Why Does My Ice Cream Have Ice Crystals?

Ice cream is delicious, refreshing, and an all-around favorite. There are many reasons that ice cream has crystals.

Today we will discuss the most common causes and solutions for this problem so that you can enjoy your frozen desserts without any worries.

The formation of crystals in ice is referred to as freezer burn. It occurs when parts of the ice cream start to evaporate in the freezer. It also occurs when the ice cream is too cold.

Two ice cream cones

Reasons for Freezer Burn in Ice Cream

The Ice Cream May Be Too Cold

This means that it has been in the freezer for quite some time and is now frozen solid, with little to no air pockets.

The best way to fix this problem would be by leaving your container of ice cream out on the counter for a couple of hours before scooping or eating it again.

Freezer Temperature

Another reason for this is that it has not been stored in a freezer that has reached 0 degrees Fahrenheit.

This would mean that your food could have thawed, and then refrozen while still containing some water, which freezes as solid crystals when you put it back into the freezer.

To fix this problem, make sure that your freezer is set to a temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit, and it’s not just the air inside.

 clip art of a thermometer

Inadequate Preparation

Lastly, if you are buying ice cream from an unknown source (for example, at a grocery store), then the water in the ice cream may have been too hot when they were freezing it.

The extreme cold in the freezer causes the water in ice cream to freeze, and if it was too hot when they put it into the freezer, then you will end up with sugar or sweetener crystals.

To fix this problem, only buy your frozen treats from a reputable place.

How Do You Remove Crystals from Ice Cream?

There are some homemade fixers for the ice crystals. It depends on what type of crystals you are trying to remove from your ice cream.

You can remove the crystals by adding salt to your frozen treats or putting it in an airtight container and letting it sit on the countertop. Wait until there is enough water inside that will mix with the sugar/sweetener.

If the crystals are sugar, then all you need to do is mix the ice cream up and wait for them to dissolve.

However, if they are pieces of salt or corn starch, that will never happen since they’re water-insoluble.

Tip: When removing ice cream that has been in an open freezer for too long, it’s best to let it melt a little before scooping it out.

This will decrease any leftover crystals meeting your spoon.

Read: How Long Does It Take for Ice Cream to Freeze in An Ice Cream Maker?

Tip: If you want to make your ice cream, I'd recommend any Cuisinart ice cream maker machine. Chose the one you prefer depending on size requirements and budget.

Don't forget to add some vanilla extract or any other flavors! You can also put in a little bit of salt for that extra delicious taste. 

Be sure not to over-chill the mixture too much because this will cause it to freeze and have more crystals form as well.

How Do You Prevent Ice Crystals in Homemade Ice Cream?

There are many ways to stop those pesky ice crystals from ruining your dessert.

Storage

Store your ice cream in a deep enough container, so that it is not touching the sides or top of the container.

This will prevent any unwanted contact with room temperature surfaces and help keep heat retained and frozen as long as possible.

Manage Stirring

Keep an eye on how much you are stirring too. A good rule of thumb to follow would be if you are stirring more than once or twice, it’s time to stop.

Over-stirring can cause the ice cream mixture to lose its consistency and get too cold which will start forming those pesky crystals.

Stirring a mixture to make ice cream

Freezer Temperature

Make sure your freezer is set at a temperature of -18°C/0°F for optimal storage conditions. The lower the temperature, the slower ice crystals will form.

Use Salt

Don’t be afraid to salt your ice cream.

Adding a teaspoon of table salt to your mixture can help prevent ice crystals from forming as quickly and in some cases stop them altogether.

The reason for this is that salted water freezes at a lower temperature than unsalted water.

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Liquid Nitrogen

You can use liquid nitrogen in making the ice cream.

This method will not only freeze your mixture quickly (in just a few minutes) but will also kill any bacteria present in your ice cream.

When using Liquid Nitrogen;

Place the container of liquid nitrogen into the freezer and wait until it reaches -196°C/-320°F. This will take about 45 minutes.

Carefully pour the liquid nitrogen into your ice cream mixture and stir for one minute.

Place back in the freezer to freeze completely, which should only take a few more hours.

Citric Acid

The other way is by adding an acid to your recipe or using citric acid as a substitute for lemon juice.

When using Ciric Acid;

Add two teaspoons of citric acid or lemon juice to a glass jar with an airtight lid (pickle jar or mason jar work great).

As the citric acid performs its magic, it will release carbon dioxide.

Cover the lid with a piece of plastic wrap and poke holes in it for ventilation so that you don’t end up feeling like an overripe tomato!

You can also use this method to make your sorbet by adding sugar instead of salt.

Sugar

If you are not a fan of the tangy taste that citric acid provides, you can add some sugar to your mixture.

Then stir it in thoroughly so that it is mixed into all parts. The added sweetness will help keep the consistency solid while also slowing down any formation of ice crystals.

Tips for success: If you are using these methods, it is important to keep the mixture in a deep container and stir occasionally (once or twice would be best). 

Keep an eye on how long your freezer should stay at -18°C/0°F too! It can take up to 24 hours before you can take the ice cream out of your freezer.
Kim

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