Article by Karla Walsh for EatThis,NotThat!
When you think about an ice cube tray, well, the concept of creating ice to pop into your drinks is all that comes to mind. However, your handy, reusable cube-maker can be used for so many more hacks than just simply chilling water.
“Freezing things this way in an ice cube tray is a great way to use leftover bits and bobs and to have them portioned for the future. You can let the cubes freeze solid, at least overnight, then pop them out and store them in a zipper-lock bag if you want to use your tray for something else,” says Hannah Crowley, executive editor of tastings and testings at America’s Test Kitchen in Brookline, Massachusetts.
So yes, there are tons of ice cube tray hacks that you might be surprised to uncover how much these trays can do! Try these tricks to make the most of your ice cube tray and create flavor-filled food in a flash
1. Chill coffee without watering it down
“Chilling coffee with regular ice cubes can lead to a watered-down product. Freezing brewed coffee in ice cube trays allows you to add that ‘ice,’ but as it melts, it’s a continual dose of coffee,” says Chanel Hayes, executive chef at Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts.
If you prefer your coffee with a splash of dairy, freeze milk cubes, suggests Burt Cho, chef at Katsuya in Hollywood, California.
2. Preserve leftover wine
Have some bonus Beaujolais? Pour it into small portions for easy access later on. “I like to store wine in an ice cube tray,” Crowley says. “It’s a good way to use up the last bit of a bottle, especially after a party, and then I have some the next time I want to make a pan sauce or some soup. That way I don’t have to use any of whatever I’m drinking that night!”
3. Save stock
If you’ve gone through the effort of simmering up a pot of homemade stock or broth, you want to make the most of it, and that’s where the ice cube tray comes in. “I like to make a big batch of stock and store the leftovers in ice trays. This allows you to choose the quantity you need, so you don’t have to thaw large portions,” Hayes says.
4. Extend the life of herbs
Store herbs in broth, melted butter, or oil—the possibilities are truly endless! Dice herbs and cover with some liquid substance, then freeze to preserve summer’s best to use all year long. Try the herb cubes melted into soups, sauces, or stir-fries, or simply melt a pat atop a grilled steak.
5. Baby your DIY baby food
Instead of grabbing a jar, defrost a couple of cubes.
“I enjoy making my child’s food—and knowing that it was made from scratch with fresh ingredients,” Hayes says. She dedicates a day to meal prep a few different items (such as sweet potatoes, squash, and carrots), purée them, and then freeze each in a separate ice cube tray. “This way, my kid can have a variety of items in one day, and they’re all quick to heat up,” she says.
6. Make the most of fruit
Berries and bananas can go bad before you know it, so freezing them in cubes is a way to make them last a lot longer than they typically would.
“Purée and freeze fresh fruit at its prime, then try these as a replacement for store-bought frozen fruit for smoothies,” Hayes says. Or, you can pour the final few ounces of your 100% fruit juice into a tray and freeze it to later use them to top seltzers or cocktails with colorful, tasty cubes.
7. Build better buttermilk pancakes
A typical single-serving homemade pancake recipe calls for about 1/3 cup of buttermilk. Too bad it often comes in half-gallon containers, right? The solution: Fill one-ounce wells two-thirds of the way full with the rest of the bottle of buttermilk, then defrost four cubes to build batter for another short stack any time.
8. Waste no more egg whites
Using egg yolks for custards, ice cream, or hollandaise? Preserve the whites for another day by filling each ice cube well with one white. Then, you can thaw as many as you need for your recipe in the fridge overnight and use them to add a protein boost to your menu.
Use egg whites as the “glue” for spices on candied nuts, combine them with whole eggs to bring a stir-fry together, or scramble them with leftover vegetables and proteins.
9. Build a better (stiffer) bourbon drink
Calling all cocktail aficionados: Stock up on larger or spherical ice cube trays.
“A ball of ice is better than a cube because the less surface area that is exposed to the warm liquid, the slower the ice will melt. A sphere of ice will melt slightly slower than a cube of ice, so you can chill the drink without quickly diluting it,” says Mario Segura, chef at Umami Burger in Los Angeles, California.
10. Create crystal-clear cocktail coolers
If you want your ice to be as clear and cool as your favorite cocktail bar, try Crowley’s trick.
“Restaurant ice is bubble-free if it comes from commercial ice machines that have purifiers and freeze the water really fast,” she says. “You can make similarly-sharp cubes at home by boiling distilled water and freezing it—no need to cool first. This makes clear ice, like all the fancy bars serve now, and the clear ice actually stays frozen longer than regular ice, making it perfect for cocktails.”
11. Chill caramelized onions
A bit nutty, a bit sweet, a bit tangy—caramelized onions lend a delicious flavor to soups, sauces, and pasta. What we’re not so wild about is the 45 minutes or so it takes to get them lusciously jammy. Luckily, they freeze up just fine if you pack them into ice cube wells tightly—no other ingredients required. Caramelize several onions at once, then store in a zip-top bag (with as much of the air pressed out as possible) in the freezer for up to three months.
12. Make speedy chocolate-covered strawberries
Bakery-bought chocolate-covered strawberries can cost upwards of $3 each. Try this ice cube tray hack to save cash.
Combine two cups of chocolate chips with two tablespoons of coconut oil and microwave at 45-second intervals at 50% power until melted, stirring between each shift.
Fill each of the 12 ice cube wells a little over half full with the chocolate mixture, then press a whole strawberry, stem-side up, on top to coat most of the sides of the berry.
Freeze until the chocolate is solid, then pop them out and dig in.
13. Make H2O happier with infused ice
Dress up your daily dose of water with some spiffed-up cubes.
“Freeze citrus juice and zest, fresh berries, or even edible flowers in water to make your drink a little fancier,” Hayes says. Who doesn’t love a daily dose of spa water, no getaway needed?