cm) high and 7" (18 cm) across.

It's really important to take note of these measurements. This is because the bowl has got to fit in your freezer. If you can't make room for it in the freezer, you won't be able to make ice cream!

Cuisinart ICE-21 bowl

The small, 1.5 quart ICE-21 bowl 

The ICE-21 bowl is actually the smallest available from Cuisinart. And I don't think the other brands have machines with smaller bowls either. So if you can't fit this one in your freezer, you will probably need to look at ice cream makers with compressors.

In fact, I think most people will be able to fit it in their freezers. It's more a case of the food items that the bowl will displace. And whether that's an acceptable compromise in the long run!

When the bowl's at room temperature, if you shake it, you can hear the liquid gel that lines the sides sloshing about. Once frozen, it solidifies, and you won't be able to hear it. So this is one of the ways you can tell it's cold enough to be used.

Cuisinart recommend that their bowls are left in the freezer for between 16 and 24 hours. But I find that if I leave it in overnight, I always get good results.

Cuisinart ICE-21 bowl bottom

The bottom of the bowl slots into the gear on the base

The bowl is double insulated and maintains its temperature very well. But don't forget, as soon as you remove it from the freezer, it will start to warm up. So it's best to use it straight away!

The dasher of the Cuisinart ICE-21

The dasher is the thing that actually churns the mixture to turn it into ice cream. It has 2 important jobs:

  1. To scrape the frozen mixture off the side of the bowl
  2. To add air to the mixture

The dasher that comes with the ICE-21 is a stiff, white plastic insert with two blades...

Cuisinart ICE-21 dasher

Cuisinart ICE-21 dasher, scrapes ice and adds air

As I’ve already mentioned, in most ice cream makers the dasher rotates to mix the ice cream. But with the Cuisinart machines, it's the removable bowl that's rotated while the dasher is anchored still by the lid.

And this is why the Cuisinart machines are so superior. The other machines can struggle to rotate the flimsy dasher from above as the mixture thickens. But in the Cuisinart models, the way the gear connects directly to the underside of the heavy bowl makes a much stronger and efficient system.

So while the gears can slip and clang and even stop altogether in the other machines, the Cuisinart ice cream makers always seem able to power through and finish the job!

Cuisinart ICE-21 insulating ice layer

A smaller gap between the blades and the bowl means a very thin layer of insulating ice!

However, the Cuisinart isn't perfect. The blades of the dasher are meant to scrape frozen mixture from the sides of the bowl and move them into the middle. The faster it does this, the faster the mixture freezes and the smoother the final ice cream.

But in all domestic machines, there's a small gap between the blades and the bowl. And this means a thin layer of frozen mixture builds up on the sides and isn't scraped away. This insulates the rest of the mixture from the bowl walls and slows down the freezing process.

Sure, it's a fault that could be improved. But the gap in the ICE-21 is smaller than in some of the other models (e.g. the ICE-30). And in fact, there is a way around it that I'll describe later on. But as we'll see, it doesn't seem to make a noticeable difference to the quality of the ice cream!

The Cuisinart ICE-21's lid

The lid of the ICE-21 is a big, transparent, plastic sheath that covers the removable bowl and anchors to the base at the bottom while holding the dasher in place at the top.

Cuisinart ICE-21 lid

There's a big hole in the lid, making it east to add mix ins and test the ice cream

There's a hole in the top which allows you to add extra ingredients to the ice cream as it's churning. This is useful as it's generally best to add cookies and sweets towards the end of the process.

The hole also allows you to easily test the temperature, consistency and even the taste of the mixture as it progresses. 


How to use the Cuisinart ICE-21 ice cream maker

Making ice cream with the Cuisinart ICE-21 involves 5 stages:

  1. Freezing the bowl
  2. Making the mixture
  3. Freezing and churning the mixture in the ICE-21
  4. Transferring the ice cream to the freezer for final hardening
  5. Cleaning the ice cream maker

1. Freeze the Cuisinart ICE-21 bowl

Put the bowl in the freezer. Cuisinart recommend that you leave it there for between 16 and 24 hours. For me, it works fine if I leave it for 12 hours. Here are some extra tips that might improve your results (none of them are essential):

  • Place the bowl at the back of the freezer where it's coldest
  • Leave it overnight, when the temperature won't fluctuate with people opening and closing the door
  • Adjust your freezer temperature down to its lowest setting
  • Cover the bowl with cling film and an elastic band to prevent water vapor that might spoil the ice cream getting in
  • Put the bowl in a plastic bag to protect it from freezer burn.

