Gelato vs. Ice Cream Cases

Gelato sales are on the rise1 and ice cream remains a perennial favorite. While the frozen desserts are similar, they vary in ways that influence how each should be stored and displayed. Below, we look at these differences and how their respective cases are designed to maximize sales while storing them properly.

Taste the Difference

Ice cream, which is a relatively modern innovation from the United States, is the more popular of these two frozen desserts. Ice cream contains more butterfat, generally between 14 and 25 percent, which helps keep its texture smooth. Air is mixed in, a process known as "overrun" in ice cream making, to prevent the high fat content from making the product too heavy. Ice cream is usually stored at sub-zero temperatures, resulting in a firm, scoopable texture.

Gelato is an Italian treat that has a longer history than its American cousin. It contains much less fat, usually between 4 and 9 percent, as well as less air, resulting in a thicker, creamier product. Gelato is stored between 7 and 12 degrees Fahrenheit, a full 10 to 15 degrees warmer than ice cream. The lower fat content combined with the higher temperature works to create a more intense flavor.

Frozen Storage Solutions

If temperature were the only difference between storing gelato and ice cream, a case with adjustable temperature could be used to store both. However, there are some other variations in how ice cream and gelato should be stored and served that determine how each type of case is designed.

Ice Cream Cases

Most commercial ice cream suppliers ship their products in standard-sized cylindrical tubs, each of which holds 3 gallons of ice cream. Ice cream dipping cabinets are made to accommodate these tubs, with models available that can hold from four tubs to as many as 22. Most ice cream cases have adjustable holding temperatures, with some models going as low as -18 degrees Fahrenheit. While the glass on the display case may be straight or curved, the opening that allows access to the ice cream tubs is usually flat. Because the tubs are recessed into the freezer, cold-wall refrigeration is used to keep the ice cream cold. Depending on the model of ice cream case, the back glass cover might slide to the side or be hinged to give employee access.

Gelato Cases

One of the most obvious differences between ice cream and gelato cases is that the latter are designed to hold the 5-liter pans gelato is traditionally served in, rather than cylindrical tubs. Gelato cases can hold anywhere from 14 to 48 pans. Instead of being displayed horizontally, these pans sit at an angle, tilted slightly toward the customer to make the variety of flavors easier to see. Another difference is that gelato is often mounded up over the rims of the pans due to the serving method that involves mixing the gelato into peaks with paddles. Since cold-wall refrigeration couldn't chill the product mounded up beyond the walls of the pans, gelato cases use forced-air refrigeration systems. Their holding temperature ranges are typically higher, capping out between 5 and 20 degrees Fahrenheit.


After finding the right gelato or ice cream case for your business, supplementing it with the right accessories can make serving from it easier. Below are some of the accessories you might consider adding to your case.

  • Gelato Pans: While most gelato cases come with the number of pans they can hold, having some extra compatible pans on hand allows you to make gelato while the case is full. While third-size pans are standard for serving gelato, the depth of the pans will be dictated by the design of the gelato.
  • Ice Cream Scoops: Most scoops are made of cast aluminum. Some include triggers or squeeze handles that allow users to easily release dips of ice cream. There are also models available that have fluid or gel in them that helps keep the utensil a little warm from the heat of the user's hand, which allows for easier release of scoops.
  • Gelato Spades: Traditional gelato is served with spades that are used to mix the gelato into the correct consistency before it is served, then shape the flexible frozen food into a cup or cone.
  • Dipper Wells: Dipper wells are essential for rinsing spades and dippers between servings. Most use warm water that ensures a complete wash and can make scooping harder ice creams easier.

  1. Less is More. Mintel Press Office. Accessed March 2018.