Cuisinart ICE-30BC Pure Indulgence Ice Cream Maker Review
The Cuisinart ICE-30BC [Amazon] is one of the most popular ice cream makers on the market. And there's some very good reasons for this...
It's well made, simple to use, easy to clean, completely dependable and most importantly: it makes great ice cream!
It's the first ice cream maker I ever used and I can't recommend it highly enough.
However, this type of machine does have very particular quirks and before you invest your money you should make sure that it suits your lifestyle and the way you want to make ice cream.
Cuisinart ICE-30 Specs
Ice Cream Quality
Value for money
Things I like and Things I don't
So, please read this review where I'll look at how it works, I'll test it out with several different types of ice creams, gelatos, frozen yogurts and sorbets, I'll explore it's advantages and disadvantages and finally I'll recommend some alternatives in case this isn't quite the best machine for you...
How does the ICE-30BC work?
The ICE-30BC is a "removable bowl" machine. Not sure what this means? Well, domestic ice cream makers can generally be divided into three distinct types. And what makes each type distinct is the way they freeze the ice cream mixture:
- With ice and salt
- With a built in freezer
- With a removable bowl that's pre-chilled in your kitchen freezer
Machines like the ICE-30BC use a removable bowl that's lined with a special type of liquid gel. When the bowl is placed in a domestic freezer the gel hardens and freezes. Once it's removed from the freezer the gel keeps it's temperature really well so the bowl stays very cold for a long time.
The ice cream mixture is then added to this bowl and the coldness is transferred from the bowl to the mixture as it's being churned.
And this is essentially how the ICE-30BC works. But let's look at this in a little more detail...
The ICE-30BC is an incredibly simple machine. And for me, this is a big advantage since it means there's very little to go wrong. There are just 4 separate parts:
- the main body that contains the motor and an on/off switch
- a removable bowl
- a dasher that mixes the ice cream
- a tranparent lid
The main body of the ICE-30BC
The body of the ICE-30BC is made from an attractive, brushed stainless steel. It's easy to clean and looks smart and professional. On the front of the body is an embossed Cuisinart logo and manual on/off switch. Nothing else.
Underneath, there are four rubber tipped feet, which stop the machine slipping about as it churns. There's a 35" (90 cm) power cable that should be long enough for most domestic kitchens. And when not in use, the cable can be pushed up into a small gap in the base to keep everything nice and tidy!
At the bottom of the cavity inside the body there's a 12 tooth gear that's turned by a motor in the base. This gear fits into a star shaped hole in the base of the removable bowl. So, as the gear turns: so does the bowl. (Yes, it's the bowl rather than paddle that turns, more on this later).
With this type of ice cream maker, it's important that the base is heavy and sturdy with a powerful motor. You want a machine that's stable as it churns and strong enough to keep turning as the mixture thickens.
And the ICE-30BC certainly does the job here. I've never had any problems with slipping gears or stalling motors. It's always proved more than capable of getting the job done.
The ICE-30BC's removable bowl
The removable bowl is thick and sturdy with a 2 quart (2 liter) capacity. It measures 7.8" (19.7 cm) across and 6.4" high (16.3 cm).
These measurements are really important. Because don't forget: before you can use the machine, the bowl needs to be pre-chilled in your freezer. If you can't fit the bowl in the freezer, you won't be able to make ice cream!
So check you've got enough room in your freezer before you buy it! The bowl's not small. And this is one of the main disadvantages of these type of ice cream makers.
If you can find the room, great! If not, don't despair there are other options. There are machines with smaller bowls. Or there are machines with their own built in freezers.
As I mention above, the walls of the bowl are lined with a special liquid gel that hardens as it freezes. At room temperature, you can hear the gel sloshing about if you shake the bowl. But once it's frozen, it stops moving and this is one way you can tell it's been in the freezer for long enough.
Cuisinart recommend that you leave it in the freezer for at least 12 hours. I find that if I leave it in overnight I get the best results.
