The only cheap ice cream maker we found that requires neither brawn nor an electric outlet, the YayLabs Ice Cream Ball (starting at $40) is a hit with reviewers. On average, it earns more than 4 out of 5 stars from scores of consumers on Amazon and Walmart.com. The polycarbonate plastic shell, filled with rock salt and ice in one compartment and the ice cream or frozen treat mixture in another, appeals to campers, boaters, picnickers, and travelers -- young and old alike. Making ice cream with the YayLabs Ice Cream Ball is easy as pie, reviewers claim.
But patience and perseverance are required. The process calls for some energetic throwing or rolling of the ball -- no kicking, please. The manufacturer figures 20 minutes for the smaller version and 40 minutes for the larger size to churn up a batch, but some reviewers tell of spending up to an hour before the ice cream base becomes a soft, edible treat -- if it ever does. Whether turned into a game or just idle entertainment, young kids initially get a charge out of the activity but quickly grow bored, according to reviews. And as the contents harden, the loaded ball gets cold and heavy. Cue the adults, who must step in to finish the job. One YayLabs Ice Cream Ball review tells of incorporating the churning process into a group exercise involving squats and passing the ball from one person to the next.
Simplicity, portability, and novelty may be this ice cream maker’s strong suits, but flaws are apparent. Some reviews assert the concept just doesn’t work regardless how much the ball is shaken, rattled, and rolled. Some report that ice cream hardens around the cap, making it difficult to open. (Tip: Periodically stop, carefully twist open the cap, and scrape the ice cream away from the opening). Others grouse about the challenge of removing the finished frozen mass because the opening is too small, and metal spoons -- the only utensil strong enough -- scratch the interior. A few posts say normal size ice cubes don't fit into the "freezer" compartment (use crushed ice, suggests one reviewer), and some complain about saltwater leaks.
The YayLabs Ice Cream Ball comes in pint and quart sizes. The former weighs 2 pounds when empty and 7 pounds when full, and the latter weighs 3 pounds when empty and 9 pounds when full. The balls are available in a rainbow of colors, including blue, red, purple, pink, orange, and green, although the quart size seems limited to pink and blue and costs about $10 more. The product is backed by a one-year warranty.
A handful of YayLabs Ice Cream Ball reviews dismiss this product outright and scoff at excess hype about the fun of it all. The vast majority of users, however, seem happy to have bought into the idea.