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Ninja Creami vs Cuisinart Ice Cream Makers (ICE-21 and ICE-100)

Ninja Creami vs Cuisinart Ice Cream Makers (ICE-21 and ICE-100)

Last Updated on May 3, 2024 0 Comments

My initial experiments with the Ninja Creami have been very positive. I love the counter friendly form, the fact that (unlike most other machines), the ice cream is ready to eat and at its best straight out of the machine, and the smooth, gelato like texture of the end results.

And I especially like that the ice cream can easily be re-spun if it starts to get icy, so you’re always eating it in its best possible condition.

But up until now, I wasn’t sure exactly how it compared to the ice cream from other machines. At least not sure enough to recommend one over the other if your main question is: “which makes the best quality ice cream?”.

So I decided to make a straight head-to-head comparison between the Ninja Creami and two of the best ice cream makers I have ever tested: the Cuisinart ICE-21 and the Cuisinart ICE-100.

Why the Cuisinart ICE-21?

The Cuisinart ICE-21 is a canister style machine that uses a bowl that must be pre-frozen in your regular freezer for 16–24 hours before you can make ice cream.

Cuisinart ICE-21

The Cuisinart ICE-21 is a canister style ice cream maker

Not only does the ICE-21 make better ice cream than every other canister machine I’ve tested, it also makes better ice cream than every compressor machine I’ve used (other than the Lello 4080)!

And this is despite the fact that the Cuisinart ICE-21 is also one of the cheapest ice cream makers you can buy (check the price on Amazon)!

Why is this?

Well, canister ice cream makers generally perform better than compressor machines, because they freeze the mixture faster, and fast freeze times mean smoother ice cream. The ICE-21 is further aided by a relatively small canister size, (which makes freeze times even faster), and a very efficient dasher design.

So the ICE-21 can be finished in less than 15 min, and the ice cream it produces is smoother than every other machine I’ve tested (except the Lello), including my next pick, the Cuisinart ICE-100.

Why the Cuisinart ICE-100?

The Cuisinart ICE-100 is a compressor style machine, which means it has a built-in freezer to cool the mixture consistently throughout the churning process. While the ice cream it makes isn’t quite as good as the ICE-21 or the Lello 4080, it is better than (or equal to) all the other compressor machines I’ve tested.

Cuisinart ICE-100

The Cuisinart ICE-100 is a compressor style ice cream maker

And with 2 paddles (one for ice cream and another for gelato and sorbet) and a very generous warranty (compared to other ice cream machines), it has plenty of other things going for it that make it a good choice.

In fact, for those that can’t afford the Lello 4080, these are the two ice cream makers that I recommend. The ICE-21 for those who think a canister style machine in the best option. And the ICE-100 for those that prefer a compressor machine.

So how do the two Cuisinart machines compare to the Ninja Creami?

I made one big batch of no-cook ice cream base and divided it between the three machines to find out!

Testing the Ninja Creami against the Cuisinart machines

I prefer a no-cook base for these sorts of tests, as it’s less forgiving than a really well stabilized, cooked recipe, which means it shows up the differences between the machines more clearly.

For this test, I used a variation of my “perfect no-cook vanilla ice cream base” (I got rid of the condensed milk, because I don’t really like the original recipe anymore!). I will add the new version at the end of this article.

Churning ice cream in Cuisinart ICE-100

Churning ice cream in the Cuisinart ICE-100

I churned the base in the Cuisinart ICE-21 and ICE-100 at the same time and when the mixtures reached 21 °F (-6 °C) and had the consistency of soft serve, I transferred them to a special freezer that I keep at 12 °F (-11 °F), just for storing ice cream.

I left them for a couple of hours to harden and then span the Ninja Creami base. In my previous tests, I had always used the “Ice Cream” setting on the Ninja Creami. But one spin, sometimes left the ice cream a little icy, and a second, “re-spin”, while eliminating the ice, would leave the ice cream too soft.

Frozen no-cook base for Ninja Creami

Frozen no-cook base for Ninja Creami

So I decided to try the “Light Ice Cream” setting, which runs for longer with a faster RPM on the blade. My thinking was that one run on this setting might be enough to get rid of the ice and wouldn’t need a re-spin.

The results were perfect!

While the “Ice Cream” setting increases the temperature of the mixture by about 46–50 °F (8–10 °C), on the “Light Ice Cream” setting it increased by 52 °F (11 °C). So my ice cream was at 19 °F (-7 °C) after that initial spin, which might seem quite warm.

