Don’t Shoot The Ice Cream Maker – a troubleshooting guide

Don't Shoot The Ice Cream Maker - a troubleshooting guide

You just bought your brand new ice cream maker. With super excitement, you head off to make your first ever homemade ice cream. You stick the removable freezer bowl in the freezer, find a recipe and follow the steps to prepare the ice cream mixture. 

When ready, you switch on the machine, pour the ice cream mixture into it and wait. Thirty minutes later the ice cream is soupy. You decide to wait a little bit longer. But no matter how long you wait, the ice cream looks pathetic. You decide to turn the machine off, put the ice cream in the freezer and wait. Depending on how long you wait, you either end up with a frozen block of ice; or a liquid mass, the consistency of a Slush Puppy. Tough luck!

Now you are ready to blow it and join the rest of the angry reviewers on the outlet (damn, why didn’t you read the reviews?). 

But before you do so, give yourself some time and read the most common failures and how to fix them. Chances are that your ice cream machine is performing just fine and you are about to become the super star of all the gatherings to come with your homemade ice creams. Why miss the chance?

Homemade ice cream is the best thing one can make and no store-bought ice cream can compare to it. All you need is someone to point you to the right details and a few reliable recipes.

So here is all you need to know when taking your first steps in ice cream making at home.

credit for cover photo: Hal Gatewood

Before we start, take a peek to the terms used in the article:

• Ice cream Mixture: it is the ice cream in its liquid form, before it is churned and turned to ice cream.

For Ice Cream Makers with a Removable Freezer Bowl:

• Machine: the part of the Ice Cream Maker which connects to the power

• Paddle: the machine attachment which agitates (churns) the ice cream

• Removable Freezer Bowl: the bowl which freezes the mixture while it is being churned


To assemble, you attach the paddle to the machine; then the machine to the freezer bowl and you turn it on. Then you pour the ice cream mixture in the freezer bowl and let it churn.

The Most Common Mistakes When Using An Ice Cream Maker
How To Avoid Them

What you should know:The removable freezer bowl is not auto-freezable. It contains water and salt and you have to freeze it by putting it in the freezer, usually for 24 hours.

Most common mistake: Not leaving the removable freezer bowl in the freezer for long enough. Or not putting it in the freezer at all, thinking that it freezes when connected to power.

How to avoid it: you have to leave the removable freezer bowl in the freezer for.the.whole.time. advised by the manufacturer, no shortcuts allowed. This is usually 24 hours, but you can check the manual.

Hint: keep the removable freezer bowl in your freezer at all times. It is useful to always have it handy. And it is safe, but do check the manufacturers instructions, in case there are additional instructions for long term storing in the freezer .

What you should know: The ice cream mixture must be COLD, at the moment you pour it in the freezer bowl. When we say cold, we mean fridge temperature, which is around 4º C ( about 39º F ).

If your ice cream mixture is tepid, or not cool enough, a standard domestic ice cream machine will not be able to churn it. The removable freezer bowl will get warm before it has the chance to churn the ice cream, resulting in a sloppy liquid, instead of a fluffy ice cream.

Before going through the churning process, all ice cream mixes should:

go through an overnight stay in the fridge till cold, which is 4º C ( about 39º F ) temperature, should you have a thermometer


go through a thorough ice bath, by putting the ice cream mix in a sealable bag and submerging it in ice, till cold, which is 4º C ( about 39º F ). This may take 3 hours at least.

Important: before chilling in the fridge or ice, make sure that your ice cream mix has come to room temperature. If it is still warm, neither of those two methods may be sufficient to chill it.

What you should know: It may take longer for the ice cream to come to its maximum volume possible than the manual or the recipe suggests. In my ice cream maker, it takes 40-50 minutes for the ice cream to fully churn.

Most common mistake: Unplugging the ice cream maker too early.

How to avoid it: Watch over your ice cream while it is being churned. Check it every 10 minutes; you will see that the ice cream’s texture changes during churning. When it reaches the stage that the texture doesn’t appear to change anymore and its volume has stopped increasing, wait for a full 5 minutes and then unplug the machine.

What you should know: Not all ice cream recipes work. Ice cream recipe development requires deep knowledge of ice cream making. Each ingredient plays a vital role and all details matter.

If the ice cream recipe you used does not contain the right ingredients in the right quantities, the result will be a disaster.

