Enjoy safe, homemade ice cream

July 20, 2011|Lynn Little

Eating ice cream to beat the summer heat is one of America's favorite pastimes.  

Homemade ice cream can be a special treat, but it can also become a threat because of salmonellosis.

While commercially manufactured ice cream is typically made with pasteurized eggs or egg products, recipes for homemade ice cream often use raw eggs in the base mixture. If your favorite ice cream recipe uses uncooked eggs, it is time to replace or revise it. Those raw eggs may contain salmonella bacteria that can cause foodborne illness. Freezing doesn't kill bacteria but cooking does.

Here are some suggestions for safe alternatives to using raw eggs in your homemade ice cream.  

 Find a recipe that is eggless. An easy recipe calls for 2 cups milk, 1 cup sugar, 2 cups whipping cream or half-and-half, and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Combine and stir until sugar is dissolved, then pour into a 1 gallon ice cream freezer and freeze, according to manufacturer's directions.  

 Use pasteurized shell eggs or pasteurized egg substitutes in recipes calling for raw eggs. These can be found in the dairy case near the regular eggs.

The Federal Drug Administration requires that pasteurized shell eggs be individually marked or specially packaged to prevent intermingling with unpasteurized eggs. Although pasteurized eggs may cost a few cents more, the pasteurization process destroys salmonella bacteria.  

 Use a recipe that contains a cooked custard base. The custard base must reach 160 degrees, measured with a food thermometer, to kill the salmonella bacteria. This is also the point at which the mixture will coat a metal spoon.  Resist the temptation to taste-test it during preparation when the custard isn't fully cooked. After cooking, chill the custard thoroughly before freezing. A recipe for homemade ice cream using a cooked egg base is available on the American Egg Board's website,, along with recipes for other foods traditionally made with raw or undercooked eggs, such as mayonnaise, Caesar salad dressing and eggnog.  

 Even when using pasteurized eggs, FDA and U.S. Department of Agricultural advise consumers to start with a cooked custard base for optimal safety, especially if serving people at high risk for foodborne illness. Additionally, it's important to only used pasteurized milk and cream products in making your homemade ice cream.  

Making homemade ice cream can be fun for the whole family. You don't need special equipment — you can make ice cream in a bag. The small batches will help you control portion size and the shaking burns calories. This method of making ice cream can involve the whole family. If you would like the recipe for making ice cream in a bag, send an email to with ice cream in the subject line.

Homemade ice cream keeps well for up to a week. After that, it will begin to lose its flavor and creamy texture.

Eat quickly and enjoy. You can always make more.

Lynn Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with University of Maryland Extension in Washington County.

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