The ice cube tray is a versatile addition to any freezer; not just for cold drinks, ice cube trays are ideal for freezing baby food puree, making peanut butter cups, frozen desserts, stock cubes, popsicles and so much more. The ice cube tray has evolved from its humble metal beginnings to availability in a range of sizes, shapes and materials.Silicone or plastic are the most popular types of ice cube trays today, and depending on what you use your trays for, both types do have some key disadvantages. In this article we review some of the best ice cube trays on the market and take an in-depth look at what makes one type of ice cube tray more suitable than another.
For perfectly formed one ounce cubes, the Tovolo Perfect Cube ice tray (candy apple red) is our best pick for impressing your friends when you serve their drinks.
The OMorc ice cube trays (4 pack) is our budget pick for having lids and being made of BPA free plastic.
Quick Comparison: Top 10 Best Ice Cube Trays
1. Tovolo Perfect Cube Ice Tray
The Tovolo Perfect Cube ice tray (candy apple red) is designed to produce fifteen 1 oz cubes that are perfectly cubed shaped – not rounded or bulging. This tray is also suitable for freezing baby food purees and other items. Coming as a twin pack, these food grade silicone trays are free from BPA, PVC and phthalate. They are also durable and dishwasher safe.Some owners find it difficult to remove ice cubes from the tray, and others have commented that cubes made in this can take on odor; although the manufacturer recommends removing frozen cubes from the tray and storing them in an airtight container to help prevent this from happening.
2. OMorc Ice Cube Trays
Made of TPE and polypropylene, the OMorc ice cube trays (4 pack) come with removeable lids and are suitable for stacking. Each green and white tray makes 14 ice cubes that are approximately ¾ oz. The bottom of the tray is made from TPE (thermoplastic rubber) for easy release, although there is some risk of TPE breakage when pushing out ice from the bottom. The manufacturer does advise that that warm water is run over the base of the tray before you release the cubes. These trays are free from BPA, are dishwasher safe and food contact safe as certified by LFGB.
3. Glacio Ice Cube and Sphere Trays
The Glacio ice cube and sphere trays makes six 2" cubes and six ice spheres/balls. Made from BPA-free food grade silicone they are also ideal for making larger popsicles or freezing baby puree. It may take some practice to fill the ice sphere tray properly, and you will always need to do it over a sink as there will be some overspill. These trays are suitable for cleaning in the dishwasher and come with a satisfaction guarantee.
4. Vremi Large Ice Cube Trays
With each tray making eight cubes that are 1¾" square, the Vremi large ice cube trays (2 pack) are able to cool drinks without watering them down as quickly as smaller cubes. These BPA-free trays are made from silicone and come with hard plastic lids for minimal spill, odor control and ease of stacking.After thorough hand washing before first use, these trays and their lids can be cleaned in the dishwasher. Some users have experienced significant residue/film in the ice cubes from these trays, even when filtered water has been used.
5. Mumi&Bubi Solids Starter Kit Freezer Trays
The Mumi&Bubi solids starter kit freezer trays are two compact and stackable baby food freezer trays with lids. Each tray offers 21 one ounce cubes and made in New Zealand, they are free from BPA and PVC and are also suitable for cleaning in the dishwasher. These are multipurpose, ideal for breast milk storage, as ice cube trays or other uses.The cubes are easy to release by just pressing on the end, although some users have encountered problems when trying to release some of the food cubes. These trays also come with a baby food recipe e-guide.
6. Samuelworld Large Ice Cube Tray
Making eight large cubes at just under 2" each, the Samuelworld large ice cube tray (2 pack) is made from premium food-grade silicone that is free from BPA and meets US FDA standards. These trays are also dishwasher safe. As a tougher grade silicone, the trays are not quite as flexible as other types of silicone tray, so you may find it harder to extract the cubes.Like any type of silicone, these trays can also absorb odor, so you may need to spend more time on cleaning before re-using them, and some users have reported that there is some pre-existing odor in the silicone on first use.
