Chemistry in the Kitchen: The Science Behind Ice Cream

April 8, 2009

Legend has it that the Roman emperor Nero discovered ice cream. Runners brought snow from the mountains to make the first ice cream.

Making ice cream at home is easy – no mountain marathon required! Just read the instructions below and enjoy your very own homemade ice cream.

Creative Commons LicensePhoto Credit: Jessicafm

Rock salt
Pint-size baggies – heavy duty
Gallon-size baggies – heavy duty
Measuring cup
Measuring spoons

1. Fill the large bag about ½ full of ice. Add 6 tablespoons of rock salt to the ice.

2. Put ½ cup of milk, ¼ teaspoon of vanilla, and 1 tablespoon of sugar into a smaller baggie and seal. Put this inside another small baggie and seal. This will prevent saltwater from seeping into your ice cream.

3. Place the double bagged small baggie into the larger baggie and seal.

4. Shake the baggie until you have ice cream.

5. Remove the smaller baggie from the larger one. Wipe off the water, then open it carefully and enjoy your ice cream!

UPDATE: Check out our Science of Ice Cream video to learn more!

HMNS at Home is presented by Mitsubishi Corporation

Authored By Kat Havens

As a native Houstonian Kathleen has watched HMNS change and grow over the decades. Her life-long love of cultures and all things rocks and minerals brought her back to HMNS after several years away. Well versed in almost all things museum as an employee and volunteer her goal is to share her love of learning with anyone who will stop long enough to listen (or read).

6 responses to “Chemistry in the Kitchen: The Science Behind Ice Cream”

  1. Dr. Ricky says:

    Okay, I get it, a recipe for making ice cream. Where’s the chemistry and science behind ice cream? No explanation that ice cream involves the incorporation of air during the freezing process to make the water freeze in small crystals? Or that the incorporation of fat and sugar changes the colligative properties of the ice cream mixture?

    The title is misleading.

  2. Erin says:

    Hi Dr. Ricky,

    This post is attached to another with the actual video clip – which does go into all of the science topics you list, in addition to others.

    Check it out here:

    I’m also going to add a reciprocal link to this post to make sure everyone else gets there as well.

  3. amanda says:

    so is there really a sicence to making ice cream or is it something that you do for our own comsumtion? really think about it.

  4. Tammy says:

    Thank you for the additional resources you added, I’m a bit of a reader geek so I always ask the same as Dr. R and often ask the question:
    Why do we always have to “Watch the Video?” I still appreciate reading. I recall what I read but rarely videos I watch, just ,my individual learning style.

    I understand the science behind it but I think without a clear science demo it may look a bit like it isn’t a science demo.
    I was just looking for additional resources for summer activities I do for under served youth, so they could do additional investigation or look back in several places for explanations if I don’t get the message through or they forget after the summer.

    Actually Amanda it is for the fun and consumption but the process is based on science. This is a pretty good demonstration of lowering freezing temperatures and how molecules work to be able to “show” chemistry. It is a a lot more fun than simply balancing the equations and kids sometimes learn a bit better if they can predict or even see a result or have a target to shoot for. I spent hours balancing equations and never got a tasty treat for my efforts to see what I was doing when I was in school! =)
    Not complaining all info is appreciated.

  5. lulu says:

    why is the science behind ice cream?????????

  6. lulu says:

    i mean what is the science behind ice cream

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