If I buy a soft serve of ice cream (a single serving in a cone or tub) and put it in my home freezer, will it retain its shape and texture? What will happen to it?


Soft serve ice cream is soft because:

  1. It's warmer than hard ice cream. According to Wikipedia, it's generally made at about -4 C, rather than -15 C for hard ice cream. It's also served at a higher temperature -- 14 to 25 degrees F, compared to 5 to 7 degrees F for hard ice cream.
  2. It contains more air. The technical term for air introduced during freezing is overrun, and it's calculated based on the percent increase in volume of the ice cream. The more air, the fluffier and softer the mouth-feel.
  3. It usually contains less fat than hard ice cream, which is mitigated by the soft creamy mouth-feel resulting from the warmer temperature.

If you were to freeze soft ice cream, you'd lose the advantage of item 1. In addition, your freezer takes longer to freeze ice cream than an ice cream maker, which may result in ice crystals in the ice cream. Furthermore, once the soft ice cream chills to the freezer temperature (usually around 0F), the lower fat content may decrease the perceived creaminess, because of the information in item 3.

Of course, having said all of that, I haven't tried the experiment, so I'd be interested in hearing first hand stories.

  • thanks for an informative answer, I won't be attempting a freeze but if I do I'll let you know, if someone else doesn't comment first
    – lofidevops
    Aug 10 '11 at 9:13
  • 1
    +1 Great answer. Many, many moons ago I used to work after school in a popular soft-serve franchise. We sold pints and quarts of the soft-serve for take-out, which was stored in a regular freezer. We would also "hard freeze" the soft-serve to make the ice cream cakes. Ice crystals were never a problem (the advice in Thusagen's answer, and derobert's comment, were applicable and accurate). The result of freezing was firmer product with a texture similar to, but not quite, regular ice cream. The difference is most likely due to the lower fat and extra air, as you mentioned.
    – Beofett
    Aug 11 '11 at 16:08

There's a possibility that it develops ice crystals on its surface after some time.

Otherwise, it will still retain its texture (don't expect it to get better!), and its shape.

  • Pressing plastic wrap to its surface will help prevent ice crystals.
    – derobert
    Aug 9 '11 at 17:20

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