Freezer Bowl vs Rock Salt Ice Cream Makers

This article compares two popular types of ice cream makers: the freezer bowl method and the rock salt and ice method. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each method?  Which type might be a better fit for your situation?

The freezer bowl method

How does it work?

Cuisinart makes a few freezer bowl models.  For a more detailed description of how this model works, see my Cuisinart ICE-60W review. Briefly this type of ice cream maker uses a double walled bowl that has a gel or fluid in the space between the two walls. This bowl is placed in your freezer long enough to freeze the fluid. Usually this takes up to 24 hours.
When you are ready to make the ice cream, you pour your mixture into this frozen bowl, insert the paddle, and the machine churns the mixture until it is frozen to a soft-serve consistency.

Pros

One advantage to this method is that once you get the process started, you can leave it alone until it is finished. The machine does all the work for you automatically. You don’t have to hover over it and keep adding ice or salt.
You can keep the bowl in your freezer in readiness for the next time you want to make a frozen treat. No need to keep a supply of ice and rock salt on hand.
The controls allow you to select

Cons

You do need to devote freezer space to the bowl – or bowls. Most people who chose this method keep one or more bowls in the freezer at all times so that they can make ice cream when the mood hits. If you store the bowl at room temperature you will need to place it in the freezer for 24 hour prior to making your frozen dessert. The bowl needs to be sitting on a flat surface. If it is tilted, the fluid between the bowl’s wall will freeze unevenly. This will cause the bowl to wobble during the churning process.
Your freezer should be set to 0 degrees F.

The rock salt and ice method

How does it work?

Hamilton Beach has a couple of models that use the rock salt method.  For a more detailed description of how this method works, see my Hamilton Beach 4 quart automatic ice cream maker review here.
Briefly this model takes the old hand-cranked ice cream maker one step into the modern world. Instead of having to spend a lot of time and muscle power churning your mixture, a motor does the work for you. An inner canister is set inside a larger outer container. There is about a 2 inch gap between the two containers. You place your ice cream mixture in the inner canister and layer ice cubes and rock salt in that gap between the two buckets. Insert the paddle and turn the motor on. You will add more ice and salt as the ice melts during the churning process.

Pros

These ice/rock salt models are usually lower in cost than the freezer bowl models.
This is a very simple and time tested method of making ice cream. Not a lot that can go wrong.

Cons

They can be a bit messy. The Hamilton Beach model should be placed in a sink or tub while it is churning so that the water that flows out of the overflow hole doesn’t land on your floor or countertop.
You have to have a sufficient supply of ice and rock salt on hand if you want to be able to make ice cream at a moment’s notice.

Conclusion

Do you have freezer space to keep one or two bowls frozen so that you can make your frozen treats whenever the mood strikes? The bowls need to be sitting flat in the freezer, and your freezer should be set to 0 degrees F. If that works for you, the freezer bowl method may be your preferred choice, since it is a little less messy to deal with.

If the lower cost and the nostalgia of the old-fashioned ice and rock salt method appeals to you, and you don’t mind tending to it during the churning process, this model may work well for you.