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Updated November 2022
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Buying guide for best ice cube trays

An ice cube tray is a simple and essential kitchen tool, but not all ice cube trays function the same way or are equally convenient to use.

Ice cube trays may be made of plastic, metal, or silicone. Each material has a distinct feel and a different method of cube removal. Cube shapes may be round, square, shallow, or deep. Some trays have an anti-spill design so you can easily transfer the tray from your sink to your freezer. Some even have lids so you can stack and freeze several trays at once.

An ice cube tray may be a small purchase, but it’s a kitchen tool you can use on a daily basis. 

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Purchasing a set of ice cube trays (or several trays of the same design) may allow for easier stacking in your freezer.

Ice cube tray material

Three common ice cube tray materials are plastic, silicone, and metal. The materials are most easily distinguished by their different cube removal techniques, but they also have different durabilities.

Plastic ice cube trays

Plastic trays are popular for their lower price and ease of use. Because plastic is easy to mold into a variety of shapes, there are many cube shapes and sizes available.

Many plastic trays have overflow notches that allow you to tilt the tray as you fill it to evenly distribute water. Ice cube removal calls for twisting or bending the tray and possibly lifting the cubes with your fingernail. This can be challenging, particularly if you have short nails.

Some plastic trays impart an unpleasant plastic flavor to ice cubes. Make sure any plastic ice cube trays you purchase are BPA-free.

Silicone ice cube trays

Silicone trays are rubbery in texture and come in as many shapes as plastic trays. These have gained popularity as people move away from plastics to avoid chemicals leaching into their food. The soft quality of silicone allows for intricate molds for fun and unique ice cube shapes.

In most cases, you must fill each well of a silicone tray individually; there are no overflow notches like you find on some plastic trays. Cubes pop out of the tray through a combination of flexing the tray and pushing on the backs of the wells. Some people find this method easier than twisting a plastic tray.

Most silicone trays use food-grade silicone and are BPA-free. Notably, some silicone trays are prone to collecting odors from your freezer and transferring them to your cubes.

Metal ice cube trays

Metal ice cube trays have a classic style that may remind some consumers of 1950s nostalgia. Most metal ice cube trays are made of aluminum or stainless steel.

Because metal is difficult to flex, these trays usually have a lever in the center. When you pull the lever, the divider between the cubes lifts, leaving you with a tray of easy-to-remove cubes. This is considered by many to be the easiest ice cube removal method. However, getting the dividers back in place can be challenging.

Metal ice cube trays have the advantage of freezing water faster, as both aluminum and steel have higher conductivities than plastic or silicone.

In most cases, it is not possible to refill a metal tray partially, so you would have to remove all the cubes before filling a fresh tray.

Other ice cube tray features

Cube size and shape

Most ice cube trays make cubes ranging from 0.6 to 1.0 ounces. While larger cubes will melt slower (and dilute drinks slower), the difference is not significant. What matters most is finding a cube size that fits your preferences and the types of drinks you plan to make. For example, many cocktails and liquors call for large cubes or spheres of up to 2.5 inches in diameter. But for a refreshing summer drink, smaller cubes are usually best.

Ice cube shapes include spheres, cubes, rectangles, and half-moons. There is no distinct advantage to any shape, and all melt at relatively similar rates.

Some silicone trays have novelty cube shapes. From hearts and stars to pop culture references, these types of ice cube trays can be fun to use when you’re hosting a party. You may also use them to make soaps, candles, and other crafts.

Tray size

While most ice cube trays make 15 to 24 cubes at a time, some can make up to 32 normal-size cubes or 100+ small cubes.

Bigger isn’t necessarily better. Before buying, consider the dimensions of an ice cube tray and whether it would comfortably fit in your freezer.


Some plastic and silicone ice cube trays have lids to prevent spills. Lids allow for easy stacking, so you can freeze multiple trays in a limited space. They can also protect your ice from absorbing unwanted freezer smells and tastes. Notably, most ice cube tray lids do not create a perfect seal. If you overfill a tray, there’s a chance that the lid could freeze shut.

Spill prevention

Navigating tray full of water to your freezer without a spill takes a steady hand. That’s why some trays have a small lip around the edge to prevent spills. If your tray doesn’t have a lid, this can be a headache-saving feature. Note that many silicone trays have cube molds that are flush with the edge of the tray, which can make spills common.

Ease of cleaning

An ice cube tray with rounded or spherical cubes is far easier to clean with a sponge than a tray with square cubes. However, if you opt for a dishwasher safe tray, you won’t have to worry about how difficult it is to clean by hand.

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Did you know?
The preferred method of cube removal depends on the ice cube tray material. Generally speaking, you twist cubes free with a plastic tray, push cubes free with a silicone tray, and pop cubes free with the lever of a metal tray.

Ice cube tray prices

Low-priced ice cube trays for $2 to $8 are generally made of plastic and are very basic in design. Many trays in this range come in packs of two, so if you aren’t picky and want a deal, this is a good price range.

Ice cube trays in the $8 to $12 range may be made of plastic or silicone. These come in a variety of shapes. Many include lids, and some may be sold in multipacks.

Ice cube trays that sell for $12 or more are often made of silicone or metal. Many larger trays and novelty trays fall into this price range. Though the higher price tag usually means higher-quality materials, novelty ice cube trays are not always the easiest to use.

"Ice cube trays can be used to preserve foods like baby food, herbs, greens, and buttermilk. "


  • If you are struggling to remove cubes, try briefly running warm water over the back of the tray. This should help loosen them.
  • Keeping your ice cube tray in your freezer door is asking for a spill, even if your tray has a lid. Consider finding a more stable home for it.
  • Ice cube trays don’t have to be just for ice. You can also use them to make soap, candles, and desserts.
  • A lid that slides on (rather than snapping on) allows you to easily remove some cubes without dislodging others.
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A cocktail calls for a large cube or sphere that will melt slowly and prevent your drink from becoming watered down. A summer glass of lemonade calls for many small cubes that quickly chill your drink for a refreshing blast of cold.


Q. What is the white residue on the outside of my ice cubes and the inside of my tray?
This is common, but it’s usually nothing to worry about. The white, dusty residue is mineral deposits that comes from your water. If you have hard water (water with a high mineral content), this is more likely to occur.

Q. Can plastic ice cube trays be harmful?
While there is some debate on the subject, most newer plastic ice cube trays are BPA-free and should be safe to use. Some plastic trays may give your ice a plastic flavor. If you are concerned about the possibility of chemicals leaching into your ice, consider silicone or stainless-steel ice cube trays instead.

Q. How often should I clean my ice cube tray?
If you notice an unpleasant smell coming from your ice cube tray, it’s time to clean it. The frequency depends on whether you are bothered by the smell of the tray or the flavor of the ice; once every few uses should be sufficient. If you are struggling to remove the smell entirely, try soaking your ice cube tray in a mixture of 50/50 water/vinegar.

Q. How do I make perfectly clear cubes?
This is difficult to do with an ice cube tray. Cubes often appear cloudy because of impurities (generally unharmful) in your water. As the water freezes, the impurities are pushed toward the bottom and center of the cube, where the water is still in liquid form. As a result, the only way to get clear cubes is to freeze a large amount of water and chop cubes out of the top of the ice where no impurities have collected.

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