Most importantly: don't take the bowl out of the freezer until you're ready to add the mixture. And once it's out, move fast, as it's only getting warmer!

Cuisinart ICE-21 bowl with clingfilm

Optional: cover the bowl with clingfilm to prevent contamination

Give the bowl a shake when you get it out of the freezer. If you can hear a sloshing sound, then the liquid gel hasn’t fully frozen yet, and it will need more time back in the freezer until it’s ready to go!

2. Make the mixture

The Cuisinart ICE-21 comes with a recipe booklet that includes ice creams, frozen yogurts, sorbets and even frozen desserts like ice cream sandwich cookies!

Cuisinart ICE-21 recipe booklet

Cuisinart recipe book

And since these recipes were designed to use with the ICE-21, they're a good place to start. But half the fun of owning your own ice cream maker is inventing your own recipes. Or at least tweaking existing ice cream recipes. This is where it gets really exciting!

However, you can't throw any combination of cream, milk and sugar into the ICE-21 (or any other ice cream maker) and expect it to whip up perfect results. You need to follow certain rules.

And this is where a basic knowledge of ice cream science can help. Or a good ice cream recipe book!

When I read bad reviews about ice cream makers not producing the results people expect, usually the problem is the recipe rather than the machine. So make sure you get your recipe right!

Jenis ice cream recipe book

Recipe books are a great place to start

Whichever recipe you're using, there are certain things that you should always do to get the best results.

Most importantly, you should always pre-chill the mixture. If you're making a Philadelphia style ice cream that doesn't need to be cooked, make sure all the ingredients come straight out of the fridge. If you're making an ice cream that involves heating the mixture, you have to chill it thoroughly before it goes anywhere near the ICE-21.

This is the same for all machines really, but it's especially important with these removable bowl ice cream makers since they're already warming up from the moment they leave the freezer.

The mixture must be chilled to around 39°F (4°C) before you put it into the ICE-21

All mixes should be chilled to around 4°C before they go in the machine. Ideally, they should be cooled and aged in the fridge overnight. If that's not practical because you're in a rush, you can put the mix in a zip lock bag and cool it quickly in an ice bath.

The Cuisinart ICE-21 comes with a 1.5 quart bowl. But the machine will add a fair amount of air to the mixture, so you can't put a full 1.5 quarts of liquid in there or the ice cream will overflow out of the bowl.

So stick to good recipes that ask for 3 cups (or less than a litre) of liquid, pre-chill the mixture and you should be OK.

3. Churn and freeze the mixture in the Cuisinart ICE-21

It's a good idea to give the mixture a good blitz with a hand blender before you put it in the machine. This will get rid of any lumps that may have developed.

Then, take the bowl out of the freezer, and slot it onto the gear in the base of the ICE-21. Add the dasher and the lid to hold it in place. Then turn on the machine. Finally, pour the mixture into the rotating bowl through the hole in the lid.

Filling the Cuisinart ICE-21

Fill the ICE-21 with the mixture and turn it on!

If you're really serious, you can put your hand in the bowl to press one of the blades against the side of the bowl. This will prevent that thin layer of frozen mixture building up in the gap between the blades and the bowl. So it should speed up the freezing.

You'll need to keep your hand there for the duration of the churning though, otherwise the layer of ice will develop. And it's not like you'll have super icy ice cream if you don't do it. So I don’t really bother.

Once it has the consistency of soft serve ice cream, it's time to pull it out. Be careful not to over churn it. If you're making a high fat ice cream, this can lead to "buttering" where the fat forms lumps that are detectable by the tongue.

If you’re making sorbet or gelato, then you should be looking for the same sort of consistency as with ice cream. But with sorbet, again, be careful to over churn, as this can lead to a crumbly texture.

