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Tubs of gelato

Tubs of gelato on display.

Grant Faint / Getty Images

Gelato is the Italian version of ice cream and it differs from American ice cream in a few basic ways: its denseness, its sugar content and its temperature.

First, and primarily, gelato is much denser than American ice cream. It's denser for two reasons:

One, gelato contains significantly less butterfat than ordinary ice cream. Whereas ice cream might be 15 percent butterfat or more, gelato typically contains more like four to eight percent butterfat.

And two, gelato is churned more slowly and has less air whipped into it than ice cream, thus producing a denser product.

Gelato differs from ice cream in another respect, which has to do with how much sugar it contains, with gelato having perhaps 10 percent higher sugar content.

Other than that, gelato and ice cream share the basic attributes of being made from frozen milk, cream and other ingredients, sometimes including egg yolks. But because gelato is more dense, its flavors can be more intense than ordinary ice cream.

Finally, gelato is generally stored and served at warmer temperatures than ice cream. Whereas ice cream can be stored in a deep-freeze of -20°F or colder, gelato is usually stored at 0° to 10°F, and served at 10° to 20°F. Gelato's lower fat content and denser consistency would make it too hard to eat at colder temperatures.

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