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Ice Cream Salt: the Essential Ingredient for Perfect Homemade Treats

Ice cream salt isn't for sprinkling on your sundae—it's key for homemade ice cream. This coarse salt lowers the freezing point, allowing ingredients to transform into smooth, creamy delights. It's a simple, yet magical component in the ice cream making process. Ever wonder how this salty marvel enhances your favorite frozen treat? Join us as we explore its chilly secrets.
Christina Edwards
Christina Edwards
What Is Ice Cream Salt?

Discover the secret ingredient to perfect homemade ice cream: ice cream salt. This specialized form of sodium chloride is essential for achieving the ultra-low temperatures necessary for crafting creamy, frozen delights. Unlike table salt, ice cream salt has a coarser grain and is specifically designed for use in ice cream makers. According to the University of California's Science of Cooking, the addition of salt to ice lowers its melting point, allowing the mixture to reach temperatures below the standard freezing point of water. This process, known as freezing point depression, is crucial because, without ice cream salt, the ice alone cannot attain the colder temperatures required to freeze the mixture into ice cream. By strategically placing the salt in the outer container of the ice cream maker, the inner chamber, filled with your delicious ingredients, is chilled to perfection.

Ice cream salt.
Ice cream salt.

Large salt crystals usually make up the majority of ice cream salt, which is sometimes referred to as rock salt. It can also be used to melt ice on roads and sidewalks. Although the cook may need to use more of it, table salt can sometimes be used as a substitute, if needed.

Ice cream salt is not mixed in with the ingredients used to make ice cream. In fact, it is not even considered edible, and it never comes in contact with the ice cream. Instead, it is mixed in with ice or ice water, which is placed in an outer chamber of an ice cream maker.

A scoop of ice cream.
A scoop of ice cream.

Although ice is cold, it is not cold enough to freeze ice cream. Adding salt makes the ice water mixture a few degrees colder than 32°F (0°C). It does this by lowering the freezing temperature of water as well as the melting temperature of the ice. This results in temperatures below freezing, which are needed to solidify the ice cream.

A large ice cream manufacturer will typically use chemicals like ammonia to freeze ice cream, but homemade ice cream is usually made with salt. Manual and electric ice cream makers are available in which the salt is mixed with ice water and placed into a large outer chamber. The ice cream ingredients are mixed together in a slightly smaller container, which is placed into the center of the larger one. These ingredients are then constantly agitated, either by hand or electricity, until the mixture freezes and thickens.

Table salt can be used in place of rock salt, though a larger quantity of salt may be needed.
Table salt can be used in place of rock salt, though a larger quantity of salt may be needed.

A commercial ice cream maker is not required to make small batches of homemade ice cream. The ingredients can be mixed in a small, sealable plastic bag that is placed inside a larger bag, along with the salt and ice water. To freeze the ice cream, the larger bag can be shaken and agitated gently.

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Discussion Comments


The other excellent use for ice cream salt is to sprinkle it on concrete steps and sidewalks, to keep them from freezing.

But it's also essential for freezing homemade ice cream, and it takes someone who knows how to freeze ice cream to get the proportion of ice and salt exactly right, to keep the ice cream soft and not grainy.

I don't have that knack, but my dad sure did. He knew exactly when to add ice cream salt and when to add ice. He also knew how much to add. It's a very fine line, but he knew how to do it.

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    • Ice cream salt.
      By: Elena Moiseeva
      Ice cream salt.
    • A scoop of ice cream.
      A scoop of ice cream.
    • Table salt can be used in place of rock salt, though a larger quantity of salt may be needed.
      By: Jiri Hera
      Table salt can be used in place of rock salt, though a larger quantity of salt may be needed.