The Ice Cream Experiment: Take One

Is all ice cream created equal?  Should we go with the cheap stuff…or is it worth it to pay a little more to make our own or buy brands that have more wholesome ingredients?

I recently read an ice cream story that left me with my jaw on the ground.  With Randy’s permission, I will share part of his story (taken from a monthly newsletter I receive from North Star Neighbors)…

On February 25th, I went to [a grocery store] and purchased  2-quarts of ice cream. It tasted so-so. I went to try again and when opening the cartons, it just didn’t look right and fresh! So, I set both cartons in the sink to melt.
The [first brand] took 2 days to actually melt. The [second brand] NEVER did melt. Three days after sitting on the counter, I stuck a spoon in it and it ‘stood up’ all by itself. 

I read through the rest of this email and was shocked that an entire month later, the second brand of ice cream had still not melted!!!! Ice cream that doesn’t melt?!  Whoa! I knew that many store brand ice creams contain some funky ingredients, which is why I avoid them, but funky ingredients that actually keep the ice cream from melting?! Kinda makes you think that maybe this frozen stuff in a box is possibly…not real food?!?!

And so, I decided to do a little ice cream experiment of my own, and blog the progress for you. Only for you (and because I’m weird enough to want to see this for myself) would I buy two cartons of ice cream that I wasn’t planning to eat  and leave it on my countertop for days and days to watch it’s progress.

At the risk of sounding like Dr. Seuss, please allow me to introduce to you…Brand One and Brand Two:


Brand One Ingredients:  milk, cream, sugar, skim milk, corn syrup, whey protein concentrate, mono- and diglycerides, guar gum, sodium phosphate, cellulose gum, sodium citrate, polysorbate 80, carrageenan, vanilla extract, artificial flavor, annatto

Brand Two Ingredients:  milk, cream, buttermilk, whey, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, guar gum, mono & diglycerides, sodium phosphate, cellulose gum, sodium citrate, polysorbate 80, carrageenan, natural flavor, annatto

We took a scoop out of each, just to show the texture.

Brand One:


Take special notice of the layer of gunk (for lack of a better word) on the top of the box of Brand Two:


We set the ice cream out at precisely 10:40 am Saturday, March 27 (2010).

Exactly one hour later, Brand One looked like this:


And Brand Two looked like this:


They appear to be melting don’t they? Oh dear, maybe we should stop the experiment right now and eat the ice cream before it melts all over the place! But no, let’s not. Let’s wait and see what happens.

Two hours later…Brand One:


Brand Two (notice again, the lid gunk that hasn’t changed a bit):


As the familiar saying goes, a watched ice cream carton never melts…so we put a towel under it and walked away for the evening. 

The next morning…

Brand One:


Brand Two:


The towel underneath the cartons was wet and clearly the cartons were slightly less full than when we first started this two days ago. So, I will give it this much:  the ice cream was melting somewhat.

Moving on to Monday morning…

Brand One:


Brand Two:


At this point in the experiment, it had been almost 48 hours since we’d taken the ice cream out of the freezer. When we gently pushed on the contents of the cartons, it resembled a sponge. A sticky sponge.

What could we do now, but make Homemade Ice Cream with all natural ingredients to make a comparison! And so, we lugged out our ice cream maker and got it whirling.

Homemade Ice Cream Ingredients:  Cream, milk, real maple syrup, egg yolks, vanilla, arrowroot powder



I know this experiment isn’t exactly apples to apples (or ice cream to ice cream as the case may be) because I just wasn’t willing to part with an entire quart of homemade ice cream to see how long it would take to melt. Instead, we scooped some out into a small bowl.

Here’s the Homemade Ice Cream at 11:40 Monday morning:


Homemade Ice Cream at one hour later at 12:40 pm:


And the homemade ice cream on Monday at 1:26 pm:


The homemade ice cream melted in our mouths too…but that goes without saying.

So let’s review:

Homemade Ice Cream…melted in just under two hours.

Brand One and Brand Two…72 hours later, we’re still waiting to find out.

Check back  here in a few days and I’ll share the ice cream melting progress (or lack thereof)!

And um, just in case it never melts…how long do you suppose I should let it sit on my countertop?

