From cooling drinks to creating cool cocktails, as well as in culinary techniques and cooking tips, ice cubes are such an integral part of the world of food and drink. Once harvested by horse-drawn ice ploughs and shipped across the seas, ice has long been integral to preserving food. In the 19th century, with the progress of refrigeration, ice cubes were the preserve of the well-to-do. However, by the 1920s frozen foods took off, and by the ’30s freezers with ice cube trays were starting to become commonplace in domestic refrigerators (via Epicurious).
Today, ice cubes are part of everyday life, so much so, that you might be tempted to think there’s nothing interesting to do with them apart from put a few in a glass. However, did you know you can use ice cubes to show how dirty your sink drain is? Or use them to make scallions curl? What about creating olive oil and herb frozen cubes or fruity ice cubes for kids? You can even give yourself an icy facial and make your own ice cube ball. What about using ice to cook rice or cool down soup? What about making coffee, wine, and fruit juice iced cubes? Here are 25 cool ice cube hacks you should try.
Ice cubes show a dirty sink drain
Your kitchen sink is supposed to be where you can wash the odd dish or even rinse through vegetables. While it’s used to make things clean, have you ever wondered how hygienic it is? There could be all sorts of dirt and grime hiding down your kitchen sink without you even knowing. There are some great hacks on how to clean your cutlery in a dishwasher, but you should know about keeping your sink sparkling too. A viral TikTok post by @stephyroc99 tried out a tip with ice cubes that reveals just how dirty a drain can be.
Tip several handfuls of ice cubes into your sink and then turn on your faucet. If your sink is funky then you may see some less than clear liquid coming up out of the drain and into the sink. This is a sign that you need to get cleaning. You can do this with one part to two parts baking soda and white vinegar and waiting 15 minutes before rinsing with boiling water (via Better Homes & Gardens). Once clean, repeat your ice cubes and running water hack until the liquid bubbles up clear.
Hot water freezes quicker than cold
Did you know there is a shortcut hack to make water freeze more quickly? If you want a faster way to make ice cubes then you may want to follow a tip posted by @sh_tattoist on TikTok, and while the solution may seem counterintuitive, it all makes sense if you look at the science. The trick is to not use cold water when you fill ice trays, but hot water instead. Surprisingly, the hotter the water the faster it will freeze, meaning that if you run out of ice you have a quick fix.
According to an article in Scienceline this seemingly contradictory reaction is called the Mpemba effect after the eponymous Tanzanian high-schooler who brought attention to it in the ’60s. You can impress guests at a party with quickly frozen ice and some scientific smarts too. Possible reasons for rapid freezing could be to do with evaporation which results in less water needing to be frozen as well as heat rising to the top and creating convection currents that speed up the process.
How to use ice cube bags
Sometimes a hack comes along that’s not so much a fantastic tip of how to do something better, but a revelation that explains how you’re supposed to be doing something in the first place. Have you ever struggled to pop individual cubes out of an ice bag? It not only takes time, but almost always results in one cube or more being propelled out onto the floor or down the sink. That’s because you’re doing it wrong, and a Facebook post by NETfixe shows the right way.
Grab your ice bag and with both hands pull the outer columns of ice cubes so that the segregations that run down the bag loosen. Next, do the same but this time the other way, so you pull vertically to loosen up the divisions between the rows. Give the bag a tug at either end and shake. Watch as all your cubes are dislodged and fall to the bottom of the bag. You now have a bag of ice that’s sealed and ready to use. You’ll wonder how you didn’t know this, and once you know, you know.
Reheat rice with an ice cube
Did you know that you can use ice really effectively in cooking? It’s common sense to throw some cubes in to cool down a dish, bud did you know you can use ice cubes to warm up food too? TikTok poster @officialtiktoknurse, whose mother passed on a rice-cooking tip to her, tried it out for herself and was stunned by the results.
The trick to reheating rice is to stick an ice cube on top before putting it in the microwave. Why? Well, not only does the ice cube not melt in a microwave, which is already deserving of a mind-blown emoji, but it will steam the rice. So that means, that your reheated rice won’t be dried out and will be lovely and fluffy once again, without being watery from a melted ice cube. Is there any other way to reheat rice now?
Freeze olives for aperitif-style cubes
What’s a great way to make a cool aperitif with a tasty olive garnish? Use an ice cube tray, of course. Plenty of pre-dinner drinks are served with olives, such as a dirty martini, but if you want to up your sophistication levels then you could follow a fun Facebook tip by Cookist Wow to freeze your olives on a stick and add some bubbles too.
Spear individual olives into the middle with cocktail sticks making sure that they don’t go through the other side. Put them into an ice tray so that the olives are laying sideways with the wood pointing upward. Add some bubbles, such as Prosecco, and freeze. Pick out a sparkling wine cube by the stick and put it in a flute of fizz, swirling it around. As the icy wine melts, you’ll be left with an ice-cold olive to eat too.
How to fill up your ice cube tray
It’s really hard to imagine any handy tip about how to fill up an ice cube tray. After all, it really must come down to not filling it too fast, with too much water, and ensuring that your tray is flat, right? Not quite. And the chances are, if you find ice cube trays less than simple to fill, then you’re actually not doing it in the right way and that means that the water doesn’t go in evenly or splashes out over the side.
