The Best Ice Cube Trays for Cocktails, Coffee, and More

Ice can make or break a drink. Choose a tray like the Oxo Good Grips Covered Ice Cube Tray, our top pick, for better iced beverages.

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Ice cube trays from Amazon
Amazon

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

Ice Cube Tray
Courtesy of Amazon

Also available at Oxo and Bed Bath & Beyond.

Pros: Spheres of ice effortlessly pop out from the tray, and the lid is handy for stacking in the freezer.

Cons: The lid isn't watertight, so water will spill if the tray tips over before the ice has frozen. Also, if overfilled, the lid can stick to the tray when it freezes.

Rigid plastic trays are perhaps the most familiar of all. But with many, ice gets stuck and won't release. With these simple trays from Oxo, cubes consistently pop out with a gentle twist. Plus, these trays are ideal for freezing small portions of juice or milk for smoothies, wine for cooking, pesto, fresh herbs in olive oil, caramelized onions, and more.

The freezer of an avid cook has a tendency to get pretty crowded, so the Oxo tray's sliding lid is a valuable addition, allowing you to stack multiple ice trays while also keeping freezer smells out. Just be sure not to overfill the tray so that the lid doesn't get frozen shut.

Price at time of publish: $14

  • Cube Volume: 0.5 ounces
  • Material: Plastic

Best Value: Target Room Essentials Plastic Ice Trays

Ice Cube Tray
Courtesy of Target

Pros: This set has an intuitive, familiar design and is easy to clean.

Cons: Ice is more likely to get stuck in this format, and this tray doesn't have a lid.

These inexpensive and cheerfully-hued trays from Target will make solid cold cubes you can use to chill your drink, cool down a bottle of wine, or water your houseplants slowly. While this tray features a familiar and intuitive design, ice tends to get stuck and requires some maneuvering to get out.

Be aware that this tray doesn't have a lid, so unless you're cycling through ice often, it's likely to take on flavors from your freezer. "I call it grandma ice," says Stampa-Brown. "When you go to your grandma's house, that's what she had. And it might taste like frozen matzah ball soup. It might taste like the porchetta that you had from seven months ago. You never know." To avoid this, refrain from storing the trays next to frozen foods, and if the ice has been sitting for more than a week, it's best to toss it and make fresh ice.

Price at time of publish: $3

  • Cube Volume: 1.6 ounces
  • Material: Plastic

Best For Cocktails: W&P Everyday Ice Tray

Ice Cube Tray
Courtesy of Amazon

Also available at Food52 and Madewell.

Pros: It produces uniform 1-inch square cubes that easily release from the mold, and its design lends itself to stacking.

Cons: Silicone absorbs freezer smells, so the tray requires regular cleaning.

If your priority is chilling your drink without watering it down, go for large or clear ice. But for a classic on-the-rocks drink, a 1-inch cube is the way to go. "Don't use ice that's been sitting in your freezer for six months absorbing all your nasty freezer smells," Eric Wareheim writes in Foodheim. "Do buy 1-inch ice molds and make the ice from purified water."

Specialty cocktail bars make these smaller cubes by the tub-load in commercial ice machines. "These are our workhorse," says Harrison Ginsberg of Overstory in New York City. Our favorite is the W&P Design Everyday Tray, which is made from easy-release silicone, comes with a lid, and is available in several colors, including colorful speckles. Also, as silicone can handle heat, you can also use this tray to freeze coffee into ice cubes.

Price at time of publish: $16

  • Cube Volume: 1.5 ounces
  • Material: Silicone

Best for Clear Ice: Dexas Iceology Clear Ice Cube Tray

Ice Cube Tray
Courtesy of Amazon

Also available at The Grommet.

Pros: It produces professional-grade, crystal-clear ice at home, and results are consistent.

Cons: The insulated mold takes a long time to freeze (at least 12 hours) and occupies a lot of freezer real estate for a couple of cubes.

A standard ice cube freezes from the outside inward, forming the familiar burst of bubbles that cluster around its center. "The quicker the water freezes, the cloudier the ice will be," says Ginsberg. "It's trapping air bubbles inside." As ice melts and the walls to those bubbles are broken, liquid rushes in, speeding up the melting process. Crystal-clear ice doesn't have any bubbles and thus melts more slowly, making it particularly suited for chilling spirits and cold coffee drinks. While Internet tricks promise to create super-clear ice, the only reliable method we've found is called directional freezing. The Dexas Iceology tray does just this, insulating all sides of the ice cavity except for one side that's exposed to the cold air. Water freezes slowly from the top down, pushing air bubbles and impurities to a sacrificial cube below.