No-cook base after 1 spin in Ninja Creami

No-cook base after 1 spin in Ninja Creami

But the texture was superb. Firm and smooth with no trace of ice at all. This was the best result I’ve had from the Ninja Cream so far, and reminded me of the ice cream that I get straight out of the Lello 4080.

In an immediate comparison between the Ninja Creami and the two Cuisinart ice cream makers, the Creami came out well on top. The ice cream from the ICE-100 was noticeably more icy than the others. The ICE-21 and the Creami were closer, but the Ninja Creami still felt a bit smoother.

ICE-21 vs Ninja Creami vs ICE-100 ice cream

ICE-21 vs Ninja Creami vs ICE-100 ice cream

However, the Cuisinart ice cream hadn’t hardened as much as I had expected and the Ninja Creami might have seemed much better, just because it was much firmer. So, I put all three bases in the ice cream freezer to harden to an equal level overnight.

The next day, the results were slightly surprising. The ICE-100 was still the iciest of the three. But while the Ninja Creami was still mostly very smooth, there was the odd large ice crystal in each spoonful.

These large ice crystals were quite different to the ice crystals you get in regular homemade ice cream. Rather than being small and evenly distributed, these ice crystals were quite large and sparsely distributed. Maybe one per spoonful.

I’m pretty sure they weren’t detectable in the ice cream I tasted straight out of the Ninja Creami. So had they grown to such as extent overnight, in the ice cream freezer? Seems unlikely, but I don't have any other explanation.

ICE-21 vs Ninja Creami vs ICE-100 ice cream after  1 night

ICE-21 vs Ninja Creami vs ICE-100 ice cream after 1 night

However, this is where the beauty of the Ninja Creami comes in. I simply put the tub back in my regular freezer, waited for it to harden closer to 0 °F (-18 °C), and then gave it a quick re-spin.

And it was perfect again!

You can't do that with the ice cream from the Cuisinart machines (or any other ice cream maker). Once they start to get a bit icy, there is no turning back. But with the Creami, you can just re-spin and the ice cream is as good as new!

So what is my conclusion about the ice cream from the Ninja Creams vs the Cuisinart machines?

The ice cream from the Ninja Creami immediately after the first “Light Ice Cream” spin was better than from both the Cuisinart ICE-21 and the ICE-100, even after they had been properly hardened.

It seemed as good as the ice cream from the Lello 4080, and of course that need to be my next head-to-head test!

But if you’re trying to make a choice between the Ninja Creami and the Cuisinart ICE-21 or ICE-100, it’s not only about the quality of the ice cream. There are practical considerations too.

The advantages of the Ninja Creami

So the Ninja Creami makes the best ice cream of the three. It is also more counter top friendly. It’s tall and thin and not too deep. Which means it will fit quite comfortably under the cabinets on many kitchen worktops.

Ninja Creami vs Vitamix

My Ninja Creami sits next to my Vitamix on the counter top

I keep mine next to my Vitamix. And since it’s out all the time, I find myself using it much more regularly.

That the ice cream is perfect straight out of the machine is also a massive advantage. As long as you have a frozen batch in the freezer, whenever the urge takes you, you can give it a quick spin and immediately be eating the best quality ice cream you can imagine.

And as I’ve already mentioned, the option to re-spin the ice cream when it gets icy means you never need to put up with any degradation in quality!

One final advantage is the ability to spin several batches in quick succession, which makes comparing different recipes (for example: when you’re trying to refine variations), really easy.

The disadvantages of the Ninja Creami

The main disadvantage of the Ninja Creami is that you must freeze the ice cream mixture for at least 24 hours before you can spin it in the machine. Unlike the other machines, there is no way around the wait. You will have to plan ahead.

But on the other hand, while there is always a 24-hour wait, there are also fewer steps:

Ninja Creami steps:

  1. Make the mixture
  2. Freeze the mixture
  3. Spin the ice cream
  4. Eat the ice cream

Regular ice cream maker steps:

  1. Make the mixture
  2. Cool the mixture
  3. Spin the ice cream
  4. Harden the ice cream
  5. Eat the ice cream

You could say the price is a disadvantage. But it compares favorably to most compressor machines. You could say the noise is a disadvantage. But the other machines are noisy too, and they are noisy for much longer.

