You scream, I scream, "why isn't my ice cream frozen?"

Learn how your RV refrigerator works and how you can keep your food from freezing and ice cream from melting

Nothing beats a refreshing, delicious ice cream on a warm sunny day. Okay, who am I kidding…it doesn’t even have to be a warm sunny day, to enjoy a delicious ice cream, as ice cream is good all the time. If you have lived in an RV, have you experienced issues with Ice Cream not being frozen hard? The fact is, ice cream while living in an RV is especially challenging due to the science behind Ice Cream and how most RV Fridges work. Now, if you happen to have a Residential Fridge in your rig, then you shouldn’t have any issues like I’ll discuss in this post. But, if you have a 2-way or 3-way fridge, then hopefully this post is meaningful to you, and gives you idea’s for how to get good, hard ice cream.

We have a Norcold 2118 in our RV.  This is an 18-cubic foot fridge that is a great performing RV fridge

If you happen to live in an RV and have a 2-way or 3-way fridge, have you ever wondered why your ice cream is always soft? The answer is that 2-way and 3-way fridges both rely on ammonia to cool the fridge and the freezer. Essentially what happens is that a heat source is applied to the system, which causes ammonia gas to be separated and then flow into the condenser. This is where hot ammonia gas is cooled and then condensed into a liquid form (liquid ammonia). That liquid ammonia then goes into the Evaporator, where it mixes with Hydrogen Gas and evaporates. This process is what causes a cooling effect, and how the fridge cools and freezes itself. The system finishes by absorbing the ammonia in water, where the process starts all over again. Pretty cool that a chemical reaction is what allows a device like the fridge to cool.


Let's pause an talk RV fire safety for a minute. One of the largest sources of loss of an RV is fires, and unfortunately, the largest culprit of these fires are fridge fires. Sadly, this is just a simple fact that can be easily avoided. If you buy nothing else for your RV, please be sure you have a self deploying fire extinguisher mounted behind your fridge. These are easy to mount and can be the difference between total loss and a minor inconvenience. We highly recommend the Fire Fight Products SS30-90 Degree Fire Suppression System. They make a variant of this system as well, depending on the space you have available behind your fridge. The difference is the in orientation of the release valve.


Here is some other important information about RV fridges. Because of the way that the system above works, there is not really any separate controller for the Fridge separate from the Freezer portion. The only thing that controls it is how the chemical reaction is routed to the backside of the fridge. So, what that means is that it is engineered to use the same mechanism to control the temperatures of both parts of the fridge. Here is where this applies to Ice Cream and the freezer temperatures. An RV Freezer is engineered to get to ~30℉ less than the temperature of the RV Fridge. Most RV Fridges can be set to various temperatures by adjusting a control on the back-evaporator fin. This is not an exact adjustment, but most of the time, the RV fridge will be set between 35 and 40℉. That means that the temperature of the Freezer will be between 5 and 10℉ (using the ~30℉ statement above). At this temperature, Ice Cream will be soft (between 6 and 10℉ is the ideal scooping temperature). However, if you like to scoop hard ice cream, you need to store the ice cream at -5 to 0℉.

Dometic and Norcold RV Fridges struggle to keep ice cream frozen.  Learn how they operate and the reason why

If you think about this, that means that to have a frozen hard ice cream, you must keep your fridge temperature at 25-30℉. Unfortunately, at this temperature, everything in your fridge will be frozen, like Eggs which tend to explode when they freeze. Ask me how we know 😊

So, here are some tips and tricks for how to achieve a hard ice cream. Knowing that you must keep your fridge cooler, to get your freezer to be cooler, then you’ll need to think strategically on how you arrange your fridge. Because of the evaporation process, the coldest part of the entire unit will be at the top and the warmest will be at the bottom. That’s why the freezer is positioned at the top in 2-way and 3-way freezers. So, following this logic, think of things you keep in your fridge that can handle the cooler temperatures and things that are more sensitive to colder temperatures. For us, we keep our mayonnaise, veggies and eggs in the bottom of our fridge. We keep some meats and cheeses, condiments (Mustard, Ketchup) and vinegar-based products towards the top (like Pickles and Olives). We then put the stuff that is okay one way or the other in the middle of the fridge. Things that can tolerate the colder temperatures and aren’t sensitive to them.

Doing this, and then setting your temperature to a lower temperature will help ensure a hard-packed ice cream. To help monitor the temperature in our fridge and freezer, we use a remote sensor which came with two separate temperature probes. We chose to go with the AcuRite system, as we liked how the probe was engineered (to both clip on to something and hang on a wire rack). This makes it convenient to locate them within the fridge and freezer and move around as needed. Also, we liked how the back of the AcuRite is magnetic, so we can attach to the bottom edge of our microwave, along the metal trim.

With these approaches, we’ve had a lot of success getting good hard ice cream even while living in an RV. We hope that this has helped you out as well, and you learned a thing or two.

Learn how your RV refrigerator works and how you can keep your food from freezing and ice cream from melting

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