I love homemade ice cream. As soon as the weather gets warm, I start making it, and the freezer stays stocked until soup weather arrives. So I was interested in seeing how well the little half-pint ice cream maker from Hamilton Beach ($24.99) would work.
You can actually make a little more than a half-pint, but not much—about 12 ounces is the maximum. While the machine is billed as a soft-serve ice cream maker, there's no reason you couldn't make the ice cream ahead of time and stash it in the freezer to harden it.
But what's the point?
The idea is to make a quick batch of ice cream—it took about nine minutes to churn most of the recipes I tried—and then just dive in with a spoon. If you've got the ice cream mixture ready ahead of time, that's just enough time to clear the table of the dinner dishes and be waiting with that spoon in hand.
I was surprised how well this little machine worked, considering it runs on two AA batteries, but that's plenty of power to get the job done as long as you've got a good recipe in the bowl. Try something that's too water-heavy and it freezes a little too fast—but that's true even with a full-size ice cream machine. The batteries are supposed to last long enough to make 25 batches of ice cream.
The freezer bowl has a non-stick interior, so you're cautioned not to use metal implements in it, and it all requires hand washing, but it's not much of a chore. Like any ice cream maker with a freezer bowl. you need to give it time to freeze, but I always suggest storing the bowl in the freezer for those ice cream emergencies.
While this machine isn't going to make enough ice cream in one batch for your next party, it would be kind of fun to have a few of these to use at parties, so you can let guests customize their own creations. The model I tested came with a single bowl, but there are models that include two freezer bowls, so you can make a second batch right away.
Disclaimer: Testing samples were provided to Serious Eats.