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While the concept of ice is simple, a decent ice cube tray can do wonders for your cocktail game. The first step towards better ice? Ditch the chunky plastic ice trays that come with your fridge. “Avoid using the foggy ‘half-moon’-shaped ice that comes out of your freezer door,” explains Jordan Hughes, the cocktail expert behind High Proof Preacher. “Partly because of aesthetics, but mainly because they break down and melt easily, diluting your cocktail too quickly.”
Instead, opt for an ice cube tray that meets your drinking needs. There are crystal clear spheres for whiskey lovers and crushed ice trays for Tiki-style cocktails, as well as trays for everyday ice and ice molds for perfectly clear cubes.
To help decipher the world of ice cubes, we've carefully home-tested our favorite trays for all types of drinks and drinkers. Some of the attributes in which we rated each item include the ease of transportation from sink to freezer, size, stackability, and whether they had lids to cover the frozen area. We also looked at how easily the cubes were released from the tray, the aesthetics of the ice, if there were any flavors imparted from the freezer, and how long the cubes stayed frozen. For an in-depth look at all of our favorite trays, read on.
Best Overall: W&P Everyday Ice Cube Tray
Bendable and flexible
Great for shaker ice
Lid isn’t attached
Overall Rating: 5/5
If you’ve run into the common issue of cracking a vinyl ice cube tray when removing the ice, a bendable silicone tray is a great solution—like this W&P option. The low-effort, flexible ice mold pops out 12 square cubes. Measuring 1.25 inches, the tray’s ice cubes are small enough to pop into a cocktail on the rocks, yet large enough to shake without quickly diluting.
The twelve cubes produced during our testing were some of the prettiest and most consistent you can make in a residential refrigerator. They did not have any sort of plastic smell from the silicon, and the lid, while not fully sealing onto the tray, does prevent any food or freezer smell from infecting the cubes. Each cube easily pops out of the silicone mold, however, sometimes cubes stick to the bottom of the mold, producing less-than-perfect ice.
We found that all of these trays stacked nicely in the freezer and are dishwasher-safe. Plus, they come in neutral and fun colors like blue, charcoal, marble, confetti, and more.
Best for Whiskey: Tovolo Sphere Ice Molds
Easy to extract
Slow to melt
Sphere mold can be tricky to use
Will not fit in all glasses
Overall Rating: 4.6/5
Tovolo’s plastic-silicone molds pop out perfect, spherical circles of ice. Half the mold is sturdy plastic and the other is flexible silicone to easily extract ice from the mold. Pop the mold together, fill with water, and 24 hours later you will have clear, 2.5-inch circular ice (for the clearest ice, use distilled or pre-boiled water). This set comes with two BPA-free, dishwasher-safe molds.
The design of these round molds is what makes them a favorite among cocktail aficionados, and when put to the test, they produced an almost perfect sphere that melted slowly so as not to overly dilute a cocktail or spirit. Almost perfect, because in practice, some inconsistency can happen resulting in less-than-perfect spheres every time. In addition to the sphere, Tovolo offers mustache, rose, and highball-shaped ice molds. Plus, you can fill the mold with flowers or colorful juices and freeze to add visual appeal to cocktails or punch bowls.
"The combination plastic and silicone mold mean that the spheres are both easy to release and resist any freezer smells. Are you going to get perfectly special cubes every time? No. Is it the next best thing to a $300 Japanese ice ball maker? Probably."
— Sarah Freeman, product tester
Best Stainless Steel: Onyx Ice Cube Tray
Removal may require tapping or warm water
Overall Rating: 3.6/5
The stainless steel construction of this Onyx ice tray not only means it's incredibly durable, but it also keeps the contents from absorbing freezer odors—making it great for freezing broths, herb cubes, or fruit juices without other flavors lingering. While this tray isn’t flexible like a silicone mold, the stainless steel handle and removable divider make it easy to extract ice: when your ice is frozen, flip the handle up, and pop out the cubes.
The Onyx tray is a beautiful addition to an area of the kitchen that doesn’t get much love, the freezer. In theory, the metal tray is a clever concept, releasing all cubes with the pull of a lever, but when we tested this tray it did not work as promised, ultimately making it difficult to justify the price tag ($30). During one test, only three of the eighteen cubes were released from the tray, with the rest sticking to the metal divider. The manufacturer recommends letting the tray sit at room temperature for several minutes in order for the cubes to properly release, but it took closer to ten to fifteen minutes before the remaining cubes were freed.
