A reader named Jonathan has a question about the difference between sorbet, sherbet and other frozen desserts. He writes:
"I'm trying to find something that explains the difference between ice cream, sorbet, sherbet, sorbetto, and gelato. Every web page seems to have its own definition of each of these tasty treats. I am a big fan of your page and so ask you, can you tell me the difference between these five dishes?"Thanks for the question, Jonathan. One of the most frequent questions I get has to do with the difference between sorbet and sherbet, but while we're categorizing these two frozen desserts, we might as well define all five. Or actually four, because one of the five in your question, sorbetto, is simply the Italian word for sorbet.
(Incidentally, one of the questions I almost NEVER get is, "Is it sherbet or sherbert?" If I did ever get that question, I would emphatically state that it is only ever sherbet and never sherbert.)
The simplest way to differentiate is that sorbet is the only one of the four that doesn't contain any dairy product. Sherbet and sorbet are often confused, since they are both generally fruit-based and because their names are kind of similar. But unlike sorbet, sherbet by definition contains 1 to 2 percent milkfat.
Gelato is the Italian version of ice cream, denser and usually 4 to 8 percent milkfat. Finally, ice cream has a minimum of 10 percent milkfat, often as much as 15 to 16 percent or even higher. It is usually, but not always, made with egg yolks as well. Those are the main differences, though there are other nuances and distinctions, which you can read about here: