The Sauk City, Wisconsin-based fast food establishment franchise Culver’s has been a Midwest fixture for decades. Culver’s stands out from its fast food rivals for its exemplary table service, which functions almost like a standard sit-down restaurant. The restaurant boasts a robust menu, featuring unusual items for a fast food restaurant, such as Butterfly Shrimp and North Atlantic Cod in addition to their standard fast food fare of burgers, fries, chicken sandwiches, and the like.
But one of Culver’s most iconic menu items is not a meal at all. Culver’s attracts visitors from near and far to try their frozen custard. The ice creamy dessert comes in cup, cone, and their milkshake-like Concrete Mixer servings. Even though Culver’s custard may look like soft serve ice cream, it’s actually its own unique dessert category. So let’s dive into exactly what you need to know about Culver’s custard and what sets it apart from other desserts and other restaurants’ custards.
Culver’s is always developing new custard Flavors of the Day
Culver’s is always developing new Flavors of the Day to serve in their restaurant. Along with serving vanilla and chocolate custard each day, each restaurant boasts its own unique Flavor of the Day, which, as the name might suggest, changes each day. The first Flavor of the Day Culver’s featured was Caramel Pecan, and since then, they’ve continued developing new, creative flavors for customers to try and enjoy.
According to Culver’s, their absolute favorite flavors of the day are Caramel Fudge Cookie Dough, Chocolate Oreo Volcano (featuring real Oreos), and Andes Mint Avalanche (featuring real Andes chocolates). That said, their website boasts around 50 unique combos, and Culver’s has reported that, in total, they actually have over 100 Flavors of the Day to offer. Culver’s website actually offers a tool where customers can check what the Flavor of the Day will be at their local Culver’s, which means fans of particular flavors such as Georgia Peach or Peanut Butter Cookie Dough can check back each morning to determine if they should make the trip.
Culver’s custard is served warmer than ice cream
One of the ways Culver’s custard stands out from a typical ice cream dish is the temperature at which it is served. Culver’s serves their custard warmer than ice cream, which prevents taste buds from freezing and means customers experience the flavor for longer. It also contains less air than ice cream, which makes it both denser and richer than the rival dessert.
According to Culver’s website, their custard is served at anywhere between 18 and 21 degrees Fahrenheit. In contrast, a typical ice cream dish is served at a brain-freezing five to ten degrees Fahrenheit, and it’s typically stored even colder, at zero degrees Fahrenheit.
But the temperature and the dense texture contribute to the trademark creaminess of Culver’s custard. Customers can eat the frozen treat right when it’s served without having to wait for it to become slightly less chilling, and as an added bonus, they don’t risk their plastic spoons snapping when they dig into their delicious dessert.
Culver’s custard is slow-churned all day for maximum freshness
Culver’s advertises that their custard is "always scooped from a fresh batch," and it doesn’t appear they are lying about that. While the frozen treat is not actually made fresh for each individual customer, it is in fact churned fresh, in small batches, throughout the day.
In small machines that customers can view from where they order in front of the restaurant’s counter, Culver’s churns their vanilla, chocolate, and Flavor of the Day custards in batches small enough to require refills throughout the day. So, unlike an ice cream shop where you’ll likely be scooped ice cream that’s been sitting in an icy and stagnant bin all day, the custard at Culver’s keeps moving, which helps maintain its warm temperature without melting. That means the actual structure of the dairy product is not compromised for the ease of storage. We like a company that prioritizes taste.
Culver’s offers custard, which means it’s 1.4 percent egg
Culver’s website makes sure customers are aware their custard always contains at least 1.4 percent egg. If it contained any less egg, it would just be considered ice cream. Culver’s custard uses pasteurized eggs in combination with milk and cream to fulfill the defining criteria to consider their sweet treats custard. This criteria is not set by Culver’s — it actually plays into the texture of the custard.
According to food scientist and historian Harold McGee, the egg in custard has a higher coagulation temperature than typical eggs, due to their proximity to water and sugar. The delicate proteins can change if custard is served at the wrong temperature, meaning the egg content also plays into why Culver’s serves their custard between 18 and 21 degrees. Ultimately, every factor of the custard combines to make one smooth and surprisingly sophisticated summery serving.
Culver’s sources fresh dairy from family farms for its custard
From the time it was founded in Sauk City, Wisconsin, Culver’s has been directly connected to its Wisconsin roots. The fast food chain takes advantage of being headquartered in the Dairy State by maintaining relationships with the same dairy farmers they’ve worked with for 30 years. According to the Midwestern staple, they "insist on using only the finest farm fresh dairy" for their custard and cheese curds, another Wisconsin favorite.
While the restaurant does not provide a comprehensive list of the dairy farms they work with on their website, they do stress that these farms are family owned and have been a part of the Culver’s family for three decades. Wisconsin is host to over 7,000 dairy farms, although the number of independent dairy farms has been rapidly declining in recent years. It’s unclear what kind of stress this puts on fast food providers such as Culver’s, but it certainly limits the number of smaller, family-owned farms available to work with.
Culver’s custard is not exactly a healthy option
It should come as a surprise to absolutely nobody that a dessert food, especially a notoriously sweet and rich option like custard, is unhealthy, but Culver’s custard is certainly no exception. A dish of Culver’s chocolate custard has 280 calories. On top of that, an astounding 130 of those calories come from fat. The dish contains 14 grams of fat in total, nine of which are saturated fats. With 95 milligrams of cholesterol and 29 grams of sugar, a cup of chocolate custard is not exactly a diet-friendly food. Add a cone on top of that, and the overall dish is pretty heavy.
That said, dessert is famously not healthy! Customers don’t order custard to improve their physical health. They order it because it is rich and creamy and the perfect summer treat. So while Culver’s custard has about a quarter of the fat recommended for adults per day, it’s a delicious option for an occasional treat.
At peak custard season, a Culver’s may sell over 1,600 scoops per day
Unsurprisingly, custard sells the best on a hot summer day. Culver’s boasts that beautiful summer days can yield custard sales of over 1,600 scoops per Culver’s restaurant. That actually ends up being a lot of batches, considering Culver’s small-batch method for churning their custard. One batch of custard includes about 60 to 70 scoops. That means on those hot summer days, a Culver’s restaurant could go through dozens of batches per day!
Culver’s notes on their website that their custard is scooped by their trained Dessert Specialists. With a title that specific, even the busiest summer days likely don’t scare them off.
That said, summer isn’t the only time Culver’s is popular. One Culver’s in Darboy, Wisconsin, actually hosts a Christmas Eve dinner with 450 guests each year. At this dinner, the famous custard is also served. So even though custard is summer’s dessert of choice, it turns out it’s still good in those cold Wisconsin winters.
Culver’s can customize custard flavors upon request
Culver’s offers their Flavors of the Day at unique rotations restaurant to restaurant, which means you can’t actually predict what flavor will be featured the following day. But did you know you can actually customize your custard at any time? Culver’s has more than 30 types of toppings that they are more than willing to mix into your custard at any time. All you have to do is ask. So if it’s Cappuccino Cookie Crumble day but you want Double Caramel Chocolate Peanut, just ask, and Culver’s will personalize your fresh custard.
In addition to personalized custards, customers can order custard by the pint in special custard cakes, which are just like ice cream cakes but with their signature custard, or in unique dessert options like Bananas Foster.
If you can’t decide what to order, simply let fate take the wheel, and go with that day’s Flavor of the Day. There are no bad options!