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Cuisinart ICE-21 Ice Cream Maker Review

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Cuisinart ice-21 next to ice cream sundae

The Cuisinart ICE-21 ice cream maker is a fun appliance that allows you to make delicious desserts in the comfort of your own home. This review will help you decide if it’s the right choice for your home.


Many years ago, I used a Cuisinart ICE-21 for my first attempt at making ice cream with an automatic machine. It was the first time I’d ever tasted homemade ice cream that wasn’t made by hand, and the results were terrific.

Sure, there are tonnes of recipes available for making no-churn ice cream. But allowing an appliance to do the hard work for you is much easier. And it will take your dessert-making to a whole new level.

The Cuisinart ICE-21 is a top-rated product for a good reason. It’s affordable, but not lacking ability, and thanks to its size it fits into small kitchens. When taking into account that it is easy to use, you can see why Cuisinart sells so many of these units.

As with every ice cream maker, you can’t have everything. There is a downside to buying an entry-level model, so keep reading to decide if they’re deal-breakers.

Unsure which ice cream maker is best for you?
Check out our ultimate review of top ice cream makers for 2020.

Review of the Cuisinart ICE-21

Build quality4/5
Ice cream quality4.5/5
Value for money5/5
Appliance noise3/5
Overall score4/5

How does the machine work?

The Cuisinart ICE-21 has a freezable bowl that is lined with a special liquid. At room temperature, you can hear it sloshing around. However, when it is placed in a freezer, the liquid freezes hard. Once removed from the freezer, the bowl will stay cold for approximately one hour.

It’s important to understand that the bowl can be used once only, then it’ll need to be frozen again. If you want to make multiple batches in one day, then this isn’t the best product for you.

The Components

Let’s take a look at the components that make up this machine. All the freezable bowl models produced by Cuisinart are similar in that they have four parts. They are built “solid as a rock” and are well known for their longevity.

The ICE-21 base, paddle, bowl and lid next to each other
There are only four component to this machine.

1. The base

At first glance, the ICE-21 doesn’t have the sleek, high end look that some of its competitors have. But don’t let that fool you. It’s a solidly built piece of equipment that can pump out frozen treats for years without missing a beat. The motor is powerful and has no problem churning your frozen favorites, including frozen yogurt, sherbet, sorbet, and many other frozen treats.

The base of the ICE-21
The base is solidly built and comes in a range of colors.

Underneath the base, you’ll see there are four rubber feet to give the machine stability when it’s in action. There’s a small space to store the unused cord so the counter looks neat and there’s less chance of accidents.

Underneath the ICE-21
There is space to add the cord for extra safety.

2. The mixing paddle

The paddle (or dasher) is responsible for mixing and adding air to the mixture during churning. It is solidly built out of plastic, and broken paddles aren’t common. They can be purchased separately if needed.

The mixing paddle
The patent-pending paddle is very effective.

The paddle is a patent-pending piece of technology which is unique in that it doesn’t rotate. Instead, it is locked into one position. The freezer bowl locks into a 12-tooth gear protruding from the base. So it’s the bowl that spins around rather than the paddle. This technology is used in all the removable bowl Cuisinart models, and it offers excellent power. Where other makers will struggle as the ice cream thickens, this powerhouse continues.

There’s a minor design flaw that exists with many domestic ice cream makers. A small gap exists between the bowl’s inside wall and the edge of the paddle. This quirk results in a thin layer of icy mix freezing around the inside of the bowl. Churning takes longer than it’d take if the paddle touched the side of the bowl.

A solution is to stop the machine and scrape the sides of the bowl to remove the buildup. You must do this as quickly as possible to avoid meltage.

A container of raspberry ice cream scattered with fresh berries.
Make ice cream far superior to the store-bought version.

As ice cream gets churned, the air incorporates into the dessert. An overrun of 50% overrun means the base has increased by half its volume at the end of churning.

The Cuisinart ICE-21 claims to add a 40% overrun, which is sufficient. Commercial machines can incorporate well over 100% overrun into their products; however, premium ice cream overrun will be much lower.

3. The bowl

The bowl is a solidly built component that contains a cooling liquid between a double-insulated wall. You can hear the sloshing sound of this liquid at room temperature. To use the bowl, you’ll need to freeze it overnight.

A Cuisinart freezer bowl
The bowl is robust and virtually unbreakable.

This bowl allows the user to make 1.5 quarts (1.5L) of frozen dessert. This size is the smallest bowl on offer in the Cuisinart range, but it’s still a decent size.

The bowl is 7 inches in diameter, so this can be a challenge for some homes with limited freezer space. If your freezer is continually at capacity, you may want to consider a machine with a built-in freezer.

4. The lid

Like the paddle, the Cuisinart’s lid is built to last. Whether it’s rough children or clumsy adults, it would be difficult to crack the lid. The plastic is also clear, which is handy to see how your dessert is progressing.

