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Reviews > Cook and Food Storage Gear > Cooking Accessories > Industrial Revolution Play & Freeze Ice > Richard Lyon > Initial Report


Play & Freeze Ice Cream Maker
Richard Lyon
July 4, 2006


Male, 59 years old
Height: 6' 4" (1.93 m)
Weight: 200 lb (91 kg)
Email address: rlyon AT gibsondunn DOT com
Home: Dallas, Texas USA

I've been backpacking for 45 years on and off, and regularly in the Rockies since 1986.  I do a weeklong trip every summer, and often take three-day trips.  I'm usually camping in alpine terrain, at altitudes 5000 to 13000 ft (1500 - 4000 m).  I prefer base camp backpacking, a long hike in with day trips from camp, but I do my share of forced marches too.  Though always looking for ways to reduce weight, I'm not yet a lightweight hiker and I usually choose a bit more weight over foregoing camp conveniences I've come to expect.


Play & FreezeManufacturer: Industrial Revolution, Inc. (, formerly UCO Corporation.  All quotations in this review, and the photo, come from this website. 
Year of manufacture: 2006
MSRP: USD 34.95
Measured weight: 2 lb 9 oz (1.2 kg)
Measured Size: A sphere with an 8 in (20 cm) exterior diameter, 25 in (64 cm) circumference
Rated Capacity: “About a pint” (A pint is 473 ml.)
Measured capacity of cylinder: 20 fl oz (591 ml)

Color: “See-thru Clear”  is the color I requested and received.  Also available in ruby red, blue, green, purple, pink/raspberry, and orange.
Warranty: “One year from date of purchase, to the original purchaser, against manufacturing defects in materials and workmanship.   Specifically excluded is damage resulting from kicking or dropping.”
Alternate product: The “Mega” model, which is said to have double the capacity of the basic Play & Freeze. 



The Play & Freeze is spherical hard plastic globe, actually two semi-spheres attached at their rims by small screws inside the globe.  The outer surface has multiple small ridges and faces.  A metal cylinder (3 in/76 mm in diameter, 5 7/8 in/149 mm deep) sits inside the sphere; it is sealed to the plastic at the top of the globe and has a screw-on lid that, using the globe analogy, is at the North Pole.  The cylinder is slightly tapered at the bottom.  At the South Pole is another screw-on lid, same size, to permit the user to fill the interior of the globe with ice around the cylinder.  The product includes a T-shaped plastic wrench for aiding opening of the lid.  The wrench fits inside the cylinder for storage.

I received my Play & Freeze directly from Industrial Revolution (IR), which thoughtfully included a 1.7 fl oz (50 ml) jar of “flavor fountain” brand mint chocolate flavoring. 

IR’s website however does not include any means of ordering the Play & Freeze from the manufacturer, though there are links to several well-known retailers and online stores.  The website also has several recipes, instructions on use, links to sites concerning ice cream-related topics (history of ice cream, ice cream trivia, “The Physical Chemistry of Ice Cream,” more recipes), publicity the Play & Freeze has received, and company information.  I found this website not so easy to navigate for information about the Play & Freeze, though the instructions and recipes are useful.   This may be a consequence of no direct sales.

Instructions for use are contained on the retail packaging, an enclosed flyer, and on the website.  The Play & Freeze employs the same physics for making frozen desserts as many other home ice cream makers.  By rotating a metal container that holds the ice cream mixture, that mixture splashes against the chilled sides of the container, gradually freezing against the sides.  Old-fashioned tub-style models did this by churning the contents with a hand crank or electric motor around a slurry of ice mixed with rock salt.  More modern electric tabletop or refrigerator freezer models use refrigeration instead of ice, but operate on the same principle.  The Play & Freeze uses ice, except that the entire sphere is agitated, tossing the container’s contents against the sides while simultaneously pitching the ice, melting temperature lowered by addition of the rock salt, against the container’s outer surface. 

Here’s a summary of how to use the Play & Freeze: (1) Fill the cylinder with the desired concoction; (2) fill the globe with ice, adding eight tablespoons (about 120 ml) of rock salt; (3) be sure that both lids are securely fastened; then (4) spin, roll, or toss the globe.  IR recommends checking the mixture for freezing and texture after ten minutes, then continuing “for approximately 5 – 10 more minutes” until the contents reach the desired state.  The instructions indicate that the product is designed to produce “soft“ ice cream.  IR also points out the obvious, that final thickness and hardness will depend on viscosity of the mixture to be frozen, outside air temperature, and length of time the globe is tossed.