7. OXO Good Grips Covered Ice Cube Tray
The OXO Good Grips covered ice cube tray (pack of 2) are ergonomically designed and stackable. The lids on these trays also reduce the risk of ice cubes absorbing odor from the freezer. The ¾ oz cubes are rounded to allow easier release, and both the trays and lids are dishwasher safe. They are free from PFOA, phthalate and PVC.The lid can be awkward to slide off at times, especially if frozen to the cubes. You can reduce the risk of this happening by slightly underfilling, and although a ‘no spill’ design, you will still need to take care when moving the trays into the freezer. These come with an OXO Better guarantee for either repair or replacement.
8. Onyx Stainless Steel #ICE001 Ice Cube Tray
The 18 cube Onyx stainless steel is made from 18/8 food grade stainless steel. As a traditional style ice cube tray, it makes 18 ice cubes with an easy release handle. This tray is also dishwasher safe. This style of tray can be more liable to mechanical failure and it may be difficult to remove the cubes, especially if they have not separated into compartments fully due to a gap between the dividers and the base of the tray.
9. W&P Peak Ice Works WP-ICE-ED-BL1 Silicone Ice Cube Tray
The W&P Peak Ice Works WP-ICE-ED-BL1 silicone ice cube tray (peak blue) is a more compact tray with a capacity of 12 cubes that are 1¼" square. They are made from BPA free and food grade silicone from a supplier with a zero-emissions factory.This tray contains an inner steel frame to stabilize it and the lid allows stacking of multiple trays as well as eliminating food odors. The lid on this tray does not fit tightly, and some users have also found that the lid does not sit correctly on the tray. You may also want to check this item on arrival, as a small number of customers have received trays that have been used and returned by others.
10. Joseph Joseph QuickSnap Ice Tray
The Joseph Joseph QuickSnap ice tray (blue) has a lever mechanism on its reverse to hold cubes in place. This 12 cube ice tray is suitable for cleaning in the dishwasher. When you want cubes, you just twist the tray once and then push each lever to release the cubes one at a time.
This means you can dispense cubes straight into drinks without having to touch them. This mechanism does however mean that cubes are smaller than typical ice cubes and although this tray may be more convenient when wanting smaller quantities of ice, it does take more time to release if you need a full tray of ice.
Things to Consider Before Buying an Ice Cube Tray
When considering which ice cube tray to buy, probably the main two questions are around how easy it will be to remove the cubes and how low is the risk of the cubes and tray absorbing odors from your freezer.
Larger ice cubes are often preferred for drinks as they melt slower; which means drinks dilute at a slower rate. If you want to use trays for other purposes, such as making mini desserts, stock cubes or popsicles, then the size/capacity and shape of the trays will also be a deciding factor
Depending on the hardness of your water, you may find white residue left in the tray when your cubes are decanted. This is not harmful; it is just mineral deposits from the water. You can stop this by using filtered water rather than water from the tap.
Evolution of the Ice Cube Tray
Ice was used to keep icehouses cold, and some of the ice would be chipped off the blocks to use in drinks and cold desserts. Although it is uncertain as to when the first ice cube tray was invented, in 1844, John Gorrie, the American physicist built a refrigerator to make ice to cool the air for his patients who were suffering with Yellow Fever. As his patients also received ice drinks, the suggestion is that it was Gorrie who developed the first ice cube tray.
In 1914, a refrigerator called DOMELRE was produced. Although this was commercially unsuccessful, it did include an ice cube tray, and later refrigerator manufacturers followed suit. From the 1920s onwards, electric refrigerators started to be made with a freezer section which included ice cube trays.
A metal ice cube tray called the McCord ice tray was invented in 1933. This flexed to allow ice cubes to be released.
The composition of trays shifted to plastics during the 1960s, and in the 1980s, lids began to appear on ice trays, making them easy to stack. In recent times, the biggest shift in ice cube tray production has been to silicone trays that are available in wide range of colors and ice cube shapes.
Safety of Plastic Ice Cube Trays
If you do have some older plastic trays, then they may contain bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is used to make polycarbonate – hard clear plastic – as well as some resins used as linings in metal food cans. Most of us have traces of BPA in our bodies.
In rodent studies, BPA can be passed from pregnant mothers to their offspring, although other research showed that primates and humans metabolize and excrete BPA much better than rodents can. In 2012, the FDA stopped the use of BPA-based chemicals in baby bottles and sippy cups, and in 2013 it stopped the use of BPA epoxy resins in infant formula packaging.
