Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

In the realm of ice-based desserts, shaved ice is a very specific thing. Unlike snow cones, which tend to be dense and crunchy, shaved ice is plush and pillowy. You might even forget you’re munching on ice as your spoon sinks into the soft texture, delivering a sweet, refreshing flavor with every bite. 

Because of its distinct character, shaved ice isn’t something you can easily make at home. Sure, you can pulverize a handful of cubes in a blender or food processor, but you’re not going to get the same fluffy results. 

What you can do, however, is acquire a shaved ice maker. Yes, it’s a niche appliance and no, you probably don’t need one, but how cool would it be—literally—to have shaved ice on demand? (For, say, Halo-Halo, drinks, or using as a bed for shucked oysters.) As it turns out, there are quite a few shaved ice machines on the market. To make sure you’re spending your hard-earned cash on one that actually delivers, we put eight of them through rigorous testing (spending about 16 hours evaluating the machines). Two emerged victorious. 

The Winners, at a Glance

This machine delivered fluffy, fabulous ice every time throughout our tests. We’re also fans of its sleek, minimal footprint.

We love a KitchenAid stand mixer and this shave ice attachment is simple and does its job well. It comes with four ice molds and two blades (for coarse and fine ice).

The Tests

Serious Eats / Russell KilgoreShaved Ice Test: This one’s a given—of course our shaved ice machines needed to be capable of making shaved ice. We tested every machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions, assessing ease of use and consistency. Snow Cone Test: Nope, we’re not here today for snow cones, but if a machine was labeled as capable of making snow cones in addition to shaved ice, we tested that function, too. Again, we looked for ease of use and consistency in textures. UX Observations: We also took notes on how easy the machines were to clean, whether they felt safe to use, how loud they were, and what they looked like. And since some qualities are subjective, we prioritized machine performance above aesthetics.

What We Learned

Getting the Correct Texture Was Key

Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

They may seem similar, but there’s a big difference between the consistency of shaved ice and snow cone ice. Lots of the machines we tested claimed to offer both styles, when in reality they just churned out snow cones with varying sizes of ice bits. As we mentioned earlier, shaved ice has a lighter, fluffier texture than the crushed ice typical for snow cones. One of our favorite shaved ice makers, from KitchenAid, even gives you two blades: the fine one yields shaved ice that looks rather pillowy, but turns snow cone-like when syrup or such is added; the coarse one makes crunchier ice that is best in drinks or applications like a cool (ha) resting place for shucked oysters.

Ice Cubes Vs. Blocks (or Pucks!)

Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

While ice cubes are fine for making snow cones, regular cubes just don’t yield the proper results when it comes to making shaved ice. Having to plan ahead and freeze molds of ice blocks—usually round and flat, like a hockey puck—in order to make real shaved ice isn’t super convenient, but the machines that came out on top had specially designed blades that actually “shave” off flakes of ice from larger blocks. So, buyer beware: If a machine claims to do both shaved ice and snow cones but doesn’t come with special molds, chances are high that it only makes snow cones. To that end, both of our favorites (from Hawaiian Shaved Ice and KitchenAid) come with their own molds.

Safety! Exposed Blades!

Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

Even if you don’t have kids running around, you’re probably making shaved ice (or snow cones) as a fun activity, so be safe about it. Select a machine without exposed blades, and look for one with a clearly identified, accessible shut-off switch. For example, the KitchenAid shaved ice maker—which you power on and off via the stand mixer’s control switch—has a couple of safety features built in. It must first be turned to the locked position in order to bring the ice closer to the blades and the blades are hidden under the attachment and behind a plastic panel.

It Got Messy

Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

Most shaved ice machines we tested kind of made a mess. Fortunately, ice is just water so it shouldn’t cause too much trouble, but it’s worth being aware that ice bits may go flying—especially while getting familiar with the machine. Even our winners are prone to dripping post shaving—as there’s inevitably a bit of puck that doesn’t get processed.

