How Ice Cream Works

Five-minute Ice Cream
Photo courtesy Ed Grabianowski
Photo courtesy Ed Grabianowski

There are many recipes out there for making your own ice cream at home, but did you know that you can make your own ice cream in five minutes using two Ziploc bags?

Here's what you'll need for this experiment:

1 tablespoon sugar

½ cup milk, cream, or half and half

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract (or other flavoring)

6 tablespoons salt

Enough ice to fill the gallon-sized bag halfway

1 gallon-sized Ziploc bag

1 pint-sized Ziploc bag

Photo courtesy Ed Grabianowski Fill the gallon-sized bag halfway with ice. Add the salt.

Ordinary table salt will work, but salt that has larger crystals, such as kosher salt or rock salt, will work much better. Mix the salt around in the ice and set aside.

Photo courtesy Ed Grabianowski Pour the milk, sugar, and vanilla extract into a bowl or other container and mix.
Photo courtesy Ed Grabianowski Carefully pour the mixture into the pint bag.
Photo courtesy Ed Grabianowski Close the bag, making sure it is completely sealed.
Photo courtesy Ed Grabianowski Put the pint bag into the gallon bag.

Make sure the pint bag gets buried in the ice. Seal the gallon bag. Shake the bags vigorously for five minutes. You might want to use a towel to hold them, since they will be very cold and slippery from condensation.

Photo courtesy Ed Grabianowski Remove the pint bag, open it up, and grab a spoon.


  • Milk will provide a less rich, lower calorie ice cream, while using heavy cream will have the opposite effect.
  • This method will make a small amount of ice cream, about enough for two people to enjoy. Experimenting with other methods can allow you to make more. One version uses two coffee cans of differing sizes instead of plastic bags.
  • Flavor combinations are almost limitless. Chocolate syrup is a basic option, while various flavor extracts available in your grocery store's baking section can lead to more exotic variations. Try combining mint extract with chocolate, or adding small chocolate chips.

For more information on ice cream and related topics, check out the links on the next page.

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