The FDA continues to research BPA and still supports BPA as being safe in the applications that it is currently approved for. This includes food packaging.
If your plastic ice cube tray has numbers on the bottom to tell you what type of plastic it is and whether it is recyclable, if you want to stay away from BPA then do avoid trays with a number 3 or 7 in them as these might contain BPA. If your tray is older and does not contain any information on it, there is a good chance that it may have been made with BPA.
Pros and Cons of Stainless Steel Ice Cube Trays
The traditional stainless steel trays allow you to extract cubes easily as the built-in grid pushes the cubes out when the lever is triggered. The stainless steel in these trays is usually food grade and it does contain any BPA, or indeed any PTFEs, PFOAs or phthalates.
As well as costing more than other types of ice cube trays, another disadvantage of using a steel tray is that your fingers will temporarily stick to it as it is so cold straight out of the freezer.
If you use a stainless steel tray, then avoid overfilling – keep the water level below the rivets on the lever and when you take it out of the freezer leave it on the countertop for a few minutes before releasing the cubes.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Silicone Ice Cube Trays
Because silicone is quite flexible, it can cause minor difficulties when moving the tray of water into the freezer. This is where silicone trays with lids have an advantage as they can help to reduce the risk of spills. The flexibility of silicone also allows you to make a range of different shaped ice cubes from the many novelty shaped types of tray available.
It can sometimes be more difficult to extract cubes from a silicone tray than a plastic tray. With silicone, you may need to push and twist, or even turn it upside down to release the cube. You can also try leaving the tray on the countertop for a few minutes before releasing the cubes.
Silicone is better if you want to use your tray for freezing other items such as baby puree as its flexibility does make it easier to release food from the tray and it is free from BPA. If you place warm puree into an older plastic tray, or a new plastic tray that contains BPA, there is more risk of BPA leaching into the baby food.
All about Silicone
Silicone is a flexible resin or synthetic rubber made from bonded silicon, a natural element found in sand and rock, and oxygen. It is a chemically inert and stable material.
This colorful cookware can move from freezer to oven (up to 428°F), is resistant to staining, non-stick and does not contain BPA, BPS, phthalates, lead and other potentially damaging toxins or chemicals.
Silicone dioxides were generally recognized as being safe in 1979, and as of yet, no substantial follow-up studies have been carried out by the FDA to confirm whether or not silicone does react with food. Health Canada states that food-grade silicone is safe up to recommended temperatures, and that it does not react with food or drinks or produce any hazardous fumes.
Bad Smelling and Tasting Ice Cubes
The majority of bad odor and taste in your ice cubes does come from food stored in your freezer, especially from spilled food or open packaging. If you take some time to clean up spills and decant open foods into airtight containers this will help reduce odor across the freezer - there’s nothing worse than unintentional garlic-flavored ice cream!
Small open boxes of baking soda in the freezer can also help eliminate some odors.
You may also want to taste-test your water source. If you are using tap water which does not taste great, then neither will your ice cubes. Using filtered water can help resolve this.
As well as the ice itself smelling and tasting less than ideal, if you use a silicone ice cube tray, then the silicone is also capable of absorbing odors from your freezer.
Reducing Poor Odor and Taste from Silicone Tray Ice Cubes
You may find that the risk of odor reduces if you only fill silicone trays when needed and avoid using ice cubes that have been in the freezer longer than a week. When you have finished with the tray, wash and dry it, then store it in a cupboard until needed again.
You can also pop all your cubes out of the tray and store them in an airtight container in the freezer to reduce odor risks.
Defrosting and cleaning the freezer regularly can also help minimize odor.
Otherwise, try soaking your silicone tray in a mix of vinegar or lemon juice with water, or a baking soda solution. If these are unsuccessful, next time your oven is on, put the trays in for an hour at 350°F. If you are unable to remove the odor, then the final solution is to replace the silicone tray with a new one.
In this article we have looked in detail at three main types of ice cube trays; silicone, plastic and stainless steel. There are pros and cons for all of these, and particularly for plastic, there are also some safety concerns around the use of BPA.We hope that the information we have provided, along with our review of some of the best ice cube trays available has been helpful to you, whether considering a new tray just for ice cubes, to store baby food puree, make popsicles or indeed anything else that a versatile ice cube tray will allow you to do.