How Long Does It Take for Ice Cream to Freeze?

how long does it take for ice cream to freeze
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Are you among the millions of people who love ice cream? If so, you have probably wondered about making it yourself. It can be a simple process because you just add all of the ingredients to the machine and plug it in. However, you may still have some questions.

How long does it take for ice cream to freeze? This is one of the most common questions we have come across lately. The answer is likely to surprise you because it’s not just about freezing but also about preparing the mixture and more.

What You’ll Need

The things you will need to make ice cream depends on how you’re making it. If you use an electric ice cream maker, you will need:

  • Ice
  • Rock or table salt
  • Ice cream mixture
  • Container for storage

However, if you’re making the ice cream without the machine, you will need:

  • Ice cream mixture
  • Freezer-safe and mixer-safe bowl
  • Hand mixer

We will talk about both options for making ice cream. In that way, you can make it even if you haven’t invested in an ice cream maker just yet.

The Ice Cream Mixture

Most people prefer custard-style ice cream because it has a rich, creamy taste. It starts with cream, milk, egg yolks, sugar, and some flavorings. To make homemade vanilla custard-style ice cream, you will need:

  • 2 cups of milk
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 6 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 4 cups of chilled whipping cream or half-n-half
  • 2 tablespoons of vanilla extract

Step 1: Scald the Milk

First, you’ll need to pour milk into the top part of your double boiler. You can use a heavy saucepan if you don’t have a double boiler. Bring your milk to a simmer using medium heat.

Consider using a food or candy thermometer to check so that you can be sure that the temperature reaches 175 degrees Fahrenheit. Once it is heated, remove the pan from the heat.

Step 2: Combine Some of the Ingredients

Using a separate bowl, add the salt, egg yolks, and sugar. Beat it with a hand mixer or use a whisk. Keep in mind that a whisk is going to be a lot of work for you. Continue mixing until it is thick enough to hold a trailed pattern.

To test this theory, take a spatula and dip it into the mixture. Take it out and let it fall back into the bowl. It should come down in a ribbon style for at least two or three seconds before the ribbon breaks. Often, it will take at least three minutes of mixing before this happens.

Step 3: Tempering the Mixture

Once the egg base is mixed together, you will need to add in the scalded milk gradually. You’ll need to beat it together at low speed while pouring. This will prevent the hot milk from cooking the eggs.

Remember, you shouldn’t overbeat your mixture. Just mix it all together until the milk has gotten fully mixed into the rest of it. Once all of your milk has been added, you can pour it all back into your saucepan or double boiler.

Step 4: Finishing It

On medium-low heat, cook your custard mixture to the point of almost boiling. It should be thickened at this point. To test it, try to coat the back of your wooden spoon; if it slides off, it’s not ready.

You will need to stir constantly while the custard is cooking. Make sure to scrape down the sides and the bottom of your pan. If you have a candy thermometer, use it for cooking the mixture until it reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit.

It is best not to let the mixture come to a full boil because it could curdle. If that happens, you might be able to salvage it. Just pour the mixture through a sieve, removing all of the curdled pieces.

Step 5: Cool It

Once the custard has thickened correctly, you will need to remove it from the heat. Allow it to cool off a little before you put it in your refrigerator. It is best to pour the mixture into a glass bowl, covering it with plastic wrap.

Make sure the plastic wrap touches the surface of the custard. This prevents a slimy film from forming on top. It is also possible to speed up the cooling process by putting the bowl of custard into an ice-water bath.

If you plan to make a lot of ice cream at home, you may want to invest in an under-counter ice maker. This will ensure that you’ve always got plenty of ice on hand for your ice baths or for your electric ice cream machine.

Step 6: Chill and Age

Once your custard has cooled sufficiently, you will want to put it in the refrigerator. It is best to do it for 24 hours, but if you can’t wait, four hours is sufficient. This is called the aging process, and it helps the mixture whip better when you’re making the ice cream.

Step 7: Add Vanilla and Cream

Once the mixture has aged and chilled properly, you can stir in the vanilla and cream. Just whisk or stir it together until everything is combined. Now, you can start the freezing process.

How to Make Homemade Ice Cream Using an Ice Cream Maker

If you have an ice cream maker, you can just follow the instructions in the owner’s manual. Make sure that you use enough ice and rock or table salt around it to ensure that it drops the temperature sufficiently to thicken the ice cream.

Note that the can that comes with your ice cream maker should be chilled in the freezer for four hours before you begin the freezing process.

how long does it take for ice cream to freeze

How Long Does It Take for Ice Cream to Freeze?

There are two parts to the question of how long ice cream takes to freeze. The first part indicates the soft freeze process from the machine. It can take anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes for your ice cream maker to produce the right consistency.

Once it is made and at the right consistency, you will need to transfer it to a freezer-safe container. Pack the ice cream firmly and leave at least half an inch of space at the top. Put on the cover and make sure it is on tight.

