by Shelbi Stoneback, associate director of customer experience at Rodale
Many of us nowadays have a freezer that creates ice all on its own, so we don’t give a second thought to why we could use an ice cube tray. But this tray is special—really special. There’s no cheap plastic to break or split after just a few batches of ice, and you will definitely find many more uses for it than just making ice cubes.
3 reasons I’m obsessed with this ice cube tray:
- It’s stainless steel. It won’t leach any harmful toxins from BPA-laden plastic into my food or beverage accoutrements. Ever. Stainless steel is also recyclable, so if you ever decide you don’t want it, repurpose it, donate it, or recycle it!
- It is super durable, is dishwasher safe, and will last a lifetime.
- The easy-to-hold handle lever shifts the divider and unlodges all the cubes for a quick and easy release. There’s no need to run hot water over the tray, waiting a few minutes for it to defrost, banging on the bottom, hoping for one or two cubes and then having six fall out.
And here, our giant list of fun ways to use this amazing tray:
- Wow party guests with pretty ice. Add mint, an edible flower like marigolds or pansies, or organic rose petals to ice cubes for lovely-looking lemonade, spritzers, or iced tea. You can also remove the cube divider and freeze one large cube to put in a party punch bowl. TIP: Use distilled or purified water to make the clearest possible cubes that will let your herbs, florals, or other extra ingredients be the star.
- Cool down coffee time. Fill ice cube trays with leftover coffee or brew fresh or cold brew to make cubes. Next time you want an iced coffee, use your coffee cubes; as they melt, they don’t water it down. Simply store them in glass jars in the freezer to grab anytime. TIP: You may want to dilute the coffee cubes so your cup of iced cold brew isn’t too strong.
- Juice spritzers. Build unique flavor combinations by adding a frozen juice cube or two to your water or seltzer. Try a grapefruit sparkling water with fresh calamondon orange juice cubes. Or drop pomegranate juice cubes in seltzer water for a hint of flavor and the benefit of antioxidants. Just don’t add too many—especially when the juice is concentrated (like lime or lemon)—so the flavor isn’t too bold.
- Baby shower party punch. When the Rodale’s team celebrated the impending arrival of copywriter Amanda’s little guy at a team baby shower, I knew we had to play at least one game. I froze little baby toys in each ice cube compartment. Then placed one in each cup of punch. For a fresh and easy punch, I used 1 container of organic berry sorbet and 1½ two-liter bottles of Polar cranberry lime seltzer water, garnished with a few fresh berries. The game: The party guest whose “baby” breaks free of its ice cube first shouts “my water broke” and wins a prize.
- Freeze more than just water. It’s so easy to freeze many fresh in-season ingredients and just store them in jars in the freezer for a quick grab when you need each small portion. This list should definitely inspire you:
- Bite-size anything! The uniform compartments of an ice cube tray make single- or two-bite snacks.
- Prepare and freeze in advance ingredients for smoothies, such as juice, yogurt, and berries frozen in juice, to get a jump on prep and help easily proportion your smoothies.
- Make perfectly shaped bite-size pieces of chocolate; add topping and crunch like granola or sprinkles.
- Give your dark chocolate an extra dose of antioxidants with pomegranate seeds, goji berries, or strawberries set right inside.
- One of the best ways to keep homemade stocks in small, usable portions. Add one or two cubes to jars of fresh herbs and vegetables with some rice noodles to make quick soup at work using just hot water.
- Enjoy iced tea, but don’t like when it gets watered down? Make cubes using your favorite tea or a complementary flavor like lemon.
- When organic produce is fresh and in season, process large batches of puree or baby food and freeze small portions for use later.
- When your garden is at its most bountiful, freeze fresh herbs in a little bit of water or olive oil to have for recipes all through the winter.
- Bought a large gingerroot, but only need a little bit today? Grate the rest into the tray and freeze it for future recipes.
- Garlic is easy to save, too. Grate it or place slivered portions in the tray with a little bit of olive oil to have garlic cubes you can throw into your next quick stir-fry or pasta.
- Save your bacon fat. Never be without the natural lard that makes some recipes (like collard greens or kale) taste so much better. Toss a cube or two into a pan to fry up some Sunday-morning potatoes.
- Also use a cube of bacon fat to season cast-iron cookware.
- Serve kids snacks sorted into the little compartments.
- Use the tray for condiments at a small get-together. Yes, the compartments may be small, but use the rows. Rows of ketchup, mustard, and relish look really colorful (like a traffic light) in stripes across the tray.
- Take the divider insert out of this tray and use the open tray as a serving or dipping dish for salsas, veggie dips, and dressings.
- Leftover cookie dough is easy to just pop out in uniformly sized pieces and bake after it thaws.
- Freeze rosé or white wine cubes so you don’t need to water down your wine with melting ice when you want it more chilled. The 100 percent wine cubes will be slushy; if you want them to freeze solid to store in jars, add some water.
- Popsicles for the little ones. They don’t need a whole frozen pop to drip and melt all over the place, including their little hands. Make them bite-size pops instead by freezing juice with a craft stick or toothpick in each ice cube tray compartment. The trick: Use the stick or toothpick to spear a piece of fresh fruit. That will hold it upright while the juice is freezing.
- Used the egg yolks for a recipe, but now you have have egg whites left over? Freeze them and simply toss them in the hot pan to scramble up for breakfast.
- When you’ve make pesto while basil is at its seasonal peak, freeze the extra into cubes and store in jars, then use a few cubes at your next pasta night. It makes single servings much easier.
- You can save fresh tomato sauce as cubes, too!
- Impress your party guests with little single-serve pats of herbed homemade organic butter.
Remember, #3, #6, #7, and #1 plastics are the worst and should be avoided, especially for foods. Since I found this much-better non-plastic ice cube tray, I’m reusing my old plastic ones for non-food activities. You can also recycle them. Here are some ways I’ve found for reusing plastic trays:
- Keep paint colors separate or mix colors in the compartments for kids’ crafts or your own weekend acrylic creative expression.
- Store earrings together and easily visible and keep necklaces from getting tangled by stowing just one in a compartment.
- Sort buttons.
- Organize the garage—nails, screws, and tool bench littles.
- Tidy up your desktop or junk drawer—pushpins, paper clips, rubber bands, extra staples, spare keys, and such.
- Start seeds in each little cup before they get big enough to transplant.
Shelbi Stoneback is associate director of customer experience at Rodale. In sixth grade, she started a juice-box recycling campaign at her elementary school and has been championing sustainability and organic living ever since. She’s a hand model, loud whistler, and polar plunger, and also an avid sea glass collector and treasure hunter, with the prides of her collection being a fossilized great white shark tooth, a message in a bottle, and several 19th-century pot lids.