While this bulky mold occupies a fair amount of room in your freezer and requires at least 12 hours to freeze, the serious home bartender will find it worth it for the pristine cubes. "If you have the time and you can put the effort in, it is a next level cocktail experience. Not only does it melt much more slowly but you can taste the difference," says Stampa-Brown.

Price at time of publish: $43

  • Cube Volume: 0.6 ounces
  • Material: EPS foam shell, plastic tray, silicone molds

Best Crushed Ice: W&P Crushed Ice Tray

Ice Cube Tray
Courtesy of Amazon

Also available at Verishop.

Pros: Long, thin spears are easily broken down into small, irregular crushed bits. Plus, the tray comes with a lid.

Cons: Because the tray is very shallow, water may spill as you transfer a full tray from the sink to the freezer.

Crushed ice is valuable when you want to chill something quickly and melting isn't a concern. The classic way to make crushed ice is to fill a canvas bag with cubes and use a wooden mallet to, well, crush it. If this feels a bit over the top, the W&P Crushed Ice Tray is designed to achieve the same end result. We like that it freezes ice in long sticks that you break with your hand, squeezing and bending the tray. As an added bonus, the included lid can be used as a funnel to catch crumbling ice and direct it into your glass. (You can also just dump it into a big bowl.)

We prefer this crushed ice tray to those made up of tiny quarter-inch cavities, which are difficult to fill (the water splashes out when poured in) and to empty (the ice gets stuck). If you want to make ice "nuggets," on the other hand, you'll have to buy a machine or go to a drive-thru.

Price at time of publish: $14

  • Volume: 8 ounces
  • Material: Silicone

Related: How to Make the Best Frozen Drinks

Best Sphere: Tovolo Sphere Ice Molds

Ice Cube Tray
Courtesy of Amazon

Also available at Total Wine and Bloomingdale's.

Pros: The individual molds are leak-proof and save valuable space if you only need ice for a couple of drinks.

Cons: If you're making spheres for a crowd, it's time-consuming to fill up one by one. You would also need to buy multiple.

If your priority is to chill your drink without watering it down as you sip, go for a round mold. Because a sphere has less surface area than a cube relative to the same amount of volume, it melts more slowly. In other words, the corners on your cube melt faster, watering down your drink. "I like spheres for spirit-forward cocktails," says Patrick Williams, the beverage director for Midnight Revival in New Orleans, noting that he prefers molds like the Tovolo Spheres that "break into two pieces and are filled up from a little hole at the top. Just run the faucet on a low pour and it's easy."

The Tovolo saves space, too: each mold makes one 2.5-inch sphere and fits neatly on the freezer door, taking up noticeably less space than standard multi-cube ice trays. Simply remove the top and twist to release the sphere.

Price at time of publish: $12

  • Cube Volume: 4.5 ounces
  • Material: Plastic and silicone

Best for Frozen Food: Souper Cube

Ice Cube Tray
Courtesy of Amazon

Also available at Food52 and Williams Sonoma.

Pros: The trays freeze consistent 2-cup portions of food (or ice) and easily stack in the freezer.

Cons: If you're cooking a large quantity, you'll either need multiple trays or to stagger freezing.

A savvy home cook knows that there's something to be said for working smarter, not harder. Making stock? Freeze the extra. Soup? Lasagna? Double the recipe and freeze the leftovers. However, while this is a time-saving boon for your future self, in the meantime your freezer can become crowded with tupperware and casserole dishes. With these clever trays from Souper Cubes, freezing uniform portions is a breeze, making uniform 2-cup frozen "bricks" that can easily be popped out, wrapped, and efficiently stacked in your freezer, freeing up space and taking the guesswork out of quantities. An added bonus? Your freezer looks like an Irving Penn photograph.

Price at time of publish: $37

  • Cube Volume: 16 ounces
  • Material: Silicone

Related: How to Put Your Ice Cube Trays to Work

Conclusion

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

Material

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.

Cleaning

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.

The Research

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

Onyx Stainless Steel Ice Cube Tray

Ice Cube Tray
Courtesy of Amazon

Also available at Food52.

We don't recommend steel ice cube trays. The only way to remove ice cleanly from the tray is to wait for it to melt enough (at least 5-10 minutes) to slip out, which is an unrealistic proposition for most people. More likely, a thirsty ice-seeker will want ice immediately, in which case you are all but guaranteed failure. "You have to use the lever to, like, crack them," says Willson. "Then, your ice is a bunch of shards and big pieces. It's all very inconsistent."

Rubbermaid Plastic Ice Cube Trays

Ice Cube Tray
Courtesy of Amazon

Also available at Ace Hardware.

These stubborn trays routinely hang on to the last couple of cubes until you bend them so hard that the tray cracks, rendering them useless. There are other inexpensive plastic trays that do a better job.

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.

Our Expertise

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.

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