This bowl is double insulated so it maintains it's temperature well. However, as soon as you remove it from the freezer it will start to warm up so it's important you use it straight away.
The dasher of the ICE-30BC
The dasher is the thing that actually mixes the ice cream mixture. It has 2 important jobs:
- To scrape frozen mixture off the sides of the bowl
- To add air to the mixture.
The dasher that comes with the ICE-30BC is a simple piece of plastic. However it works really, really well.
With many other ice cream makers, the motor rotates the dasher in a stationary bowl. This can lead to problems as the ice cream mixture thickens and hardens. If the motor's weak it can struggle to turn the dasher. Sometimes it will slip or even stop rotating altogether.
With the ICE-30BC (and indeed all Cuisinart's removable bowl machines), the motor rotates the bowl, while the dasher actually remains still, secured by the lid of the machine. So the dasher still passes through the mixture. But it's the bowl and the mixture inside it that are moving.
This approach seems to be much more efficient. Presumably it's due to the weight of the bowl, the stronger connection between it and the gear and the lower center of gravity? Whatever it is, it means the mixing works reliably well!
There is one negative point about the dasher though. One of it's jobs is to scrape frozen mixture from the sides of the bowl and redistribute the ice further into the mix. This is what cools the whole mixture down.
And the more ice it can scrape from the sides, the faster the whole mixture cools and the better the quality of the final ice cream. Unfortunately, in domestic machines the blade on the dasher never actually touches the side of the bowl: there's always a small gap.
With the ICE-30BC this gap is about 2 mm. Now I know that's no a lot! But it allows a 2 mm layer of frozen mixture to build up on the sides of the bowl. This layer insulates the rest of the mixture from the cooling sides of the bowl. Which means that the mixture takes longer to freeze so there's more time for unpleasantly large ice crystals to develop.
As I say, all domestic machines (at least all I've used), have this gap between the blade and the bowl. And it's not a big deal. (In fact with the ICE-30BC there's a way to avoid it which I explain in the next section). But it's worth noting as something which could be improved.
The ICE-30BC's lid
The lid on the ICE-30BC is again a simple plastic thing. It's transparent which means you can always keep an eye on the progress of your mix. This is really important as different recipes and different quantities can take vastly different times to complete.
And while it might seem an obvious feature to include, with ice and salt machines its generally not possible and it's something I really miss.
There's also a big hole in the top of the lid. This serves 2 purposes. Firstly, it allows you to sample the mixture as it progresses. Believe me this impulse is almost impossible to resist!
And secondly, it allows you to add extra ingredients as the mixture thickens. Pieces of fruit, chocolate, cookies etc are best added towards the end of the process. And a lid with a hole means you can do this without having to stop the machine.
As I mentioned above, the lid also serves to anchor the dasher. The top rim of the dasher slots into a special area of the lid as it's placed on the body. The dasher then catches against the lid as the bowl starts to turn.
Interestingly the lid does not fit snugly against to the body. There is around 1 cm play in either direction. It's clearly designed this way but it's not clear (to me at least) why!
How do we make ice cream with the ICE-30BC?
OK, so we've looked at the parts that make up the ICE-30BC. Now let's get down to business. Let's use it to make some ice cream and see how it does. There are 5 clear stages to making ice cream with the ICE-30BC:
- Make the mixture
- Freeze the bowl
- Freeze and churn the mixture in the ICE-30BC
- Transfer the mixture to the freezer to finish it off
- Cleaning the machine
Stage 1: Making the mixture
The ICE-30BC comes with it's own Cuisinart recipe booklet. This has almost 30 different recipes including simple Philadelphia style ice creams, French custards, Italian gelatos, frozen yogurts and even slushy drinks.
These recipes are specifically designed and tested to work with the ICE-30BC so they're a good place to start while you're finding your feet.
However, the best thing about owning your own ice cream maker is experimenting. Whether that's with recipes you find on the internet or your own inventions. That's where the real fun is!