Related: The Best Ice Buckets
Best for Clear Ice: W&P Peak Clear Ice Mold
Makes perfectly clear ice
Easy to use
Only makes one cube
Takes a while to freeze
Overall Rating: 4/5
For serious cocktail enthusiasts, invest in a mold that creates show-stopping cubes. This W&P model makes one large, crystal-clear 2-inch ice cube, and it's made up of a silicone mold and insulated sleeve that come together to make the cube.
During our testing, we slipped the mold into the sleeve and filled it with water. We found its top-down design froze the ice without any bubbles or impurities, while gravity pushed the bubbles to the bottom of the mold with a small section capturing impurities, leaving a clear cube at the top. The bottom of the sleeve pops out to make for easy removal of the mold.
Note that this ice mold makes one cube at a time and stands quite tall in your freezer (at 5.75 inches high). Additionally, since these ice cubes are larger than the average cube, they can take up to 24 hours to freeze thoroughly.
"This ice mold is a highly specialized product designed with serious cocktail enthusiasts in mind. That being said, for those who are serious about the appearance and purity of their ice cubes, this is one of the best products on the market to deliver such flawless results."
— Sarah Freeman, product tester
Best Easy-Release: Kitch Ice Tray
Will crack over time
Overall Rating: 4.8/5
If you often struggle with getting ice out of a tray, consider an easy-release option like these trays from Kitch. These flexible trays are designed to pop out ice cubes without even needing to twist the tray or bang it on the counter, compared to similar plastic ice cube trays. They also stack nicely in the freezer for convenient storage.
In our tests, we found the Kitch tray to be easy to fill with notched compartments that allow for more even cubes, and the high walls prevent overflow or spillage while transporting. The standard-sized trays are made to fit and stack in traditional freezers. Each tray has handles for easy maneuvering. The resulting cubes are very easy to pop out, without even doing the twist and smack that is required with similar plastic trays.
A great value, each tray easily makes 16 ice cubes and is available in a pack of two (for a total of 32 cubes) or four (for a total of 64 cubes)—perfect when making cocktails for large parties. The ice cube trays are also 100 percent BPA-free and dishwasher safe.
The Kitch tray is a step up from your run-of-the-mill ice cube tray thanks to its super easy release and sturdy stacking.
Related: The Best Coolers
Best for Crushed Ice: niceCube Mini Ice Cube Tray
No need to crush ice
Ice melts quickly
Cubes are tough to remove
Overall Rating: 3/5
If you’re eying a Julep-fueled happy hour, niceCube helps you create crushed ice, sans bag. The set of two tiny ice cube trays make 160 small (1 cm or ⅜’’) cubes each. The small size of the ice cubes mimics the effect of crushed ice, making them a welcome addition in cobblers and swizzles. For coffee fans, the crushed ice cubes lend themselves well to iced coffees, frappuccinos, and smoothies. Or, use the small cubes for water bottles or other small vessels.
While clever in concept, in practice we found it difficult to release the tiny cubes from the tiny trays. The manufacturer suggests rolling and bending the trays to release the cubes, but despite manipulation, it was still very challenging to get the cubes from the middle of the mold out of each tray. The mini ice cube trays are also tricky to fill completely. Filling the last few cubes felt like a game, chasing around the water droplets until they fell into the remaining empty compartments. The shallow design also means these trays are not stackable.
The tiny cubes are beautiful and very cute, but not particularly practical, melting almost as soon as they hit liquid, and fully melting in under five minutes. If you are going for the chipped ice effect, it’s more advisable to invest in a Lewis bag rather than these mini trays.
Best Set: AiBast Ice Cube Tray Set
Includes a range of molds
Options for fancy ice and normal ice
Will take up space in your freezer
Irregular shaped cubes
Overall Rating: 3.4/5
Consider this your starter kit for all things ice. Inside this kit are the materials to craft every type of cocktail ice you may need. There’s a large round ice cube tray for slower-melting spheres (think for scotch or other sipping spirits) and a standard large cube tray for making big rocks (it makes 1.8’’ by 1.8’’ cubes). The sphere mold makes six cubes at 1.8’’ in diameter and comes with a funnel and measuring cup for filling the trays.
