New York Islanders – April Dr. Rocks Blog Post

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April Dr. Rocks' Blog!

How big are ice crystals in ice cream?

Answer: Approximately one-half the thickness of a sheet of paper.

The secret to making "creamy" ice cream is to create very tiny ice crystals. This is done by adding a fat-like substance to a mixture of a fruit, and water, and then chilling the mixture while stirring it. The fat-like substance coats the growing ice crystals and causes them to remain very small, making a creamy mixture.

The average size of an ice crystal in ice cream is only about 25 micrometers, or about one-half the thickness of a sheet of writing paper. A typical snow flake is about 200 to 1,000 times larger in diameter, as they are created in a snow storm, or by hockey players making a short-stop on the ice that produces a small "snow shower".

If ice cream packages are taken from the refrigerator and allowed to warm up in a room, and the returned to the refrigerator the tiny ice crystals tend to shed their fat-coating and grow into larger crystals upon refreezing. This makes the ice cream more granular. It thereby loses its taste. So, try to not let ice cream containers warm too much before returning them to the refrigerator.

Some people say that the tastiest ice creams are made with milk fat. The types of fats in milk seem to not allow large ice crystal formation during the ice creating process. Again, the secret to "a creamy ice cream texture" is small ice crystals.


Picture: The crystals in ice cream compared to the thickness of paper.