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  1. says

    Ewww, I’m totally grossed out by the non-melting ice cream. Those are some serious chemicals, yuck!! I’ll definitely be thinking twice about buying ice cream that is for sure.


  2. Kika says

    Oh my! I told my kids about this. So gross; I wonder what the ‘pretend ice cream’ does inside our bodies?!


    Kika Reply:

    Wow! I just returned home from my dad’s with a ‘new’ (to me) Cuisinart ice cream maker which they didn’t use and offered to me. How cool is that!


    rebecca Reply:

    it turns into lawn furniture ; )


  3. Sarah says

    I always wondered about this. If I have to buy ice cream (the store with the good cream is 20 min away, and I have to have a) the money to get it, and b) the excuse to go to that town so I don’t waste gas for just one thing) I try to make sure it’s got the fewest ingredients possible and as few unpronounceable words as possible.


  4. says

    A picture is worth a thousand words! I have a hard time believing a lot of stuff I hear about, but those pictures are unbelievable! We just inherited an ice cream maker so I’ll have to try it out.


  5. says

    What I want to know is if you used a Kyoopon for brand one and brand 2.


    Laura Reply:

    Hehe…you would think we would have, wouldn’t you?! No, we didn’t for two reasons. 1. I’m not in a regular habit of clipping KYOOPONS for ice cream anymore, so I didn’t have any on hand. 2. We bought off brands of “ice cream”, so there wouldn’t have been KYOOPONS anyway. :)


  6. says

    Very interesting! I was just thinking yesterday that we should not eat store bought ice cream anymore, but instead make all of our own so we at least know what’s in it. I guess this just seals the deal. : )


  7. says

    we once argued with the workers at a local dairy queen that there was something wrong with our ice cream because it wasn’t melting and didn’t taste like ice cream. They kept saying, it’s ice milk. We said, well it’s still ice, it s hould melt!

    We live in Canada and when we occaionally buy icecream it does melt though. I wonder if ours has less additives? Maybe it’s the brand?

    But homemade is so much better, even the kids agree!


    Shelby Citizen Reply:

    Canada has much better dairy products and tougher regulations than the


    Mikey Reply:

    I came to this blog searching for answers as to why my dairy
    queen ice cream doesn’t melt.
    Based on the gross flavour, I suspect it doesn’t
    melt because it’s 24% Play-Doh.


  8. AnnaK says

    OOOhhhh disgusting. I LOVE ice cream but this is definitely a wake up call. I don’t mind forking out a few extra dollars if my kids get the real deal.

    Thanks for the warning. Really love your site!


  9. says

    Yet another reason why I only buy the ice cream with simple ingredients. Don’t have an ice cream maker yet, so we stick to Breyer’s All Natural, and even then we skip the ones with corn syrup (nothin natural about that stuff).

    Also… that’s just… eeew. That’s right up there with McDonald’s fries….


  10. says

    ewww that boxed ice cream is so gross looking! This is a great reminder to me not to feed that stuff to my family.

    May I ask what the arrowroot powder does for your homemade ice cream?

    I just made a batch of heavenly french vanilla frozen custard. mmm…mmm.


    Laura Reply:

    The arrowroot powder just thickens it a little bit. You don’t have to use it, but it does help “hold it together” some.


  11. says

    I’m going to guess that it’s the carrageenan, which is extracted from seaweed and used as a stabilizer, and probably one of the more natural ingredients on the list. It’s not so much not melting, but not losing its shape. You’d probably get the same result in your homemade ice cream if you added gelatin or something of that sort.


  12. caroline says

    that was my sister’s elementary school science experiment. scary scary scary.

    just got an ice cream maker, so exciting.


  13. says

    Ok, I’ve been on a rampage against fake food lately, and I HAVE to redo your experiment for my blog! It totally proves my point about fake food.

    Ugh! Who knows what it does in our stomachs. That is gross.