Most common mistake: Choosing random recipes on-line

How to avoid it: When choosing a recipe, play it safe and stick to websites which are specialised in ice cream recipes or which you know you can rely on.

All ice cream recipes in Biterkin are precisely calculated to give you the best ice cream possible. There are also resources included at the bottom of the post, should you like to buy a book or find reliable websites online.

What you should know: in a perfectly balanced ice cream formula, all ingredients are essential.

Most common mistakes: 

• increasing or decreasing the quantity of an ingredient in a recipe

• using other ingredients than those the recipe asks for

• using calorie-reduced ingredients, like low-fat dairy products or sugar substitutes

For example:

Too much sugar or alcohol and your ice cream will not churn or set.

Less sugar than needed and your ice cream will be icy. Same goes with fat, so do not use low-fat products.

Using sugar substitutes in place of sugar. This is a big no-no. Sugar plays a vital role and is not interchangeable with sweeteners.

How to avoid it: just stick to the recipe and do not attempt to “improve” it to your liking.

What you should know: external heat can seriously affect the outcome of the recipe. When making ice cream during a heat wave, all things are off: from the temperature of the fridge, which affects the temperature of the ice cream mix, to the temperature of your kitchen, which may make the ice cream maker’s task impossible.

Most common mistake: making ice cream during a heat wave, without taking into consideration the high temperatures.

How to avoid it: The rule of thumb is that you should take extra care that:

1) the ice cream mix temperature is at 4º C ( about 39º F ) before pouring in the ice cream machine (yes, we have said it before. But now it is more important to check if the ice cream mix is actually cool after staying in the fridge overnight, as the fridge’s contents may suffer from the heat)

2) the ice cream maker is in a cool environment when your ice cream is churned. If your house is air-conditioned, put it in the coolest spot.

Important: for the same reasons, avoid placing your ice cream machine during churning near a hot spot, like a hot oven, or under direct sunlight.

What you should know: When the ice cream is churned, the whole point is that air is incorporated into the mixture. This is what will make your ice cream nice and fluffy.

To do so, we need to take advantage of all the paddle’s dynamics. But, what does that mean?

To determine the minimum volume of the ice cream mix, when your ice cream maker has a paddle like this:

Meet Your Paddle

if the level of the ice cream mix is below the •Optimal Level•, you are losing its dynamics. The paddle just goes round and round, without actually incorporating air into the ice cream mix. As a result, the ice cream mix does not increase in volume and the result, if eaten, is a frozen block with ice crystals

For this reason, we aim for the level of the ice cream mix to be above the optimal level. When the ice cream mix is above the middle spoke, it will eventually fluff-up, reach the upper spoke and then fluff up more, reaching its maximum potential volume as the two spokes work together to incorporate the air needed.

However, not all paddles are the same. Technically perfect paddles have sideway spokes vs. horizontal ones, in which case you will not need to worry about the optimal level.

As for the maximum volume of the ice cream mix you can churn, this should be no more than the 4/5 of the ice cream bowl. This in a 1.5 litre/quart ice cream maker, is around 1,200 ml.

Do not go nuts, though, over finding the perfect maximum quantity for your ice cream maker. The only problem you may encounter will be that as the ice cream expands in volume, it may escape from the canister and land onto the floor. This can be easily prevented if you stay around with a spoon and an eager mouth.



If you have a question, do not hesitate to contact me or leave a comment below. Questions are food for thought and I love food in all forms.

And, as promised, here are some useful links:

Favourite websites for ice cream recipes:

David Lebovitz : second to none.

Stella Parks from Serious Eats  : I do not know about the other recipe developers over at Serious Eats; but Stella Parks is claimed to be a Pastry Wizard for a reason. Same goes for her ice cream recipes.

Favourite ice cream books: 

The Perfect Scoop, by David Lebovitz. If you need to buy just one book for ice cream making, this will be it.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at home . Although I prefer custard based ice creams, this is a really good book for egg-less recipes.

And if you are a pastry chef and you want a professional book, this is the one to go: Frozen Desserts.


14 Responses

    1. What do you mean outside cover? Of the ice cream maker? If so, depending the ice cream maker, if the paddle stays in place it should be ok. Otherwise, you’d better pour the ice cream, recompose the ice cream maker and start again.