The lif of an ICE-21
A clear lid makes it easy to check your ice cream.

An easy-lock groove allows the user to easily attach the lid, unlike some other appliances which are not so user-friendly.

An arrow pointing at the lid-lock on the ICE-21 lid
The lid-lock makes assembling the unit easier.

An ingredient spout allows the user to add mix-ins like chocolate, nuts, fruit, and sauces without stopping the freezing cycle. This hole is useful as the ice cream needs to be churned as quickly as possible to improve texture. Stopping the churn cycle to add ingredients would be counter-productive.

6 steps to make ice cream

Whether you choose the Cuisinart or some other brand, you’ll follow the same steps. Before starting, you’ll need to freeze the bowl overnight. Always place the bowl in a freezer bag or cover in cling wrap first. This step protects the bowl and stops ice crystals from forming inside.

Place the bowl at the back of the freezer to make sure it gets as cold as possible. The temperature fluctuates at the front of the freezer, which isn’t ideal.

Step 1: Preparation

Creating the base is a critical step. You can have the finest appliance in the world, but it’ll make no difference if you have the ingredient ratios wrong. It’s not difficult to find tasty recipes online, though.

An ice cream recipe booklet
Choose a suitable recipe that won’t overflow the machine.

Cuisinart also includes a recipe booklet in the box, so you’ll have plenty of flavors to make from the get-go. Whatever recipe you use, check the yield to ensure it won’t overfill your 1.5 quart bowl.

Step 2: Pasteurization

For homemade ice cream, this is an optional step, depending on what recipe you use. There are many egg-free recipes available that will mean you don’t need to heat your milk mixture. The heating process is primarily to kill off any harmful bacteria in the eggs.

Keep in mind that even if you don’t use eggs, the heating process can assist with flavor infusion. Using ingredients like spices and herbs will require heating the base with the additional components to allow the flavors to impart.

Step 3: Aging

Aging allows the mixture to chill for several hours, but preferably overnight. It’s essential to age the custard because it allows the flavors to infuse further and improves the final ice cream structure. Also, adding a mix that isn’t sufficiently cool, will probably result in failed ice cream. The freezer bowl will warm up before getting the job done.

Quick Tip:
Adjust the fridge temperature to maximum coolness as this will help your ice cream churn faster. After aging, some home chefs freeze their mixture for half an hour to further reduce its temperature. Then, they give it a quick blitz in a food processor to break up any ice crystals.

Step 4: Freezing

Freezing is the fun part. Get everything ready before removing the bowl from the freezer. You don’t want any wasted time, allowing the freezer bowl to start warming.

A bowl freezing
Adjust the freezer temp to the coldest option.

What to consider before freezing

  • Position your Cuisinart in the right spot and plug it in.
  • Ensure the lid and paddle are ready to go.
  • Have the mixture and utensils ready.
  • If adding mix-ins, place them in the fridge to chill.

Now you can remove the bowl from the freezer and take it out of its freezer bag. Place it on the base, add the paddle, and finally the lid. It will all click into place easily.

Finally, start the ice cream maker. The Cuisinart ICE-21 panel is straightforward, with no complicated settings of any kind. Flick the start switch, and the bowl will start rotating. You can now pour the liquid through the chute and begin the waiting process.

The front panel of the base.
Anyone can use this simple machine.

The bowl isn’t big, but the motor is powerful, so you’ll discover that it only takes 20-30 minutes to make delicious frozen desserts. This time varies depending on the volume of ice cream you’re churning, the recipe used, room temperature and freezer bowl temperature.

You’ll only get one shot at the freezing process. If you’ve been waiting 45 minutes and it still isn’t hardening, there’s something wrong. Unfortunately, you’ll need to re-freeze the bowl overnight and try again the next day.

Step 5: Adding Extras

Drop additional ingredients into the bowl at the end of the churning process. If you add the extras too early, some ingredients like biscuit and brownie will turn into crumbs resulting in an unpleasant texture. Also, it puts unnecessary strain on the motor to churn extra volume.

A bowl of colorful candy
Candy makes the perfect addition to your desserts.

Chill your add-ins before tossing them in. If they’re at room temperature, they’ll encourage icy crystal formation, which should be avoided.

Step 6: Hardening

Once the churning is complete, you’ll end up with something that looks like soft serve. It won’t be a hard texture like products bought from the supermarket. Freeze for 2-3 hours to fully harden.

As the churning ends, turn off the machine and remove the lid. Once you’ve pulled out the paddle and scraped off the ice cream into a container, you can easily scoop out the rest. Use a soft spatula that won’t damage the bowl.

For storage, choose an airtight container that has plenty of surface area. The traditional packaging used for premium ice cream at the supermarket is not ideal. They may be useful in the freezer for fitting into small spaces, but they don’t allow ice cream to freeze as quickly. A shallow, wide container is best. If it doesn’t have a lid, you can cover it with cling wrap.

