MUNDANE MYSTERIES: What’s The Difference Between Ice Cream & Gelato?

With all the snow & ice on the ground around us, an odd-yet-interesting question popped into my weird brain: what exactly is the difference between the 2 frozen treats of ice cream & gelato?

One of the main differences: butterfat. Ice cream’s main ingredients involve milk, cream, sugar, and egg yolks, but the secret to making gelato is using much less cream & sometimes little or no egg yolk, which leads to a smaller percentage of butterfat in gelato. The FDA has mandated that ice cream cannot contain less than 10% milkfat (though it can go as high as 25%), while gelato sits in the 4-to-9% range.

The churning method for each is also different, which modifies each treat’s density. Ice cream is churned much faster, causing more air to get whipped into it. Ice cream’s higher butterfat content comes into play there, too: because of all th milkfat involved, ice cream’s mix absorbs the air more readily. Gelato, on the other hand, is churned much slower, so it absorbs less air, creating a denser dessert.

The serving style for the 2 treats aren’t the same, either. In order to get perfectly stacked scoops of ice cream on a cone, buckets of ice cream must be stored at around 0°F to maintain consistency, while the softer gelato is stored at around 10°F to 22°F. Ice cream can then be scooped into fairly uniform balls with a round ice cream scooper, while a spade or paddle is best for molding gelato into a mound in a cup.

You can’t really go wrong with either, both are delicious, but there is 1 more difference to keep in mind: taste. If you want a bolder flavor, you want gelato. The density of the cream & the lesser amount of butterfat means it doesn’t coat your taste buds, so gelato can seem to have more intensity to its flavors.

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