Now, you will have to put it in the freezer and wait. It can take up to four hours to harden sufficiently.

When it’s hardened enough, remove it and serve immediately. You can store the rest of the ice cream in the freezer, but it is likely to get harder and harder the longer you leave it in there.

Why Your Ice Cream Gets Too Hard

When you make homemade ice cream, it doesn’t have the preservatives that store-bought products have. These additives can keep the ice cream at a state where it can be scooped. Since the homemade stuff doesn’t have those, it will continue getting hard until it is rock solid.

The best thing you can do is to leave it in the freezer for three to four hours and then eat it all in one sitting. However, you may live alone or the family might not want seconds. Sometimes, you’re watching your weight and don’t want to overindulge.

Regardless of why you don’t eat it all, you will need to put it back in the freezer. Of course, when you remove it again to have another serving, you may have to wait 10 minutes or so before it softens enough to scoop.

There are things you can do during the mixing and aging process to prevent overly hard ice cream. Here are some expert tips:

  • Chill and age the custard base properly. You need to make sure that the mixture is cold to prevent too-large ice crystals from forming while it freezes.
  • Use just the right amount of much sugar. Make sure you follow your recipe exactly. Too much sugar causes the ice cream to harden. If you don’t have enough sugar, it will cause your mixture to stay soft.
  • Churn the ice cream fast enough. When using the ice cream machine, it must churn fast enough so that big ice crystals can’t form. Plus, more air is whipped into your ice cream with a fast churn.
  • Use low-fat milk. If you’re dieting, you may consider making a lighter version by using low- or no-fat milk. However, this isn’t ideal because the fat prevents the ice cream from getting too hard while freezing.

Preventing “Crunchy” or “Icy” Ice Cream

Some people believe that homemade ice cream isn’t as good as the store-bought stuff because it’s always crunchy, or you get a hunk of ice in it, which doesn’t taste well. This happens when too much ice crystallization occurs.

Making ice cream is mostly about managing the mixture and slowly turning it into a frozen concoction. Therefore, if the ice cream mixture freezes fast, it will be creamier. However, that’s not all you need to consider.

The ice crystals that form during the freezing process are smaller after it has been churned. Then, they continue growing. Once they’ve gotten too big, the texture will change to icy, crunchy, or gritty. Therefore, you should freeze it until it can be scooped and try not to have leftovers. That way, the ice crystals can’t get too big.

Preventing Fat “Blobs”

If you’ve ever made homemade ice cream before and saw balls, flecks, or chunks of milk fat, you were probably upset. It can alter the taste, but it also makes it look odd.

It happens because of the whipping cream, milk, or half-n-half that you use. There is a perfect window for the right consistency. If you don’t achieve that, then there will be some fat that separates.

Make sure that the mixture is emulsified when it’s warm. You can do this with an immersion blender, whisk, or a regular blender. Just give it a quick buzz or whisk after it has aged and before you pour it into the machine.

Also, check the ice cream as it is churning. Most manufacturers say that it takes about 25 minutes, but that’s not a hard rule. Check it periodically, and you will catch the ice cream when it’s at its creamiest state.

Preventing Gritty Add-Ins

Sometimes, you may take a bit of otherwise creamy homemade ice cream to find that the add-ins are gritty or icy. This happens primarily because store-bought candies and chocolate chips aren’t designed to be frozen.

You can combat this by making your own add-ins. However, this is going to take more time. Another option is not to add too much of them. You may want your ice cream chock full of peanut butter cups, chocolate chips, and the like, but less is more.

If you plan to add liquid chocolate, caramel, or fudge, make sure that it is at room temperature first. When it is still warm or hot, it will sink to the bottom, producing ice crystals all through the ice cream. This happens because the warm liquid will melt the ice cream slightly, forming more crystals when it refreezes.

Preventing Bigger Ice Crystals

One reason you might get larger ice crystals is that you are constantly taking out the container in which it is stored. It doesn’t sit out long enough to soften much, but it will a little. This means that it must refreeze to the same consistency as before, creating the ice crystals.

To prevent this issue, you can store the ice cream in individual serving containers. Then, the whole batch isn’t subjected to thermal shock. It also helps with portion control.

Alternatively, you could put some parchment or wax paper right on the surface of the ice cream. Doing this prevents more air from getting to it, which stops freezer burns.

The best thing to do is make just enough of the ice cream to serve that day, though it is possible to make the mixture and leave it in the fridge for a few days. Just take out enough to churn and freeze for what you think you’ll eat.


We understand that it can be tough to make homemade ice cream for the first time. You aren’t sure where to start and worry about having issues. Plus, it can be tough to know how long to freeze it so that it’s fresh and creamy without being gritty.

How long does it take for ice cream to freeze? We have answered this question for you. More than that, we’ve also given you some tips to ensure that it tastes its best. Good luck!

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