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In the past, I've usually stored homemade ice creams and sorbets in reusable/disposable plastic containers (e.g. Gladware), but I've busted more than a couple of these when trying to scoop hard-frozen ice cream. The cold plastic is somewhat brittle, and the scoop can easily punch a hole in the side. One solution is to let the ice cream warm up a bit so that it's easier to serve, but who has time for that?

Can you suggest an airtight, ice cream-friendly storage vessel that'll stand up to a forcefully-wielded scoop?

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Your ice cream shouldn't freeze that hard - are you using a machine, or some other method? –  rumtscho May 21 '12 at 15:13
    
@rumtscho Freezing with a machine (frozen bowl KitchenAid mixer attachment). It's not hard like an ice cube, but a Philadelphia-style mix (cream, milk, sugar, fruit -- no eggs) can get pretty firm. If the fruit is added late enough that it stays mostly intact, that also adds some icy obstacles to scooping. –  William Shakespeare May 21 '12 at 15:20
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try adding alcohol, salt, and gums (only a pinch/a few drops of each). It makes a big difference. –  rumtscho May 21 '12 at 15:24
    
@rumtscho Great suggestions. I think a smaller batch next time will result in more air in the final product, which should help too (my current batch would be properly labelled "super-duper premium"). I'd still like to find some good containers, though -- maybe a source for unvented paper pint containers. –  William Shakespeare May 21 '12 at 15:31

5 Answers 5

Restaurants solve this problem one of two ways:

  • Tough, professional-grade stainless or Lexan containers. I suggest 4" to 6" deep 1/6 size hotel pans AKA steam table inserts, or lidded 2-4 quart Cambro containers.
  • Cheap, disposable quart delitainers. These are actually reusable and dishwasher/microwave safe, but at $0.25-0.50 apiece, it doesn't matter if they break regularly! Just remember to recycle the broken ones. You've probably seen these used for take-out soups in Chinese restaurants or delis, because they're cheap but work well.

For the first option, remember that professional-grade equipment is built to survive YEARS of punishing abuse, but you'll pay more for that quality. Expect a pricetag of $5-7 or more for each of the smaller containers, or slightly less if you find a good restaurant supply store. Sam's Club also carries some of that stuff.

The flipside is that you shouldn't ever have to replace the containers unless you do something really dumb, such as putting a pan hot off the stove down on the lid. For this reason I suggest planning ahead before making a purchase, because you want to get the right sizes for regular use.

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Excellent suggestions -- thanks! –  William Shakespeare May 21 '12 at 15:59

After punching through a bunch of brittle plastic containers myself, I bought a set of 25 paperboard quart containers from Sweet Bliss, and like them very much.

The lid design is especially nice, using a second piece of card inside the lid with holes cleverly placed to push air out of the containers.

On their website they say:

In 1996, my husband and I received an ice cream machine as a wedding gift. Soon after, we were invited to dinner by some friends and I offered to bring homemade ice cream. I wanted to present it in a nice container since I was putting in some time and effort along with fresh ingredients. I thought the container should reflect all of these things, "homemade and delicious."

I set out in Atlanta to find a storage container for ice cream and there wasn't a product made for storing and protecting homemade ice cream. I was disappointed, but it occurred to me at that instant that there was a need and I was going to one day fulfill that need. Over the next nine years I would ask anyone and everyone what they stored their homemade ice cream in, and over and over I heard the same thing. They would say that they stored it in a plastic storage container, but it was always hard as a rock and that it lost its original consistency. I knew I was ready to launch an idea that many could benefit from, a storage solution for homemade frozen desserts!

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+1 -- Those look really cool, and perfect if you wanted to sell your stuff or give it away as handsome gifts. A little more spendy than cheapo plastic equivalent, but much nicer. –  BobMcGee May 22 '12 at 3:52

BobMcGee's specific suggestions are fairly good, but I'd suggest that the only things that really matter are that they're rectangular and not disposable. Rectangular means they'll pack well into your freezer, and anything non-disposable should should stand up just fine to the scoop.

Of course, even disposable containers (even when reused many times) should be okay - I've used them for ice cream. Is it possible that your ice cream is a bit on the hard side, and you're scooping before it softens with a heavy, sharp scoop? If that's the case, you might want to look into making softer ice cream (see this question or this blog post), as well as scooping it when it's not quite as cold (store it in the door, increase freezer temperature, or let it sit on the counter for a few minutes).

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The restaurant containers will have another good property - they are rectangular, but their edges are slightly rounded. So you will be able to scoop out icecream you would be throwing away with other containers. –  rumtscho May 21 '12 at 18:54
    
@rumtscho: I suppose - but at home, I'm just going to be reaching in there with a spoon and getting it all out, so it's not a huge issue. –  Jefromi May 21 '12 at 19:20
    
@rumtscho: I probably should have mentioned that property. It's just one of little design features you easily forget until you don't have it. Jefromi: While normal tupperware can be used in the freezer, I agree with Caleb that it's prone to cracking with normal use. Eventually you end up having to replace stuff. And if you drop a container of frozen sauce or stock, and it's done. –  BobMcGee May 22 '12 at 4:00

Not the answer you were looking for but this is how I solved my problem which also involved limited freezer space.

Packed ice-cream into quart/liter freezer ziplocks and froze flat and even. Broke off portions to be softened in fridge as needed. A quick thwack on the counter edge worked as well as a knife with less risk.

Can pre-portion these inch thick slabs in another container in freezer as they don't stick together if you have been quick about it.

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If you want something really sturdy, glass is a good option. I recently bought a glass container for homemade ice creams, and it works well. But you have to choose the right container.

  • temperature tolerance. Some glasses can spring in the freezer. Buy a container which is marked as freezer-safe.
  • closing. Buy a container which has a tightly-closing lid. You want to minimize smell contamination, freezer burn, and the chance that a non-tight lid will slip when you are getting something else from the fridge and let some other packet fall in the exposed ice cream.
  • corners. The nice thing about glass containers is that they tend to have rounded inner corners, making scooping easier than from plastic.

The glass container will have a higher temperature capacity than your regular tupperware container. This means that if you fill freshly-churned ice cream into room-temperature glass, the outermost layer will melt before you have finished filling it. You should pre-chill the container. To avoid heat shocks, I put the empty container in the fridge together with the just-made ice cream base, and when the base is chilled and goes into the churner, the empty container goes into the freezer.

The upside is that, when you take out the container to scoop and serve the ice cream, the glass will keep cold for a longer time than a thin plastic container, or also than a metal one (because metal conducts heat better). Also, this type of tempered container is usually heat-proof too, so, when not in use for ice cream, you can bake casseroles in it.

This is the container I got. I chose the rectangular type, because it stacks better. The 1.3 liter size fits well for one ice cream recipe (about 800 ml base).

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