I think the only other real disadvantage is that it might take some time to learn how to balance your recipes and understand which settings and combinations of spins to use to get the best results. But again, there is a learning curve with all ice cream makers.

The advantages of the Cuisinart ICE-21

The incredible bang for your buck is the main advantage of the Cuisinart ICE-21. It’s really unusual for one of the lowest price kitchen appliances to produce better results than the most expensive appliances.

But that’s exactly what you get with the Cuisinart ICE-21: it makes better ice cream than every other machine except the Lello 4080. And that includes the seven times more expensive Breville Smart Scoop!

Cuisinart ICE-21 separates

Cuisinart ICE-21 low tech = good

The low level technology and basic controls mean there’s very little that can go wrong. And the small footprint means that while it may not be an appliance you permanently keep on your kitchen worktop, it’s easy to store away and get out when you need it.

The disadvantages of the Cuisinart ICE-21

The main disadvantage of the Cuisinart ICE-21 is that (like all canister machines), you have to pre-freeze the bowl in your regular freezer for 16–24 hours before you can use it to make ice cream.

However, unlike the Ninja Creami, you can get around this wait by keeping the bowl in your freezer permanently when you’re not using it. So it’s always ready to go whenever you fancy ice cream!

Cuisinart ICE-21 bowl in freezer

Cuisinart ICE-21 bowl in freezer

The disadvantage of this is that it takes quite a lot of space, which may be an issue in small freezers. And you won’t be able to make back to back batches unless you keep two bowls in your freezer.

The ICE-21 also has a relatively small 1.5 quart capacity (although this is more than twice as big as a Ninja Creami tub). If you need more, then the ICE-30 or ICE-70 are very similar but have 2 quart capacities.

The advantages of the Cuisinart ICE-100

The biggest advantage of the Cuisinart ICE-100 is that there is no wait time. It’s ready to make ice cream whenever you are. Just turn it on to pre-cool, make your no-cook mixture, add it to the machine, and in half an hour you will have ice cream!

Cuisinart ICE-100 with gelato base

You can make back to back batches in the Cuisinart ICE-100

And if you want to make another batch, immediately after the first, there’s nothing to stop you doing that!

You get two different paddles (one for ice cream, one for gelato/sorbet), that genuinely vary the air that’s incorporated and therefore the texture of the final product. And you get a generous warranty of 3 years in the US and 5 years in the UK.

The disadvantages of the Cuisinart ICE-100

Despite costing significantly more than the ICE-21 and the Ninja Creami, the Cuisinart ICE-100 makes noticeably poorer ice cream than both! That’s a bit of a disadvantage (check the price on Amazon).

Plus, the Cuisinart ICE-100 is far too big to keep in most kitchens. And it’s also quite heavy, which means that carrying it in and out of the kitchen all the time is a pain. And this means you will use it less.

Cuisinart ICE-100 components

You get two dashers with the Cuisinart ICE-100

It’s also not the most user-friendly ice cream maker: the controls are a little bit clunky and the lid can be difficult to get on and off, although neither of these should be dealbreakers.

Final Thoughts

I had already started using the Ninja Creami as my main ice cream maker, primarily because of how convenient it is and the fact that I can compare several recipes, at their best, straight out of the machine.

But having now compared the Ninja Creami directly against the Cuisinart ICE-21 and ICE-100, I can make some more concrete recommendations if you are trying to make a decision between the three machines.

For me, the advantages of the Ninja Creami far outweigh the main disadvantage of the 24-hour freeze time.

Ninja Creami components

I think the Ninja Creami is the best choice in most circumstances

At its best (straight out of the machine), it makes better ice cream than both the ICE-21 and the ICE-100 (even after hardening).

I would only choose the ICE-21 if I was on a tight budget that couldn’t stretch to the price of the Ninja Creami, or I couldn’t accept the 24-hour wait time with the Creami and was prepared to counter it by keeping the ICE-21 bowl permanently in my freezer.

And that's quite a big statement from me, as I love the Cuisinart ICE-21 and it’s been my main recommendation on this website since I started writing about ice cream!

I feel even more strongly about the Cuisinart ICE-100. I would only choose it over the Ninja Creami (or the ICE-21), if I couldn’t accept either the 24-hour wait time with the Creami or keeping an extra ICE-21 bowl in my freezer.

So the only serious rival to the Ninja Creami remains the Lello 4080, which will be my next head-to-head test!

But if you're still not sure, check out my guide to finding the best ice cream maker for your needs!

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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...

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