Ice cream ready in Cuisinart ICE-21

The ice cream is ready when it reaches a soft serve consistency

How long all this takes will depend on your recipe, how much mixture there is, how cold it is, how cold your bowl is and even how cold the room is! But I think the biggest factor is the quantity of the mixture.

I find the ICE-21 one of the fastest machines around. I can sometimes get batches finished in less than 15 min. And it will rarely take longer than 20 min.

While the ICE-21 is certainly not quiet, I don't find it especially noisy. I measured the noise at the start and end of a batch, and it varied between 82 and 79 decibels. Considering an empty room at nighttime is 30 decibels, this doesn't seem too high.

4. Transfer the ice cream from the Cuisinart ICE-21 to the freezer 

You could eat the ice cream straight from the machine. But you'll need to be quick, because it's not properly frozen yet, so it's really soft and will melt very quickly.

It's best to give it at least an hour, (but preferably 2) in the freezer. Once you've turned the machine off, lift out the dasher, scrape the ice cream into an airtight container and transfer it to the freezer.

Never use a metal utensil for this as it will mark the bowl. Best to stick with a wooden spoon or plastic scraper.

Transfer the ice cream quickly into containers and into your freezer to harden 

You should try to do this as quickly as possible, as if it starts to melt and then re-freezes in the freezer, the small ice crystals that formed in the machine will grow into larger crystals that will be detectable on the tongue and give the ice cream a coarse, icy texture.

So it's a good idea to pre-chill the container in the freezer before you put the ice cream in it Containers that are either wide and flat or deep and narrow are best, as the middle of the ice cream will be relatively close to the walls and this will encourage the ice cream to freeze quicker.

Because the whole dasher comes out of the bowl, it's really easy to scrape the ice cream off the dasher and then scoop the rest out of the bowl pretty quickly. And this reduces melting.

Once it's in the container, if you cover it with a sheet of cling film before you put the lid on, this will discourage the formation of ice crystals on the surface of the ice cream.

Then put the container at the back of the freezer (where it's coldest) for 1-2 hours. While you wait for it to harden, you can clean the machine…

5. Clean the Cuisinart ICE-21

Cleaning the ICE-21 is really straightforward. The dasher and the lid just need a quick wipe in warm soapy water.

Time to clean the Cuisinart ICE-21

Time to clean up!

Leave the bowl until any leftover ice cream left has melted. And then another dip in the sink will clean it very quickly. A soft sponge will do the job. Never use anything abrasive. If you can get it dried and back in the freezer quickly, it will need less freezing time before it’s ready to go again.

The body of the ICE-21 just needs a quick wipe, and the white plastic always looks brand new with no smears or stains. Being white, it will show the dust more than the brushed steel look of the other Cuisinart models, but an occasional wipe sorts it out.


Alternatives to the Cuisinart ICE-21 ice cream maker

So just in case the ICE-21 isn't the right machine for you, here are two alternatives that might suit you better.

Looking for bigger batches?

If 1.5 quarts of ice cream just isn't enough, you're going to need a bigger bowl! And that means the Cuisinart ICE-30. Like the ICE-21, it's simple, robust and reliable. But it has a 2 quart (1.9 litre) bowl.

Cuisinart ICE-30BC Ice Cream Maker

The Cuisinart ICE-30 has a bigger, 2 quart capacity

I don't think there's a really significant difference in the quality of the ice cream they make. This is all about how much ice cream you want to make.

The ICE-30BC makes bigger batches, but it will also take up more space in your kitchen and, more importantly, more space in your freezer. Make sure you check that the 7.8" (19.7 cm) across and 6.4" high (16.3 cm) bowl will fit in your freezer before you buy it!

For more details about the differences between the two machines, check out my hands on ICE-30BC vs ICE-21 comparison.

Looking for a machine with a built-in compressor?

If you can't fit the bowl in your freezer or planning your ice cream in advance just isn't convenient, then you should probably look at an ice cream maker with a built-in freezer.

Bear in mind that these machines are always going to be significantly bigger than a machine with a removable bowl.

The smallest is probably the Gourmia GSI280, which measures 7.3" x 9.4" x 10.4" (18.5 x 23.8 x 26.5 cm). But I'm not convinced by the quality of this ice cream maker.

