Ice Cream vs Gelato: What's The Difference?

05/28/2013 08:54 am ET
Flickr: Arina Habich

We love summer for all the ice cream we get to eat. Chocolate, vanilla, or toasted marshmallow, we'll take any flavor. Gelato, frozen custard or even soft serve, we're not picky. We'll enjoy any of these without abandon.

And while we're not really one to question our favorite things, we have been wondering about the difference between gelato vs ice cream. We know they taste different, and yet sometimes the same, so what makes one gelato and the other ice cream? Gelato is normally denser, and milkier in texture yet has a soft elastic texture, while ice cream feels richer and creamier.

Since we know we're not alone in pondering important life questions such as this one, we decided to get to the bottom of this. Here's what we found:

  • Gelato has less fat than ice cream. While ice cream is normally heavy on the cream and has a fat content of at least 10 percent, gelato uses more milk than cream, and generally also uses less egg yolks -- if any.
  • Ice creams are churned faster and harder than gelato. Ice creams typically increase in volume (with air, through churning) by at least 25 and up to 90 percent. This makes them a little fluffier. Gelato is churned at a much slower pace, keeping it dense (and sometimes more flavorful).
  • The temperature at which the two are served is different too. Ice cream is best served at about 10 degrees F. If gelato were served at that temperature if would be way too hard, and would lose that elastic texture we love. Gelato is normally served 15 degrees warmer than ice cream. If ice cream were served at the same temperature as gelato, it would melt and become way too soupy.

Of course, the guidelines that differentiates one from the other is often blurred. As gelato simply means ice cream in Italian, we're happy to just enjoy the two indiscriminately.

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