Cook's Illustrated

How to Make Pro-Caliber Ice Cream

When we think about ice cream, we usually think about flavors such as chocolate, vanilla, coffee, and strawberry. But what makes or breaks great ice cream is texture—how smooth, cold, and refreshing it feels in your mouth. Getting it right hinges on two main factors: controlling the water in the base and freezing that base as quickly as possible.


Ice cream is mostly water, which freezes during the churning process and thickens the base so that it becomes solid and refreshing. The key is controlling the size of the ice crystals that form as the water freezes and that can continue to grow over time in the freezer. When ice cream is grainy, it’s because the crystals are noticeably large, while smooth, high-quality ice cream contains ice crystals so small that our tongues can’t detect them.

Each ingredient in the base influences the properties of the water

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