Bear in mind though: you can't just throw any combination of milk, cream and sugar into the machine and expect it to produce great results. You need to respect certain boundaries in terms of the proportions of different ingredients. And I talk about this a a lot in the science section.
So I can't stress this enough here: the biggest factor in whether your ice cream turns out good or bad is the recipe. So if things go wrong, the chances are it's the recipe rather than the machine. Obviously, some machines work better than others. And some machines might not work at all! But in that case it's usually a very specific and obvious fault.
Each recipe is different. But there are certain things we can do with all recipes to make it easier for the ICE-30BC. And chief among them is to pre-chill the mixture.
This is good practice for any ice cream machine. But it's especially important for machines that use removable bowls, since the moment they leave the freezer they start to warm up.
There are some recipes that don't require heating. I'm thinking about Philadelphia style ice creams and certain egg-less gelatos here. And as long as the ingredients come straight from the fridge you can probably get away with putting them straight into the machine as soon as they're mixed.
But many recipes do require heating as they are mixed. And once they're finished they should be thoroughly chilled before they go anywhere near the ICE-30BC.
Ideally you'd cool the mixture as fast as possible and then leave it in the fridge overnight so it's around 4°C when you add it to the machine. Cooling it rapidly discourages harmful bacteria forming. And leaving it overnight has the added benefit of allowing the mixture to "age" which can improve the final product.
However, if you're in a rush you can transfer the mixture to a ziploc bag and then put the bag in an ice bath until it's cold enough to go in the machine.
In terms of quantities, the ICE30-BC comes with a 2 quart bowl. But you don't fill it with 2 quarts of mixture. This is because the machine adds air to the mixture so it obviously expands as it's churned.
In fact, to make sure it doesn't overflow the bowl, you probably shouldn't add more than 1.5 quarts of mixture. Certainly, all the recipes in the Cuisinart booklet produce more or less 1.5 quarts of mix.
So, find yourself a reliable recipe, mix up 1.5 quarts, thoroughly pre-chill to 4°C and you're good to go...
Stage 2: Freezing the ICE-30BC's bowl
So we know we need to chill the bowl in the freezer. Preferably overnight. It's a good idea to cover the top of the bowl with a layer of cling film (secured with an elastic band) and put it in a plastic bag before you pop it in the freezer.
The cling film prevents any ice or vapor that might taint the ice cream getting in the bowl. And the plastic bag will protect the bowl from freezer burn.
As I talk about a lot elsewhere, the faster our mixture freezes, the better our final ice cream will be. And the colder we get the bowl, the faster it will freeze the mixture.
So first of all we want to get the freezer as cold as possible. Cuisinart recommend -17°C or lower. In fact, my freezer will go down to -23°C. So the night before I make ice cream, I set the temperature and put the bowl at the back of the freezer.
The back of the freezer is usually the coldest part. And by leaving it overnight we allow it to remain at a stable temperature, undisturbed by the opening and closing of the door that goes on in the daytime.
When I remove the bowl the next day the inside is at -22°C. But it starts warming up straightaway so we need to get moving...
Stage 3: Freezing and churning the mixture in the ICE-30BC
Before you add the mixture to the machine, it's a good idea to give it a blitz with a hand blender. This should remove any rogue lumps in the mix.
Then, remove the bowl from the freezer, add it, the dasher and the lid to the base and turn the switch on. The bowl will start to rotate while the dasher (anchored by the lid), remains still. Finally, pour the mixture in through the hole in the top of the lid.
As I mention above, one flaw with this machine (and indeed all domestic ice cream makers) is that the blades of the dasher don't touch the side of the bowl. This allows an insulating film of ice to build up on the walls of the bowl which can slow the freezing process slightly. Which as we know is a bad thing!
However the great thing about this machine is that the hole in the lid allows you to put your hand inside and press the blades against the sides of the bowl! And as long as you do it right from the start and keep your hand in there for the duration, it will stop the unwanted layer of ice building up and the ice cream will finish faster!