Cuisinart ICE-100 1.5 Quart Ice Cream Maker

The Cuisinart ICE-100 has a built-in compressor

So I would recommend looking at the ICE-100, again from Cuisinart. At 16" x 12" x 9" (40.5 x 30.5 x 23 cm), it's significantly bigger than the ICE-21. But it's got a built-in freezer, so that's to be expected!

There are many advantages with these machines. There's no bowl taking up valuable space in your freezer. You can start making ice cream as soon as you decide you want to eat ice cream. There’s no pre-freezing required. And as soon as one batch is finished, you can start another one!

Cuisinart is a reliable brand. So if you're looking for the extra level of convenience, the ICE-100 is definitely a good choice.

Final thoughts on the Cuisinart ICE-21 ice cream maker

I think the ICE-21 is a fantastic little machine. Don't be put off by the lower price or lighter build. It's a quality appliance. And it makes ice cream, sorbets and other frozen treats better than most of the more expensive machines.

There's no doubt that if you're looking for an ice cream maker with a removable bowl, then the Cuisinart machines that rotate the bowl from below are far better than any other brand.

But whether the ICE-21 is the best of these Cuisinart machines for you depends largely on how much ice cream you need to make in one go.

Testing the ICE-21 against the ICE-30

Testing the ICE-21 against the ICE-30

If you make small batches that are eaten quickly, the ICE-21 is a good choice. If you need to feed a lot of people from one batch or like to store batches to be eaten over a longer period of time, then a Cuisinart with a bigger bowl or a machine with a built-in compressor might be a better option.

And if you're not sure which type of machine is most suitable, check out my guide to the best ice cream maker.

Have no doubt though, the ICE-21 may be small and cheap, but from my experience I can confidently say that it's robust, dependable and makes great ice cream!

This page contains affiliate links, which means I may earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. You will not pay any extra. More details here.

Cuisinart ICE-21 1.5 Quart Ice Cream Maker

Cuisinart ICE-21 Specs

Width:

9"

Height:

11.25"

Depth:

9.25"

Weight:

9.9 lb

Loudness:

79-82 Db

Paddle Rpm:

32

Overrun:

40%

Warranty:

3/5 year

Manual:

My Ratings

Build Quality

Usability

Ice Cream Quality

Value for money

Overall

Things I like and Things I don't

  • Small and compact
  • Easy to use
  • Incredibly cheap!
  • Makes great ice cream really quickly
  • Have to plan ahead
  • Bowl takes up room in freezer
  • Small 1.5 quart capacity
  • Limited to one batch at a time
Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Cuisinart ICE-21 Ice Cream Maker
Author Rating
51star1star1star1star1star
Product Name
Cuisinart ICE-21 Ice Cream Maker
Price
USD 40

About the author 

Carl

Wherever I am, whatever I'm doing, I'm always looking for the perfect ice cream. The "dream scoop". I document my findings, my successes and failures here...

  • Thanks. Great effort putting together your article. Professionally done. I have been searching for information on Cuisinart ice cream makers. Your article answers my questions. Good job!

    • Cuisinart covers its ice cream makers with a three-year warranty, which is the longest of the machines we reviewed. In addition, you get 28 recipes for ice cream, frozen yogurt, gelato and sorbet.

  • Can the ICE-21 do overruns of 70% to 100%? You mentioned that “almost all domestic machines produce low overrun ice cream.”

  • Wonderful, detailed review! I’m buying one today. One question: to overcome the blade gap, how do you keep you hand inside the bowl while it’s churning. I’m unfamiliar with ice cream makers but that sounds either (1)dangerous (2)messy or (3)likely to warm the mixture from your hand. What am I missing?

    Thanks for the tip(s). Signing up for your newsletter.

    • Hi Chris,

      To be honest I wouldn’t bother with this trick these days!

      The ICE-21 makes ice cream just fine without it. But I can assure you it’s not dangerous or messy or likely to warm the mixture (unless you have freakishly warm hands!).

      It’s just a bit boring!

      Try it out for sure, but you’ll make great ice cream without it!

      Carl

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