For your average, smaller ice cubes, there is a honeycomb tray with a lid that makes 37 cubes at a time. However, our tester found that the thin silicone design of the honeycomb tray specifically makes for some irregular cubes. The design of the circular mold also created some odd shapes. The square and honeycomb molds were easy to fill during testing but the rounded ones required a funnel and a small measuring cup, belaboring the process.
Thanks to the lids on these trays, our tester found that spillage during transport wasn't an issue. These lids also allow for stacking of the square and honeycomb tray. All of the cubes were easy to release from their respective molds and none of them had any sort of plastic or freezer smell.
All of the trays are made with food-safe, odor-free, non-stick silicone material. The silicone is temperature resistant between 104℉ to 446℉; so it can freeze coffees, simple syrups, fruit juices, and everything in between.
"The appeal of this tray trio is delivering a variety of different size and shape ice, but ultimately the inconsistency in the resulting cubes, and the difficulty to fill and release the spherical cubes, resulted in less-than-stellar ice."
— Sarah Freeman, product tester
After testing each of these trays at home, our clear winner for excellent everyday ice is W&P’s standard ice cube tray (view at Amazon). It crafts perfectly square cubes (plus the tray comes in a variety of colors). If you’re looking for massive, crystal-clear cups, the brand’s larger mold makes impressive rocks with minimal effort (view at Amazon).
Our Testing Process
All of the products featured in this list of ice cube trays have been carefully chosen by our editors and writers. We then sent each of the products directly to the writer for at-home testing. After applying a comprehensive list of methodologies—rating each item through a number of steps, and ranking them on key attributes tailored to each category—the writer provided personal feedback and captured photos of the items in use.
Some of the attributes we looked for and rated each item on included how easy the tray was to transport from the sink/counter to the freezer, how well the tray fit in the freezer, and whether or not it came with a lid. We also looked at how easy it was to release the ice cubes, how many were able to freeze at once, and if the ice cubes were uniform in shape. It was also important to determine if the cubes absorbed any freezer smells and the longevity of the cubes.
What to Look For in an Ice Cube Tray
The standard ice cube trays of yore were made of hard plastic. To remove the cubes, you were required to do a good deal of banging or running the tray under out water. Today’s trays require no such headaches - the best are made with silicone and metal. Steel trays are trickier to extract cubes from, but they are strong enough to resist cracking or breaking over time. Silicone trays are bendable and flexible, allowing you to remove your cubes with ease. That said, silicone will pick up the odors of your freezer over time.
Consider your ice cube tray will largely live in your freezer. That said, look for a tray that can be easily stacked amidst pizzas and other freezer essentials. A lid will certainly help, plus, a lid also keeps odors and other freezer scents out of your ice cubes. Ensure the lid secures properly to avoid spilling.
Cube Size and Shape
Ice cube trays can come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. There are teeny, tiny cubes that freeze quickly and lend themselves well to Mojitos or Juleps. There are average sized cubes that are excellent for all manners of drink making, and massive molds that make larger cubes that melt far slower than an average ice cube (take note, Scotch fans). Alternatively, there are creatively-shaped cubes - flowers, spears, spheres, and more.
How do you clean/care for an ice tray?
To clean, wash the tray with warm water and soap after each use. If you find your silicone tray has picked up unsavory scents, mix a bit of baking soda with warm water and scrub.
Does some material freeze faster?
How quickly your material freezes will depend on the size of your cube and the material of your tray. The thinner the tray, the quicker it will freeze. Likewise, the smaller the cube, the more quickly it will completely solidify.
What's the key to clear ice?
Start with distilled water - not your standard tap water. From there, processes like directional freezing will help achieve that crystal-clear look, or, opt for an ice maker (like W&P’s peak ice mold) that will do the job for you.
Why Trust Liquor.com?
The items featured in this piece were all tested by Sarah Freeman—a food and beverage writer based in Chicago. She has been writing about restaurants and bars for the past decade—from learning about what makes a perfect piece of cocktail ice to the exploring art of beer label design.
Additional reporting and text came from Kate Dingwall—a seasoned sommelier and spirits writer. She has spent six years writing about the field, and ten years working as a bartender slash sommelier. Her freezer is always stocked with large cubes to pair with her favorite Scotch. For this article, she interviewed spirits expert Jordan Hughes.