Clockwise from top left: Hamilton Beach, Cuisinart, Hammacher and Breville ice cream makers.

Be it a cone crowned with two fist-size scoops of salted caramel or a cup of cookie dough drizzled in chocolate sauce and festooned with sprinkles, the cold milk-and-sugar concoction is an all-season reward that just feels best when the weather warms. But here’s a dirty little secret: Ice cream (and gelato and frozen yogurt) is incredibly easy to create at home. Like 20-minutes-and-it’s-done easy. All you need is a base of cream, sugar and milk and a machine that can churn it. We found the five best machines — from a bare-bones freezer-bowl model to a self-refrigerating powerhouse with more bells and whistles than a pet store (zing!). Used properly, they’ll make your local scoop slinger very lonely.


Hamilton Beach 1 1/2 Quart Ice Cream Maker
A freezer-bowl model — youll have to stick the container in the icebox before whipping up a batch — the Hamilton Beach churns out 1 1/2 quarts of the creamy stuff in roughly 20 minutes. And while simple, the one-button machine offers a few nice features, including a large mouth that makes it easy to add ingredients as the mix thickens. $50,


Cuisinart ICE-100 Ice Cream and Gelato Maker
This squat, 32-pound compressor model (that is, one that self-refrigerates and doesn’t require prefreezing), is incredibly easy to use and fully automatic. It has a few frills, like a 60-minute countdown timer and a “keep cool” function that ensures mixtures stay cold for 10 minutes after the churning ends, but its main selling point is that it simply knocks out creamy, consistent concoctions. $300,


Breville Smart Scoop
Invest in the Smart Scoop, the Cadillac of ice cream makers. This compression machine features 11 consistency settings (for creating everything from delicate sorbets to the sundae-worthy hard stuff) as well as a timer for tracking more intrepid recipes and an internal cooling unit that chills batches whipped up in the stainless steel, handled bowl for up to three hours. Additional touches like a process-quickening precool setting, an easy-to-read LCD screen, and a near-silent motor make it the high-end machine of choice. Its only downfall? The prerecorded versions of jingles like “Sweet Georgia Brown” it plays. But unlike those blared by Mr. Softee, you can easily turn them off. $400,


Hammacher Schlemmer Shake Rattle and Roll
Fill this ball with the appropriate ingredients (including rock salt, which is necessary to melt the ice quickly), snap the lid shut and hand it to the kids to kick or roll or shake. After twenty minutes, the mixture will be congealed and ready to fill a waffle cone. It makes dessert and entertains the kids. Let’s see an iPad do that. $35,


Yonanas Maker
An ice cream maker for the health-conscious, Yonanas creates a gelato-like concoction using nothing but fruit. Feed frozen berries or bananas into a juicer-like chute and after a few minutes of rumbling, the machine produces a simple, surprisingly delicious, additive-free dessert that can be savored even by the lactose intolerant. $50,

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