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Ice Cube Trays

Wednesday, 30 March 2011 | Tags: ,

One of those kitchen tools you probably don't think much about, ice cube trays have evolved into a plethora of options lately. With all the variety of material and styles available today, is there really a difference to the quality of ice produced? We find out.

The Basics

  • The perfect ice cube isn’t so small that it melts quickly and waters down your drink, and it also isn’t too large as to chip a tooth or gives you a fat lip if it slides down your glass and hits you when you’re tilting a glass.

  • The material a tray is made of is the biggest factor in determining price, quality, and durability.

  • If durability and hygiene are important to you, opt for stainless steel trays.

    • They cost a bit more, but they’ll last longer and clean up easier than plastic.

    • They also help prevent your ice from taking on odours. (Plastic and silicone tend to pick up the odour and keep it, even when the ice is changed.)

    • Metal trays also don’t crack, twist, or become brittle. They’re also guaranteed to be BPA-free. (BPA is a harmful chemical used in making plastic containers, etc.)

    • However, because they don’t twist like plastic, metal trays usually have a lever mechanism that releases the cubes, which can be awkward to use. (But just about as awkward as twisting the tray!) Don’t overfill your tray.

    • Metal trays also freeze water faster than other materials since metal conducts cold (and hot) best.

    • Be careful when using metal trays, however. If your hands are at all wet and you pick up a tray, you risk freezer-burning your fingers. (Evoking frightening memories of putting your tongue on a cold metal pole in winter!) If your fingers do stick, don’t pull. Instead, run your fingers and the tray under cool water and it should release without hurting your skin.

    • Aluminum trays are less expensive than stainless steel, and are lighter and easier to handle when full of ice. There are some health concerns related to aluminum, however, so if you’re concerned, stick with stainless steel. (And also look at using aluminum-free deodorant, baking powder, and other products. Also avoid soda pop and beer cans, and aluminum foil.)

  • Silicone ice cube trays are a recent entry on the market.

    • They’re light and easy to twist.

    • However, they tend to hold fewer cubes per tray (at least, the ones we looked at for our test were smaller), so you may need to buy an extra if you like to have large gatherings.

  • Plastic trays are light and inexpensive.

    • Be sure to choose a tray that is BPA-free, and made of recyclable plastic.

    • They can crack or shatter if dropped on the floor, especially when cold, however.

    • They also tend to retain odours and leech them into your ice. Frequent washing in a diluted vinegar/water solution helps to cut this down.

    • It’s also important to replace your trays every so often since shreds of plastic can make their way into the ice.

Making the Perfect Ice Cube

  • Use warm water rather than cold, and don’t fill your tray all the way full. Warm water actually freezes faster – a scientific fact!

  • For really clear ice, use bottled, filtered, or distilled water, or boil it first to remove as many impurities as possible.

  • And finally, the faster it freezes, the better the cube.

  • Bartenders prefer large, square or round cubes since the surface area is greater andtherefore they melt slower. Thus you don’t get a watered down cocktail asfast as “household” oblong ice cube trays.

  • Tip: make your ice and then pop the cubes out and store in a sealed container or bag in the freezer with as little air as possible. This way the ice will stay fresh for about 2-3 weeks rather than shrinking and getting freezer burnt.

TEST CRITERIA

To find out how well these new-fangled ice cube trays measured up against old standards, we took a variety into the A&K Test Lab, and invited physicist Robin Coop to help analyze their performance. We tested:

  • Onyx Retro-Style Stainless Steel Ice Cube Tray: $29.95 each
  Amazon.ca Amazon.com
  • Fusionbrands Silicone Ice Orb (container doubles as serving vessel): $21
  Amazon.ca Amazon.com
  • Tovolo Perfect Cube Silicone Ice Cube Tray: $10.99
  Amazon.ca Amazon.com
  • Rubbermaid Plastic Ice Cube Tray : $2.50
  Amazon.com
  • Japanese Dollar Store Plastic “Ice Big Ball” Ice Tray (makes three 2.25″ diameter balls): $2.00
 

(Note: prices listed above are approximate and in Canadian dollars)

Ice-Making Test

  • We found the Tovolo silcone trays a little difficult to get the ice out of. They’re nice and flexible, but they actually held onto the ice. The cubes themselves were nice and perfect. Run a little warm water over the trays and they release.

  • The Fusionbrands silicone ice orb was a little hard to get the ice out of, but gave pretty consistent “cubes”.

  • The plastic Ice Big Ball gave 90% perfection, but you only get three “cubes” so you have to make many ahead (or buy multiple containers).

  • The plastic Rubbermaid, the one most common to us all, gave a few more rejects.

  • The stainless steel Onyx gave some great cubes, but getting them out takes a bit of practice.

OUR TOP PICK

We liked the Tovolo silicon trays as a replacement for our old hard plastic standbys, even though the cubes were sometimes difficult to remove. 

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  • bob

    hi

  • bob

    this is ver

  • bob

    very efficant

  • bob

    hi