4 Tips for hardening ice cream

  1. Place the container at the back of the freezer. This spot is the coldest position and doesn’t experience as much temperature fluctuation as at the front.
  2. Adjust the freezer to maximum coldness to speed up the freezing process and help produce better ice cream.
  3. Chill the storage container in the freezer before adding the ice cream.
  4. Place some cling wrap on top of the ice cream before adding the lid to stop ice crystals forming.

How to clean up when you’re finished

Cleaning this appliance is very simple as it has so few parts. The freezer bowl, lid, and paddle can be added to hot, soapy water and cleaned with a soft cloth. Avoid abrasive cleaning agents.

If you’ve spilled anything onto the base, then it can be cleaned with a warm, damp cloth.

Avoid using a cloth to clean the inside of the freezer bowl if it is still cold. The cloth will stick to the bowl’s inner wall making it difficult to clean easily.

Is the Cuisinart ICE-21 worth the money?

You’ll impress family and friends with the ice cream made by this machine. Its freeze time is fast for an entry-level domestic appliance. This speed results in a lovely smooth, creamy texture that the fussiest eater will enjoy.


  • Capable of producing very good ice cream.
  • It fits into small kitchens and can be stored in a cupboard when not in use.
  • An affordable model that is perfect for price-conscious consumers.


  • It isn’t quiet, so watching television with the machine running nearby is a challenge.
  • You need to be organized to pre-freeze the bowl before making the ice cream.
  • The bowl takes up space in the freezer.
  • A larger two-quart bowl would be preferable.

Top Alternatives to the Cuisinart ICE-21

A lady holding an ice cream cone
Need an alternative appliance?

1. Whynter ICM-15LS

“A popular model with a built-in compressor to make life in the kitchen a lot easier.”

The Whynter ICM-15LS is a mid-range domestic ice cream maker with a built-in compressor. If you like the convenience of being able to make frozen treats whenever you want, this may be a better option for you.

The quality of ice cream produced by the Whynter is noticeably better than the ICE-21. It is well worth the investment if budget permits.

What’s good about the Whynter

  • Makes amazing desserts
  • Built-in compressor
  • Fast churn time

What’s not so good

  • More expensive
  • Uses up more kitchen bench space

2. Cuisinart ICE-30

“For those that want a bigger bowl without the high price”

The Cuisinart ICE-30R is another simple, entry-level ice cream maker that is hard to beat for affordability. If your household isn’t a big consumer of sweet treats for dessert, then this is a great option. It doesn’t use lots of space, and the price is much lower than the more expensive compressor models.

As far as quality goes, the ICE-30 is capable of making some excellent ice cream. We have reviewed the ICE-30 in detail so check out what we found.

What’s good about the ICE-30

  • Affordable
  • Doesn’t use a lot of bench space
  • Well built, quality product

What’s not so good

  • Having to freeze the bowl each time
  • Quite noisy when operating
A bowl with scoops of strawberry and vanilla ice cream next to scattered cones.
Freshly made ice cream.

Product Specifications

Mixing paddle speed32rpm
Power cable length24"
Warranty3 years
A scoop of vanilla ice cream with a garnish of mint
A scoop of vanilla ice cream is perfect on its own.

The Verdict

The Cuisinart ICE-21 is a solid contender for making quality ice cream. It holds its own against some of the more expensive models. This product doesn’t use up a lot of space in the kitchen, and it’s simple to use. It is a well-built piece of equipment, which is why it’s such a popular product.

Keep in mind that this model doesn’t have a built-in compressor, so you need to freeze the bowl overnight before use. If you have a small freezer or don’t like to plan ahead by freezing the bowl, this may not be the best ice cream maker for you.

The Cuisinart ICE-21 is a fantastic entry-level model for those that want to try their hand at making ice cream at home. But there’s no need to stop there. Get busy churning out pints of gelato, sorbet, soft serve, and even frozen drinks (slushies).

The beauty of this model is its price. There’s nothing worse than buying an expensive appliance, only to see it gathering dust months later. For the price of around half a dozen pints of store-bought premium ice cream, you can own a new Cuisinart. You’ll have access to unlimited pints of ice cream that taste just as good, if not better, than the store purchased product. Better still, you can keep it natural, without any unwanted stabilizers, colors and flavors.

A bowl of chocolate ice cream covered in sprinkles
Sprinkles make any dessert better.

If you think the 1.5-quart bowl capacity is a little small, I recommend the Cuisinart ICE-30BC as it has a bigger two-quart bowl. The extra size is noticeable.

For such a simple machine, the Cuisinart ICE-21 produces very smooth, premium ice cream that a chef would be proud of. Cuisinart is a well-established brand, and they know how to make ice cream makers that last.

With so few moving parts, there is less potential for equipment failure. But, if you do have any issues, it’s good to know there’s a reassuring three-year warranty backing up your purchase. The Cuisinart ICE-21 is a well-built unit, and I recommend it to anyone looking to make ice cream at home.

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