Maiden Voyage

I put the Play & Freeze into service over the July 4 weekend, adding ice cream (mint chocolate, of course) to the menu for a summer dinner for two.  I made an ice cream custard (see below), using two egg yolks and two cups (473 ml) of heavy cream, the previous night, letting it thicken in the refrigerator for about 24 hours.  After adding the flavoring from the sample that was supplied, I poured the mixture into the canister and my friend and I started tossing and spinning the globe.  After ten minutes the mixture had already frozen to the consistency of store-bought ice cream, but for testing purposes we followed the printed directions.  We did our best to scrape the sides with a wooden spoon, stirred the contents, added more ice and salt, and played catch for five minutes more.  We did the tossing outside, at a temperature of about 80 F (27 C).  At this point the ice cream was quite solid along the sides of the cylinder; too solid, in fact, as we had to wait a minute or two before we could scrape it off the sides.  The ice cream was cold, firm, and tasty.  Like any homemade ice cream, MUCH more flavorful than the mass produced product!

I encountered one mechanical problem: it was very difficult to unscrew the ice-end lid to add more ice.  I didn’t use the plastic wrench but will try it the next time.  This may have resulted from some salt’s sticking to the screw neck, and in future I’ll be careful to wipe the threads on both lid and opening before screwing the lid back on.

Test Plan

I eat ice cream as often as I can, so I am really looking forward to testing the Play & Freeze.  In addition to home use, my hiking schedule this summer will include many opportunities to test it even if I can't figure out a way to pack it on a backpacking trip where snow is possible.  Day hikes are my preference around home, and I also have some planned for late September in the Rockies.  The Play & Freeze should work well when car camping, and it may get a mid-July test on an overnight to Oklahoma.  This summer will also include a number of fishing days and I doubt that I'll have much trouble convincing friends and guides to pack some extra ice in the cooler if I provide the fixings for ice cream.  Backpacking use is a possibility too as a weeklong trip in early August in the Swan Range, Montana, is in an area that often holds snow well into July.  The Northern Rockies had a heavy snowfall last winter and the Forest Service reports that there should be a few pockets of snow left in shade.  I’ll be in Montana in October and snow is definitely possible in the high country.

Test Plan.  I shall look for the following in the Play & Freeze Ice Cream Maker:

Ease of Use.  Is it as easy to use as the directions on the website and package indicate – load the ice, pour in the ice cream mix, and shake, rattle, and roll?  How long must the ball be agitated to achieve a consistency that's not too runny or too thick? How much ice is needed for each pint of ice cream? Does freezing affect opening and closing the cylinder in which the ice cream is made? (In addition to my own experience, FAQ on the website suggest that this can be a problem.) How long after freezing will the ice cream stay hard, i.e., does the Play & Freeze provide any insulation other than ice that's added? If the ice cream must be eaten immediately after freezing there's a built-in dilemma: the ice cream must be made (rolled, shaken, whatever) during dinner. Is the ice cream maker easy to clean in the outdoors after each use?

Versatility.  At home I make three basic styles of frozen desserts: custard ice cream (made with egg yolks and cream), Italian ice cream (made with milk or cream but without eggs), and fruit sorbetti (no dairy product).  How will results vary with the type of mix used? Will adding fruit or chocolate chips (included in several recipes on the website) aid or impair the freezing process? We are after all about backpacking – can the Play & Freeze be loaded efficiently in a pack when the camping destination is expected to have ice or snow? Is there any aspect of this product other than requiring ice that makes it unsuitable for use away from civilization?

Durability.  Will the plastic ball withstand the occasional and inevitable fall to the ground? Can it be packed in a crowded car trunk? Is anything too fragile for repeated outdoor use? Or for stowing in a canoe or horse pannier? Will it leak at the seam (equator) or from the lids during use?

Other Uses.  Is it really fun (as claimed on the website) to play with the Play & Freeze? Will it still be fun after the novelty wears off? If so it'll be a useful distraction when children are on a trip.  Will it work well enough to justify use in my own backyard?

Profound thanks to Industrial Revolution and for the opportunity to feed my addiction.

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Reviews > Cook and Food Storage Gear > Cooking Accessories > Industrial Revolution Play & Freeze Ice > Richard Lyon > Initial Report

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