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Summer is upon us, and sweltering summer nights often mean late night cravings for frozen treats. If you find yourself making multiple visits to the ice cream shop as the temperature rises, it might be time to invest in an ice cream maker, for your budget’s sake. (Bonus: Making ice cream is an easy activity the whole family can enjoy.) 

There are many different types and models of ice cream makers available, so how do you choose the best ice cream maker for you? It depends on what features you want: Self-freezing automatic ice cream machines quickly relieve those spontaneous cravings, but cost more, while a fruit soft-serve machine is a smart option for vegans and the health-conscious.

And if you want a fun way to get the whole family involved in the process, check out the ice cream ball that makes frozen treats while you throw it around.

No matter what your homemade frozen dessert wants are, there’s an ice cream machine (and perfect first recipe to break it in with) out there for you. Here are six convenient ice cream makers and some delicious recipe ideas to get you started.

Elite Gourmet old-fashioned electric ice cream maker

Elite gourmet ice cream maker

Elite Gourmet via Amazon

This pine bucket-styled electric ice cream maker from Elite Gourmet has the look of an old-fashioned ice cream maker, but doesn’t require any old-fashioned elbow grease. In under 40 minutes, you can have up to 4 quarts of homemade ice cream by adding ice and salt, and then plugging the appliance in to do all the churning.

This old-fashioned-looking ice cream maker calls for a classic ice cream flavor: Take a look at this old-school vanilla ice cream recipe from Add a Pinch.

Yonanas fruit soft serve machine

fruit soft serve machine

Yonanas via Amazon

Looking to make a refreshing summer treat that’s vegan-friendly and healthier than most? This fruit soft serve machine from Yonanas turns frozen fruit into a dessert-worthy snack in seconds. Simply insert your favorite fruits into the chute and churn out a tasty sorbet with ease. Even the clean up is relatively simple: The chute, plunger and blade are top-rack dishwasher safe.

For this machine, try one of Yonanas’ recipes for raspberry soft-serve

YayLabs soft-shell ice cream ball

softshell ice cream ball

YayLabs! via Amazon

This softshell ice cream ball from YayLabs is designed to turn dessert into an activity that’s fun for the whole family — in more than one way. Add cream, sugar and flavorings in one end and ice and rock salt in the other, and then start throwing the ball around. After about 25 minutes of play, the soft-shell ball produces approximately one pint of ice cream. Easy to clean and transport, this dishwasher-safe, BPA-free ball can go practically anywhere you can bring the necessary ingredients — it’s a fun addition to a picnic or beach day.

For this extra-involved ice cream making process, try something timeless and simple, like this mint chocolate chip recipe from Chew Out Loud. When you’re ready to serve, just flip back the built-in handles and lay the ball on a flat surface to scoop out the ice cream.

KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment

kitchenaid ice cream maker attachment

KitchenAid via Amazon

Searching for something that will blend well with your existing kitchen appliances? You don’t necessarily need a new gadget to make ice cream at home if you have a KitchenAid stand mixer.

This ice cream maker attachment makes up to 2 quarts of ice cream and other frozen desserts in less than 30 minutes. All parts of the attachment, except for the freezer bowl, are dishwasher-safe for minimal clean-up time. For the best results, you’ll need to plan on storing the freezer bowl in your freezer for at least 15 hours. 

Next time you’re debating making cookies using your KitchenAid mixer, toss on the ice cream maker attachment instead and try out this cookie dough ice cream recipe from Julie’s Eats and Treats.

Cuisinart electric ice cream maker

cuisinart ice cream maker

Cuisinart via Amazon

If you are ready to take the plunge and purchase a new kitchen appliance to make sweet treats, the ICE21R ice cream maker from Cuisinart is an all-around great choice. With a double-insulated freezer bowl, this ice cream maker can make up to 1.5 quarts of ice cream in less than 25 minutes, with no ice required. The large ingredient spout with easy-lock lid gives you the ability to add extra ingredients into your homemade ice cream as you go along. Planning is still required to make ice cream: It is recommended to keep the Cuisinart freezing bowl in the freezer for 16 to 24 hours.

For a recipe that puts the heavy-duty Cuisinart motor to good use, check out this super-rich chocolate peanut butter cup ice cream recipe from Brown Eyed Baker.

An automatic self-freezing ice cream maker

Whynter ICM-200LS Automatic Ice Cream Maker

Whynter via Amazon

Want a machine that can keep up with sudden late-night ice cream cravings? The ICM-200LS Automatic Ice Cream Maker from Whynter does just that. With a built-in compressor freezer, you can use this ice cream maker without having to do any pre-planning or pre-freezing, and then quickly make additional batches as well. An extended cooling function prevents your ice cream from melting, and a motor protection function will kick in if the ice cream gets too solid to churn. This stainless steel 2.1-quart-capacity maker also has a removable mixing bowl and blade, so clean-up is a snap.

For a machine as convenient as this one, try out a slightly more involved and decadent recipe, such as this luxurious salted caramel ice cream from New York Times Cooking.