How long will it take? Well, that depends on the recipe, the quantity of the mixture, how cold the freezer got the bowl and the ambient temperature in the room. So there's quite a lot of factors!
But usually it's between 15 and 40 minutes. I think the biggest factor here is the quantity of the mixture. I regularly have small batches of 600 ml finished in 15 minutes, even when the room is really warm 30°C.
One thing worth noting is that the ICE-30BC not quiet. In fact some people complain that it's unbearably loud! The sound it makes is sort of low grinding. But I don't think it's any louder than a hair drier and it's only on for a short time.
When it's ready the mixture has the smooth consistency of soft serve ice cream. Then, just switch off the machine, take off the lid, remove the paddle and scrape the ice cream into a pre-chilled storage container.
Stage 4: Transferring the ice cream from the ICE-30BC to the freezer
You can eat the ice cream straight from the machine. As I say, it's a bit like soft serve ice cream at this point. And it's perfectly lovely.
But it melts really quickly. And it benefits considerably from one, (preferably two) hours in the freezer where it will firm up to give a more resilient consistency.
Getting it into the freezer as quickly as possible without any melting will reduce the chances of ice crystal growth that might spoil the texture of the ice cream.
So, make sure you've got a container pre-chilling the freezer. The best ones are wide and shallow and made from steel since they will freeze the ice cream fastest.
The lid and the paddle of the ICE-30BC come out very easily and scraping the ice cream off the paddle and from the bowl is simple. So with some practice the you should be able to get a full batch out of the machine and into the freezer in seconds rather than minutes.
Covering the ice cream with a layer of cling film before you put the lid on the container will stop ice crystals forming on the surface of the mixture. Then put the container in the coldest part of your freezer, usually the back.
And that's pretty much it. All that's left to do is clean up while you wait for the ice cream to harden!
Stage 5: Cleaning the ICE-30BC
The ICE-30BC couldn't be easier to clean. The paddle and and lid can be washed in warm soapy water in a matter of seconds. I fill the removable bowl with warm water to melt any remaining mixture still frozen to the sides and then wash it in the same soapy water. The base usually needs nothing more than a quick wipe. Simple.
So what's the ice cream like?
This of course is one of the most important questions when you're deciding which ice cream maker is best for you!
Well the good news is, the ice cream that comes out of the ICE-30BC is great. As I mention above, it's all about the recipe. And if you put a well balanced mix in the ICE-30BC, you'll get smooth and creamy ice cream out.
If you push it with low fat or low sugar ice creams it can start to struggle. But all these machines find it hard to cope with leaner and less sweet mixes.
I regularly make gelato, Philadelphia and French custard ice creams. I've used recipes from David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop, Jenny's Splendid Ice Creams at Home, Gelato Messina: The Recipes and Morgan Morano's The Art of Making Gelato.
And the ICE-30BC never lets me down. The only time I have problems is when I try to experiment with my own recipes and I get the mix proportions wrong.
And it's the same with the sorbets and frozen yogurts. As long as I'm careful with the recipes, I get great results every time.
So I think the ICE-30BC isn't just one of the best of the removable bowl ice cream makers, I think it's once of the best of any domestic ice cream makers period. However it won't be for everyone.
As a summary, I'm going to look at thee things I love about this machine and the things I'm not so keen on. And hopefully that will help make up your mind.
5 things I love about the ICE-30BC
1. It's robust!
The build quality of the ICE-30BC is really impressive. It's a well made, heavy duty machine (without being impractically heavy), featuring a powerful motor and durable parts. You can be confident that this ice cream maker is going to perform well and last a long time.
2. It's simple!
With just one on/off switch it's easy to master! And with no complicated electronics there's nothing that can go wrong. You might need to replace the removable bowl eventually. But they're cheap and widely available.
3. It's dependable!
This robust simplicity means that the ICE-30BC delivers the same consistently good ice creams, sorbets and frozen yogurts every time I use it.