The Criteria: What to Look for in a Shaved Ice Maker

Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

A great shaved ice maker should have concealed blades that are sharp and capable of shaving precise little flakes. They should also include molds to create ice that can actually be shaved, and, ideally, be easy to use and clean. 

The Best Shaved Ice Makers

What we liked: This machine made some seriously fluffy, airy shaved ice. We were impressed with its consistency and adjustable blade height, which allows you to dial in exactly the texture you’re looking for. The HomePro was easy to use, and the internals are nicely contained so it’s safe and doesn’t take up a ton of space. It includes five ice molds.

What we didn’t like: It’s a little loud while running and given its height (over 15 inches), it may be difficult to store in a standard cabinet.

Price at time of publish: $100.

Key Specs

Dimensions: 8.5 x 6.25 x 15.5 inchesMaterial: PlasticFunctions: Shaved ice and snow cones (and anything in between)Includes: Ice shaver, 5 ice molds with lids, drip tray coverSerious Eats / Russell Kilgore

What we liked: It’s hard to beat the space-saving efficiency of an attachment versus a countertop shaved ice machine. It came with four molds that produced ice pucks. To use the shaved ice maker, choose which blade you want (coarse or fine), affix the attachment to the hub of a stand mixer, place an ice puck into the plastic hopper, and then twist the hopper onto the attachment to lock it into place. After turning the stand mixer on, the shaved ice starts to come out immediately.

What we didn’t like: Four ice pucks aren’t that many, so you’ll be limited by how much shaved ice you can make unless you purchase extra molds.

Price at time of publish: $90.

Key Specs

Dimensions: 4.63 x 6.25 x 9 inchesMaterial: PlasticFunctions: Shaved ice Includes: Fine and coarse blades, 4 ice molds with lidsSerious Eats / Russell Kilgore

The Competition

ZENY Ice Shaver Machine: This machine was good for snow cones, but it didn’t produce the fluffy shaved ice we wanted (nor did it come with ice molds). Hawaiian S900A Shaved Ice and Snow Cone Machine: This one never did turn out the promised fluffy texture of shaved ice. We found it produced tiny ice chips rather than shaved ice or snow cone ice.Nostalgia Snow Cone Shaved Ice Machine: While this machine looks retro-cool and did produce nice shaved ice, we found it tedious to use and that the motor likely stalled out if the ice wasn’t pressed down far enough.Cuisinart Snow Cone Machine: The Cuisinart machine was easy to use and didn’t make any messes, but the name says it all—it’s a snow cone maker, not a shaved ice machine.Time For Treats SnowFlake Snow Cone Maker: This hand-cranked contraption looks more like a child’s toy than a practical tool, and has the stability to boot. DASH Shaved Ice Maker: Testers found the DASH closer to a crushed ice machine rather than a shaved ice machine. Fine for cocktails, not so great for shaved ice treats.

FAQs

How do you make shaved ice without a machine?

While you can toss some ice in a plastic bag and bash it with a meat pounder or rolling pin until you reach your desired consistency, you’ll get a closer approximation to the real thing by shaving a block of ice with a sharp knife. This is, however, neither safe nor especially efficient, so you’re likely to find your shavings melting away before you accumulate enough to actually use them. Plus, it’s terrible for the knife blade!

How much does a shaved ice machine cost?

The prices of the shaved ice machines we tested ranged from $27 to $250, with an average price of $79. Our favorite shaved ice machines both cost under $100.

Why We’re the Experts

To find the best shaved ice makers, we tested eight models—focusing on ones, for the most part, that promised both shaved ice and snow cones (who doesn’t appreciate variety?). We spent about 16 hours evaluating these machines.Our favorite shaved ice makers have entered long-term testing and we’ll be updating this review with any relevant findings from that soon. (Senior commerce editor Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm has been massively enjoying the KitchenAid attachment—using it for cocktails, mocktails, and more.)Summer Rylander is a freelance writer and has written several equipment reviews for Serious Eats, including pellet grillsTraeger grills, and gas grills. She’s been writing for Serious Eats for over a year.

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