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The 3 Very Best Ways to Tell If Ice Cream Is Done Churning

Discover ways to tell if your homemade ice cream is done churning in this easy-to-follow guide.

To tell if your ice cream is done churning, you will want to listen for a change in the dasher’s sound and look for consistency like soft-serve ice cream. While you should initially set a timer for between 15 and 25 minutes, your own senses reign supreme.

In the following sections, we will cover how to make sure your ice cream is done churning and ready to pop into the freezer for cooling.

Crafting the Perfect Ice Cream

So your batch of homemade ice cream came out way too waxy? Maybe it just won’t thicken, no matter how hard you try. Or did it have trouble freezing? If you’ve experienced any of these issues, don’t fret.

The perfect batch of ice cream takes experience, and experience is one of those things you earn the hard way; through trial and error. If you arm yourself with the right knowledge, you can lessen the learning curve and start churning out perfect batches of ice cream in no time.

To make that perfect batch of frozen goodness, you will want to avoid under- or over-churning your mixture. To make the churning process as smooth as possible, check a few steps before you begin.

Make Sure Your Dairy Has Enough Fat Content

Let’s just say you can’t skim on ice cream. While you can make ice cream out of skim or semi-skim milk, it won’t come out as creamy as it should. So, if the goal is decadent and delectable ice cream, get whole milk, half-and-half, or heavy cream.

Substitutions, although okay on other dishes, are generally discouraged—they affect the ability of the cream to churn well and freeze.

Make Sure the Bowl Is Cold Enough

For your delicious creation to freeze properly, the bowl that goes with your ice cream should be very, very cold. If your bowl is too warm, the ice cream will freeze too slowly or, worse, never fully freeze.

This makes churning darn near impossible! Ideally, you will want to stick your ice cream bowl in the freezer overnight or for a good 24 hours. Best to err on the side of “too long” than “not long enough!”

Chill Your Ice Cream Mixture, Too

Notice the trend here: At every step of this process, you want your ingredients and your cookware cold! The bowl and the ice cream mixture should feel frozen so that the ice cream itself can freeze.

Don’t Overfill Your Ice Cream Maker

Take care to avoid overfilling your ice cream maker. Besides raising the likelihood of spilling and making a mess, an overfilled ice cream bowl will take longer to churn. Yes, it’s not the end of the world. Just know that a very full bowl may make the process take longer.

How To Tell When Ice Cream Is Done Churning

So you followed our advice and you did lots of mixing, freezing, and waiting (just enjoy the outcome and thank us later).

The time has come to churn! If this is your first time using an ice cream maker, you will want to turn on your ice cream maker before transferring your chilled mixture into the (already chilled) bowl attachment.

Now comes the most difficult part, waiting. Let the machine run and use your senses (with a bit of common sense). You can tell that your ice cream is done churning through several different ways.

#1. By the Time

Ice cream makers should have an estimated churning time in their directions. Most will take between 15-25 minutes, which you can set your timer for as a start.

Don’t live religiously by this, however, because each batch will be different. Time can be a good starting indicator, but your own sight and sound will always reign supreme.

#2. By the Machine’s Sound

For starters, listen for changes in the noise that your ice cream machine makes.

At first, the dasher, the part on your machine that spins, will make a high-pitched sound. Eventually, as the ice cream thickens, the sound will deepen and the dasher will seem more labored. That’s one of your best cues.

#3. By the Ice Cream’s Consistency

Your ice cream mixture will not look like real ice cream yet! When you place it in the freezer, it will harden into frozen goodness. 

When your mixture is churning, you should look for a consistency like soft-serve ice cream. If you wait until it looks like “normal” ice cream, you’ll be over-churning the batch.

You can also check the consistency by using the bottom of a spoon to press into the mixture. If it leaves an indent, your ice cream should be ready to transfer and put into the freezer to chill.

Alas, if the spoon doesn’t make an indent, the mixture is still too thin and should keep churning for a while longer.

What to Do if The Ice Cream Is Too Thin?

If there’s one thing you want to get right when preparing ice cream, it’s the consistency. Nine times out of ten, ice cream that’s too watery is ice cream that doesn’t get eaten.

If you’ve been churning your ice cream and it doesn’t thicken the way it should, you can make sure your efforts were not in vain by thickening it mid-preparation. You can pause and add arrowroot powder, cornflour, or tapioca flour to the mix.

Other thickeners include 1 part milk and 1 part cream, as well as two or three extra egg yolks. Bear in mind that the former will add to the weight and volume of your ice cream, and the latter will alter its flavor by making it more custardy.

What Happens If The Ice Cream Churns Too Long?

If the ice cream churns for too long, it may leave you with a waxy or buttery taste in your mouth. While you’ll be looking for a crisp and clean flavor, the aftertaste may indicate that you’ve accidentally over-churned your batch.

Fear not, though! Your over-churned ice cream can still be delicious! You don’t have to throw away your batch. Just make note of the time you spent churning and then decrease it with your next mixture.

Why Let The Ice Cream Chill?

When you determine that the ice cream has finished churning, be patient. (After all, patience is the secret ingredient in every recipe.) Transfer the ice cream into containers and let them sit in the freezer for at least a few hours.

Two hours after churning, your ice cream should be delicious and have the perfect consistency.

What Other Tips Should You Keep In Mind?

External Temperature

The outside temperature can affect the amount of time it takes for your ice cream to churn. If you live somewhere warm and your kitchen is hot, it may take a great deal more time than the typical 15-25 minutes.

For the shortest churning time, plan on making ice cream at the coolest part of the day; either in the morning or later at night.

Ice Cream Maker Models

Different ice cream makers (both brand and model) will vary on their strength and speediness. A more expensive, higher-powered maker may be done churning more quickly than an older version.

Remember to keep an eye on the mixture consistency and listen for a difference as you figure out what works best for your particular model.

Final Thoughts

With the right tools, tricks, and patience, making homemade ice cream can be a fun and hassle-free process to create delicious treats for yourself and your family and friends. 

If your first ice cream-making adventure doesn’t quite go as planned, keep trying! The results will be worth it.