Why Do Ice Cream Sandwiches Melt Slowly? Here's the Scoop.

By Cary Frye
July 31, 2014

When I was growing up, a popular scientific experiment was to crack an egg on the sidewalk to see if it would fry. It didn’t. This summer, a new food experiment is becoming popular: measuring how long it takes for an ice cream sandwich to melt. It does melt, but more slowly than a bowl of ice cream. As a food scientist, I find this experiment interesting; it demonstrates what our industry can do to make a great frozen treat even better. But some consumers have questions about slow melting ice cream.


Is it really ice cream?
  Yes. Strict government standards define ice cream. It consists of a mixture of dairy ingredients including cream, milk and nonfat milk solids (such as dried milk or whey) and ingredients for sweetening and flavoring – such as fruits and chocolate – and other ingredients that promote a creamy texture and reduce ice crystals.

Why make a slow melting ice cream? An ice cream cone, stick or sandwich can be messy when it melts too quickly. Also, a slow melting product allows for the release of delicate flavors as the ice cream is consumed. And the melt rate can prevent ice crystals from forming during small temperature changes in the store or home freezer, which can ruin the taste of ice cream.

How do you make slow melting ice cream? There are lots of ways to control the rate that ice cream melts. The combination of ingredients in the ice cream can affect the temperature at which the ice cream freezes and melts. For example, the amount and type of sugars used can raise the freezing point, which is why a can of orange juice concentrate doesn’t freeze solid. Also, the amount of cream can contribute to the rate at which a product melts. 

What ingredients are used to slow melting?  Government standards allow for small amounts of stabilizing and emulsifying ingredients. These can include common food additives derived from beans, such as guar and carob, that interact with the water in the ice cream mix to control ice crystal formulation during freezing, so that the ice cream has a rich, creamy texture.

Emulsifiers, which can be derived from vegetable fat or egg yolks, help bind water and fat together to reduce ice crystals and separation while freezing. The amount of stabilizers and emulsifiers used allow ice cream to melt quickly or slowly and are always listed on the product’s label.

The next time you enjoy an ice cream sandwich, think about all the quality ingredients that your ice cream maker put into it to make it a delicious treat that isn’t dripping on your shirt.