4. It's got a generous 2 quart capacity!
Such a big capacity is unusual in home ice cream makers that don't use salt and ice. And I do really appreciate that extra ice cream if I'm entertaining guests, hosting kids parties, or I just want to stockpile lots of ice cream!
5. It's pretty cheap!
Usually less than $70 / £70, that's not a lot to pay for a really well made domestic appliance that will last years and years and consistently deliver top quality frozen desserts and all the pleasure they bring with them!
2 things I don't like about the ICE-30BC
1. The space it takes up in the freezer
Of course, all the ice cream makers with removable bowls take up space in the freezer. But the downside of the generous 2 quart capacity of the ICE-30BC is a big bowl that does take up a lot of freezer space.
In our upright, bottom freezer fridge it only just squeezes in without having to remove the drawer completely. And once in there it pretty much takes up half the available space in that drawer.
2. I need to think ahead!
Again, this is an issue with all ice cream makers that use removable bowls. But it's worth mentioning again here, because for some people it will be a deal breaker.
You can't just decide you want ice cream, pull out the machine, throw in the raw ingredients and wait for it to churn out the good stuff. You've got to think one day ahead so you can put the bowl in the freezer to properly chill.
For me this isn't really an issue since I make fresh ice cream every week and I just store the bowl in the freezer permanently between batches. As soon as the bowl is washed and dried after I've made one batch, I pop it straight in the freezer, so it's ready for the next batch.
But if you don't have the permanent space in the freezer and you need to remember to think one day ahead this could become an issue that would stop you buying ICE-30BC.
Alternatives to the ICE-30BC
With these slight draw backs in mind, it makes sense to think of a couple of alternatives just in case the ICE-30BC isn't quite right for you.
Looking for a smaller machine or a smaller bowl?
If you think that the ICE-30BC might take up too much space in your kitchen or the 2 quart bowl might not fit in your freezer, then I've got good news...
The ICE-21, also by Cuisinart, is a 1.5 quart ice cream maker that's the smaller brother of the ICE-30BC. It will take up less space in your kitchen and more importantly, the bowl will take up less space in your freezer.
It doesn't look as nice as the ICE-30BC and obviously it won't make quite as much ice cream per batch! But if space is an issue then this is a great alternative. It's cheaper too. Check out my ICE-30BC vs ICE-21 page for a full hands on comparison.
Looking for a machine with a built in freezer?
If you don't want to bother with planning ahead and pre-freezing bowls, Cuisinart also have a fantastic ice cream maker with it's own built in freezer.
The ICE-100 is a compressor ice cream maker which means it has it's own self powered freezer to chill the mixture. These machines are completely different to the ones with the removable bowls and come with their own advantages and disadvantages.
But one of the major advantages is that if you have an ice cream mix ready you don't have to mess about putting bowls in the freezer. You just turn on the machine, wait half an hour or so for it to fully cool down, pour the mixture in and in half an hour or so your ice cream will be ready.
The ICE-100 is built to Cuisinart's usual high standard and produces great quality ice cream, so this a really good choice if you want that extra convenience.
I think the Cuisinart ICE-30BC [Amazon] is probably the best of the ice cream makers with removable bowls.
It's really well made, simple and straightforward to use and will undoubtedly last many years. It makes consistently good ice cream, gelato, sorbet and frozen yogurt. And it can make them all in fairly large quantities.
There are some drawbacks that are common to all of the machines with removable bowls. You need to plan a day ahead when you want to use it. And you need to find room in your freezer for the bowl.
If you're not sure if this is the right type of machine for you, check out my guide to finding the best type of ice cream maker where I compare the three different types and show you the simple steps to ensure you find the best type for you.
But if you've decided an ice cream maker with a removable bowl is the way to go, then it's hard to go wrong with the ICE-30BC!
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Cuisinart ICE-30 Specs
Ice Cream Quality
Value for money
Things I like and Things I don't