How Ice Cream is Made

It is #TuesdayTips and since this month not only celebrates as National Ice Cream month, but also has a National Ice Cream Day, which is July 18th, my birthday, I thought we should cover how ice cream is made.

Now when I was working for Jacques Torres, I had split my time mostly between Ice cream and Chocolate. While I don’t eat Ice cream very often, unlike the other members of my family, I have a special love for making it. Below is a tour of the factory, Chef Torres doesn’t start talking about ice cream until 10:30 for a few seconds, but it is fun to watch.

I did originally learn how to make Ice Cream with my mom in our home ice cream machine. Then I learned the science and tips and tricks from Culinary School and well while working on the job. As you can see below, they are two very different machines at a big price range. The Cuisinart Ice Cream Machine goes for around $100 while the Professional grade ranges from $10,000 -$50,000. That is a huge difference. Unless you plan on opening an ice cream shop, the table machine does a good job.

Before we can get to actually making ice cream on this hot day, lets cover the science so you can do it correctly.

Ice Cream Science

To transform cream (and milk) into ice cream, you add sugar, flavorings, and sometimes egg yolk and then chill, churn, and freeze the mixture. All of this happens in three distinct steps, which are mixing, freezing and hardening.


First, milk, cream, and sugar are heated until the sugar dissolves. The mixture is cooled, and then flavorings are added. For a richer-tasting custard-based ice cream, also known as French-style, the hot cream-sugar mixture is whisked into egg yolks and then returned to the heat to thicken the egg proteins and kill any bacteria.


Next, the liquid ice cream goes into an ice cream machine. In the machine’s churn (a container with chilled walls and a mixing paddle), the mixture is stirred as it freezes until it’s as thick as softly whipped cream.

During churning, air is incorporated, which increases the overall volume of the ice cream. The inflated volume is called overrun. Some commercial budget ice creams have overrun as high as 100 percent, meaning they are half air, melt quickly, and store poorly. Premium ice creams and gelati typically have less than 25 percent overrun, which is why a pint of premium ice cream can weigh as much as a quart of budget ice cream (and taste a lot better, too).


It’s difficult to fully freeze ice cream while churning because the mixture has to remain soft enough for the paddle to keep moving. At this consistency, about a third of the water in the mixture is still not frozen, and the ice cream is not yet firm enough to scoop or stand up on an ice cream cone. The semi-frozen ice cream still needs to be packed into containers and frozen until firm (about 10°F). This step, called hardening, is best done in a freezer set at 0°F or lower.

Now this is a lot harder to do in the home version of the ice cream machine, which is why it is absolutely important to freeze your insert for 2-3 days prior.

It is also very experimental on what ingredients you do as for flavoring. It is best to find a tried and true recipe to see what works. I also want to note that if you plan on adding in mix ins (M&Ms, Nuts, Marshmallows etc) to do so after the base is churned and before it is in the hardening stage.

Here is a recipe I use as a simple base for my ice cream.

Creme Anglaise

This can be used as a base for ice cream or consumed on its own.
Servings 1 Cup


  • Medium Saucepan
  • Medium Bowl
  • Whisk
  • strainer
  • Wooden spoon
  • 2 bowls


  • 1/2 Cup Milk
  • 1/2 Cup Whipping Cream
  • 1 Vanilla Bean, Split in half
  • 3 Large Egg Yolks
  • 3 Tbsp Sugar


  • Combine milk and cream in a medium saucepan. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean and add bean.
  • Bring milk mixture to simmer. Remove from heat.
  • Whisk egg yolks and sugar in medium bowl to blend.
  • Gradually whisk hot milk mixture into yolk mixture.
  • Return custard to saucepan. Stir over low heat until custard thickens and leaves path on back of spoon when finger is drawn across, about 5 minutes (do not boil).
  • Strain sauce into bowl. Cover and chill.


Remember that this is just a base for the ice cream, if you plan on using it. 

Using the base, I then churn it using the machine. It shouldn’t take long, It will come out soft but then you can add it your mix ins and freeze it. Stay tuned for more recipes.

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