The Best Ice Cube Trays for Cocktails, Coffee, and More
Cocktail trends swept up many of us in the early 2000s, as we stocked our freezers with ice trays and molds to replicate fancy cocktails. Good ice remains essential. As Max Stampa-Brown of the Garrett bars in New York City explains, whether you're chilling ice water, piña coladas, or a special whiskey, "if you're hyper-focusing on freshness, flavor, and deriving as much deliciousness as you possibly can from something, ice can make or break your final product."
Ice cube trays should make ice that complements your drink, easily releases cubes, and cools it without imparting a flavor. We evaluated trays designed for a variety of drinks, in a range of shapes, sizes, and materials. We knew a lid would be essential for our top pick, serving both as a means of keeping water in and freezer smells out. Combining a classic shape with useful features, our favorite everyday ice cube tray hails from Oxo. Keep reading for our full list of the best ice cube trays, including the best for making clear ice, crushed ice, spheres, and more.
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Oxo Good Grips Covered Ice Cube Tray
Best Value: Target Room Essentials Plastic Ice Trays
Best For Cocktails: W&P Everyday Ice Tray
Best for Clear Ice: Dexas Iceology Clear Ice Cube Tray
Best Crushed Ice: W&P Crushed Ice Tray
Best Sphere: Tovolo Sphere Ice Molds
Best for Frozen Food: Souper Cube
Choosing the best ice cube trays depends on the kind of ice you want to make, what you plan to use the ice for, and whether you want to freeze other liquids or food. The Oxo Good Grips Covered Ice Cube Tray will cover nearly all of your needs and is easy to work with, winning our vote for Best Overall. Yet, to make professional-grade ice cubes at home, no mold rivals the Dexas Iceology Clear Ice Cube Tray for its crystal-clear cubes.
Factors to Consider
Silicone has gained popularity in recent years largely due to the ease with which it produces perfectly square cubes that release easily from the tray. "I like silicone trays way better," says Wilson, "they're flexible, and you can keep the ice intact and keep it consistent, whether you're making large or small cubes." But they're also more expensive than other trays and silicone readily absorbs freezer odors which are then passed onto the ice.
Rigid plastic trays are inexpensive and widely available everywhere from the supermarket to the hardware store. Despite their ubiquity, plastic has its shortcomings as a tray material. Ice cubes can freeze to the sides of the cavities, breaking into pieces more readily than they break away from the sides. And who hasn't wrestled with a plastic tray to get out that last stubborn cube that won't release? Plastic also degrades more quickly than silicone, and over time the tray itself will begin to splinter and break.
Design and Ease of Use
Most ice molds are fairly intuitive: fill up a tray with tap water and put it in the freezer. But some specialized molds require extra attention either to fill them properly or to get ice out after freezing. None
Pay attention to the volume an ice cube tray holds. Larger ice cavities will create larger cubes that melt more slowly and keep your drink cold longer. Smaller individual cubes will chill down a drink fast, but dilute it more quickly in the process. That's great for a glass of ice water, not so much for your aged whiskey.
The last thing anyone wants is to realize your glass of ice water has a faint "eau de frozen shrimp," so it's important to keep your ice cube trays clean. Almost all of the trays we considered are dishwasher safe, but wash them on the top rack since both plastic and silicone will degrade over time if exposed to too much heat. Silicone in particular has a tendency to take on flavors over time, including that of your freezer. "At the end of every week, we wash them super rigorously. You know, letting them soak in a bit of soap, or even a super diluted amount of bleach and water," says Stampa-Brown.
We turned to three industry-veteran Beverage Directors for their favorites and recommendations, both in the bar and at home. Max Stampa-Brown is the Beverage Director of The Garret Bars in New York City (including The Garret East, The Garret West, Cocteleria, Barrachito, and Bandits), Harrison Ginsberg is the Beverage Director of Overstory, also in New York City, and Patrick Williams is the Beverage Director and Vice President of Operations for Angevin & Co. (whose properties include Midnight Revival in New Orleans, Three Saints Revival in Denver, among others). We also consulted Eric Warehim's excellent 2021 book, Foodheim.
What Didn't Make The List
Pro Panel Q+A
Q: Can you freeze herbs in ice cube trays?
A: Yes, but it's not as simple as tossing basil leaves in a tray. "The best way to suspend anything in ice is to do it in stages, freezing a little bit of water with the stuff in it, then adding another layer and doing it again," says Ginsberg.
Q: What's the best way to get ice cubes out of the tray?
A: With just a few minutes of rest on the counter, the ice will start to melt enough around the edges to slip right out of the tray. Don't have time to wait? "Wear gloves, don't be afraid of it. Have a hot tub of water next to you and dip the bottom of the mold in for less than a second. It'll probably pop out," says Stampa-Brown.
Liz Mundle is a writer, editor, and chef in New York City with over a decade of experience in kitchens and magazines. Her writing has appeared in Food & Wine, Saveur, and Domino, among others. She is opening Circus Provisions, a specialty grocery store in Brooklyn, later this year.