  1. One of the best ice cream cookbooks is Ben & Jerry’s homemade ice cream & dessert book. Not only do they have recipes for their usual flavors such as Cherry Garcia and New York Fudge Chunk, they have other ice cream flavor recipes too. They also include some bakery items like brownies. In the front of the book, it includes a history of how Ben & Jerry started making ice cream and how they opened their first scoop shop.Their French vanilla ice cream recipe is always my “go to” although I have much better luck with it when making it in a 1 gallon ice cream machine (with the wooden tub) than using the 1 quart freezable bowl. The recipes listed make 1 quart but if I triple the recipe, it will work with my 1 gallon freezer.

  2. I finally gave up making Cusinart ice cream after four very frustrating trues. I am not beyond asking for help. So here goes.
    First :After looking at the above photos of the freezer bowl and paddle I am sure I have one of tahe very first machines made. The paddle has a circular top that fits into the cover and into the bottom of the freezer bowlthus making it go around to make the ice cream. This goes as it should without the cover but as soon I put on the cover ,lock it in start the machine and pour in the ice cream mix the paddle stops. I have examined every why. started over from the VERY beginning..same problem!. I have checked the parts illustration..I have the Motor base/the freezer bowl /the paddle /and the cover….Could I be missing something ? I am exhausted. This is long and I apologize but the machine is too nice just to toss. I do thank you so very much

    1. I am so sorry to hear that! As for the ice cream maker, actually, the Cuisinart ice cream maker and particularly the one you have described, is a very good one; I have one too and I am sure you will love it as soon as we can figure out what is wrong. So, unless there is some major malfunction with the particular ice cream maker, my first guess is that maybe the ice cream mixture is too thick, causing the machine to stop. Ice cream mixtures should be of pourable consistency in order for the machine to work. However, if this is not the case with the ice cream recipe you are trying to make (meaning if it is not thick), I would recommend contacting Cuisinart as it may there be something wrong with the one you have. It would be a shame to miss the joys of making ice cream at home, just because of a malfunction. In any case, do feel free to contact me for more information, I will be happy to have a look at the recipe you have used and tell you what might be wrong.

  3. Lisa,
    Thank you for your reply . I used the recipe in the manual…the first one for vanilla ice cream, It poured fine (and it was cold as was the paddle and the freezer bowl) The problem was not the paddle going around . it is that it will not move when I put on the cover..take off the cover and around it goes.I have tried every position ….I have a feeling the answer is right before my eyes…..just too simple to work. What could keep the addition of the cover which is necessary, from stopping the paddle from rotating? That is the problem..vexing isn’t it? Thank you and if all of a sudden the answer comes to you (as answers usually do ..mostly in the middle of the night) just email…I tasted the is delicious!!
    PS> I will be 94 on the 21st and am a terrible typist..but still love to cook , and maybe make ice cream.

    1. Sorry for the long reply, but I wanted to put my own ice cream maker to the test, to try to figure out what might be going wrong with yours.
      So, upon doing it, I realised that it had never occured to me that with Cuisinart ice cream maker, it is not the paddle which goes round and round, but the bowl. The paddle stays locked in place when you put the cover-this is true. But the bowl is the one which goes round, and actually causes the agitation and churning. Is that the case with your ice cream maker, too? Or when you put the cover, everything stops, both the bowl and the paddle?
      Sorry if it is nonsense, but it is the first thing that occured to me when I put it on test with your description in mind.

  4. Omg I’m a menopausal crybaby and after two whole days of prepping ingredients for this ice cream and trying twice, I threw the mixture, well, half of it, out! Frustrated and defeated. I am the polar opposite of anyone who successfully does anything in the kitchen. A culinary derelict even. So, I automatically assumed I did something wrong. Or that the freezer bowl is defective. But now, you’ve given me hope.
    So the recipe I used was one for Milky Way Ice Cream from Creations by Kara. Everyone else seemed successful so should be easy for me, so I thought. I put the freezer thing in the freezer and made the milky way mixture. Then waited for it to be room temp and mixed the second half, and put it in the fridge. I waited a few hours and tried to make it last night. Well it never even got an ice chunk. My daughter said I probably filled it too much. (I totally did. I filled it to the vvveeerrryyy top.) Or it was too warm still. (It was 110 here yesterday so the kitchen may have still been warm).
    So, this morning I got up, its nice and cool out, 78 I think when I tried. I put only half the mix in and let it do its thing. Except it didn’t! 😩😩 It was still a liquid. So, I figured I made it wrong and dumped out the mixture that was in the freezer bowl thing. But when I looked at the recipe, it seems I actually did it right! So, I’m at a loss, and don’t have the very most basic culinary skills to figure it out.
    It seems as though I’ve checked off most of your boxes. I guess I can check the temp of the mix. Actually I’m going to go do that now with the mix I have left!
    Ok, 4C or 39F. That’s exactly what you said it should be!