  14. Rebecca says

    Just wondering what the comparison would be if you just put a scoop in a bowl as opposed to the whole quart out? I’m just wondering if part of the ‘spongy’ texture is that the ice cream is also drying out at the same time as it’s melting. Stay with me, the melting seemed to be going pretty well the first day around the edges, which is where it would normally melt. But by the next day, I’m wondering if even if the cartons had been full of a puddle of ice cream if there would still be a spongy/gooey/sticky layer on top of the puddle?
    This all intrigues me. And homemade ice cream is way better than any other ice cream! :)


  15. Megan says

    You do realize that your homemade ice cream was in a tiny bowl, and the store bought ice cream was in a large cardboard container? Therefore the small portion of homemade ice cream will of course melt faster than the large insulated store bought ice cream container (that is probably 20 times larger than the scoop of homemade)…as someone above posted, it would be better to compare 2 equal sized scoops of ice cream side by side. Nonetheless, homemade ice cream is a much better idea and looks wonderful and tasty!


    Laura Reply:

    Sure, and I made mention on the post about how this wasn’t completely apples to apples (er ice cream to ice cream). I wasn’t willing to waste that much homemade ice cream!


  16. Anon says

    Ever leave DQ ice cream out? It expands and turns into foam. I bought my husband an ice cream maker because he loves it so much. I was never a huge fan, but since we started eating homemade ice creams, sorbets and the like… I think I’m in heaven! And honestly? Even if there was nothing seriously harmful in store bought, I KNOW there’s nothing harmful in the homemade where as I have to HOPE with the carton. And, actually, fat and sugar levels aside, there is some pretty healthy stuff in the homemade ice cream. Love this post. :)


  17. Michelle says

    Huh interesting I were these just store brand or was any name brand factored in it would be kind of neat if some top name brands were compared to. I wonder …. I may have to look into that if no one else does to see what the standards are between store brand and “chain or name” brand ice creams especially the ones that claim to have all natural ingredients !


  18. Elke says

    When I was a Child we always made Homemade Icecream from sratch even without an Icecream Maker, we put it in cups and then then in the freezer it was so good. I already knew that store bought Ice cream turns into gumlike mush because I left it out by mistake one night and it wasn’r meltelt so I told my Husband our Icecream is made with more cemicals then naturals
    so time to change back to my childhood in Germany and freeze my own batch or buy and Icemaker.


  19. andrea R says

    Scary— we eat way too many “things” we do not know about- I am heading to my local Frozen YOgurt place soon :)


  20. says

    This is awesome! My kids are so grossed out, I don’t think they’ll ever eat store bought ice cream again! Thanks for sharing this! What a great experiment. We may do this for one of my boys’ science experiments. Can’t wait to try your homemade ice cream recipe. If you’re able to reply, I would love to know what kind of ice cream maker you use, it looks like it can make seriously good ice cream! Thanks and blessings, Kelly


    Kelly @ The Nourishing Home Reply:

    oops, after scrolling through your homemade ice cream recipe,
    I notice you have a picture of your ice cream maker and the brand name
    listed, plus a link – you are the best! thanks again!! :)


  21. Katie says

    Does this freeze well? I am thinking about making a bunch at once and freezing it for the summer. Anyone tried this?


  22. John says

    I do not think it is the chemicals, since the inside of the ice-cream is frozen, and the surface area touching warm air is minimal, it would take a while to melt. If the homemade ice-cream was put into a container such as brands 1 and 2 it too might take a while. See how long a single scoop takes to melt.


  23. Brenda Slye says

    after reading this, I went on Amazon and bought an ice cream maker. We had bought some ice cream from a store, won’t mention names, and it had such an “off” flavor to it..I couldn’t eat it..and the kids said it is ok..hubby ate some..but just felt bad feeding them such “fake” ice cream..then I stumbled onto this page..and made my decision!


  24. Dara says

    I remember a family friend (who worked at an ice cream factory) commenting that “if people knew what went into the ice cream, they’d never eat it”. I was very young at the time, but wish that I had asked WHAT exactly was in the stuff! yuck!

    ps- I really enjoy learning from your blog! thank you so much for sharing!


  25. Erin says

    Has anyone found a good small ice cream freezer? I have a 4 quart but then I have no way to store extra ice cream. I’m looking for something that can make a small batch more often. And ice cream never tempted me until Breier’s natural. It doesn’t have a film on it. Mix it with a bit of milk and mush it with your spoon and insta-milkshake. Yum. Did I mention that I recently added 5 lbs that I’m having to walk off?


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