    Do the freezer bowls go bad ever? I have a Cuisinart 21 but I did buy it used. Is there a “sure fire never fail” recipe I can try?


    1. Hey Kim!

      I checked the recipe you have tried and my first impression is that it has waaaayyy too much sugar; too much sugar prevents the ice cream mixture from churning successfully, resulting to a liquid vs. fluffy ice cream. However, this is a guess, as I cannot calculate the exact total sugars of the recipe and tell you if this is the problem, because I live in Europe, where some of the products may be different in sugar content and size (particularly can of sweetened condensed milk and Milky Way).

      As per the freezer bowls, they do indeed sometimes “go bad”. Let me explain: inside the freezer bowl there is a liquid consisting of water and salt (or something similar). If there is a considerable loss of this liquid (because of breakage or sometimes leakage), the bowl may stop churning efficiently. If you have a kitchen scale, you could e-mail Cuisinart and ask them how heavy your freezer bowl should be. Then weight it to check if it is of the right weight; if it is not, there may have been a leakage of the liquid which causes the problem.

      Update: the recipe below does not work for everyone, so please hold and do not use it, until I find a foolproof one.
      But before doing so, you can try a “sure fire never fail” recipe, which is very simple and will remove any doubts about your ice cream maker:
      2 cups milk, whole (470 gr; 16.5 oz)
      2 cups heavy cream, 36-38% fat (470 gr; 16.5 oz)
      3/4 cup regular sugar (150 gr; 5.3 oz)
      note: prefer to use a kitchen scale, but if you do not have one: 1 cup=235 ml (US cup)
      To make it:
      Warm half of the milk (1 cup) with the sugar over medium heat, until the sugar fully dissolves, stirring often to prevent the milk from curdling.
      Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil.
      Remove from the heat and pour into a large bowl. Add the rest of the milk (1 cup) and the heavy cream; stir well and chill overnight, until thoroughly cold.
      Churn in your ice cream maker until nice and fluffy; this may take up to 50-60 minutes, depending the ice cream maker.
      Leave in the freezer for 3-4 to set; enjoy.

      This is a simple but lovely ice cream and if it does not churn until nice and fluffy, then there might actually be a leakage of the freezer bowl’s liquid.
      Hope this works, and yes, please do let me know how it went, I would love to hear from you!

      1. Hi,

        Thank you! I will absolutely try your recipe and see what happens! I left the freezer bowl in for another 36 hours and tried it again, and after 30 min all I got out of it was a milkshake. I have the Cuisinart Ice-21 and I only filled the bowl up halfway. And then I have to freeze it again!? For another 24 (or 36?) hours!? I will try your recipe tonight. Well, I’ll prep it tonight. Lol. I just don’t know if I’m going to be a fan of this type of ice cream making! I was remembering when I was a kid and we’d decide to make ice cream, and get enough for everyone to have about a cups worth. (There were 6 of us.). Maybe I should get the old kind and try it. With the rock salt and ice. We’ll see what happens after I try your recipe. (And yes, this was a lllooootttt of sugar!) I’ll be back to let you know! THANK you for such a detailed reply!

        1. Hope this will work for you!! Let me know how it went! And I have never tried the rock salt and ice thing, it sounds really fun to make ice cream like this. 🙂

  5. I tried to make the Cuisinart pumpkin ice cream recipe last night. I ended up with a liquid, not anything solid. After reading your notes above, I think one of the problems was that I mixed up the ingredients and put it right into the ice cream machine without letting it sit in the fridge overnight. Is if there is any way to fix the soupy mess I now have in two different plastic containers in my freezer? Thanks for your help.

    1. Yes, sure there is! Just defrost in the refrigerator and when it is back in its liquid form, it will be perfect for churning. Also, if I were you, I would give it a good, thorough blend just before churning.
      Extra tip for defrosting: as defrosting in the refrigerator may take 2-3 days, you can first leave the containers on the counter for up to 2-3 hours (but no more than this, especially if the ice cream mixture contains dairy). This will help it defrost faster in the refrigerator.
      If you encounter any other issues let me know, I would love to help!

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