Posting on TikTok, @aquaticboogeyman1987 explains how he’d always moved an ice cube tray under a running tap, jigging it around to fill up each individual cube space. However, he then advises using running the water on the flat part of the tray, that runs lengthways down the middle of a tray so that it runs in to fill each cube in an even way. Start at one end of the tray and slowly move the tray along and watch as the water hits this flat part and fills up the cubes on either side.
Make coffee cubes for an iced latte
If you’re a fan of iced coffee then you’re going to love this tip that turns the coffee itself into ice. By making your own coffee ice cubes, you can create your own iced latte that will never become watery. Posted on TikTok by @katielopynski, this hack shows that ice cubes can be used not just to cool down drinks, but as the main flavor in a beverage as well.
Make small coffee ice cubes and fill a tall glass with these so that it’s pretty much full to the brim. Next, pour oat milk over the top for creaminess. Sprinkle over some cinnamon and you have an alternative coffee drink that’s also vegan-friendly and looks delicious. Imagine how as the ice melts that rich coffee taste dissolves into the creamy oat milk, while the cinnamon adds some spice on top.
Use ice cube trays to freeze homemade stock
If you think ice cubes are only for water, then you need to think outside of the tray for a second. In fact, this tray is a handy kitchen tool that can be used for all manner of culinary tricks and tips that make your life easier while cooking. One such use, as suggested in a Martha Stewart feature, is to use them for freezing homemade stock and creating your own frozen stock cubes, to use in the future.
Making your own stock is a good way to use up produce that would otherwise go to waste. However, while you may want to use some stock, you’re bound to have plenty left over. You could freeze a large amount. However, if your next recipe only requires a small bit then you’re not going to want to defrost a jugful. Fill an ice cube tray with stock using a small ladle or a jug with an angled spout, so that you can defrost and use small amounts at a time. Let your stock cool first and remove any fat that solidifies on the top before freezing.
Cool rosé with iced wine cubes
The sound of clinking ice is wonderful, especially if you’re enjoying a celebration. So too is an ice-cold drink such as a summery glass of rosé. However, if the pink wine is flowing, say at a party or an event this summer, you may not have time to chill it for long enough. However, you want to make sure that your pink wine is not being served too warm. A simple solution might be too add in lots of ice so the temperature of the wine plummets. Another way is suggested in a feature in Cosmopolitan.
The problem with using ice in drinks is that when it melts, it waters down your drink. On a hot day, while you might appreciate a sip of cold wine, you don’t want that wine to be turned into water. What about if you actually made those iced cubes out of rosé instead? As they melted all you’d get is more wine, so, in fact, you’d be topping your glass up as you drank too! For a pretty touch, add some sprinkles into the tray before pouring in the wine, so they freeze into the cube.
Use a colander as an ice bucket for cookouts
Everyone’s experienced this at one time or another. You’re at a self-serve bar or drinks table at a party, like a cookout, and as you dig in to scoop out some ice you come up with a few half-melted cubes and lots of water. Or, you struggle to reach the cubes that’re now floating in the ice bucket. Even worse, you may worry about whether other frustrated ice-seekers have stuck their grimy hands inside to fish out some of the last remaining cubes. Often, a busy host won’t know that the ice has all but gone either, as ice buckets are often opaque. Thankfully, there’s a vintage-inspired tip offered by Rachel Hollis that’s so simple, it’s ingenious.
Instead of using an ice bucket, pour your ice cubes into a retro metal colander. You’ll be able to see how much ice is left at a glance, making topping it up easier and ensuring you’re less likely to run out. Put the colander of ice over a bowl, that way as it melts the water will drain through and you won’t be left with watery ice. You could use the melted ice to water plants too, if you’re having a garden party, by tipping it into your flower beds.
Use a paper bag to stop ice cubes sticking
There may be an easier way to break up ice cubes that’re annoyingly stuck together than throwing them across a room or bashing them against the floor. Before you take a heavy hammer to a frozen clump of ice in a bid to chip off a cube that will fit into your glass, get yourself a paper bag. You’re not going to be using this to breathe into to calm yourself down, but to follow a hack from Reader’s Digest that stops ice from melding together in the first place.
Take ice cubes out of your tray, collect from your ice dispenser or empty them out of the bag if you’ve bought them at the store. Put the cubes into a clean paper bag. Fold this at the top and put it into the freezer. Whatever the reason, your ice cubes won’t stick together. If you’re planning an event, you may want to start to fill your paper bags earlier so that when the time comes, you have plenty of paper bags full of ice to last.
Create curly garnishes with iced water
If you’re a fan of culinary tips, then you may be interested to know that ice features in some green onion hacks, one of which tells you how to make scallion brushes. These make lovely, edible garnishes that elevate many dishes. This tip is also featured in Insatiably Epicurious.
Once you’ve taken off the tip of your green onion and trimmed it, slice the green part, leaving the white bulb end intact. The trick here is to make enough cuts that the green ribbons are really thin. Plunge your scallions into icy water and leave for around a quarter of an hour. You’ll see the green slithers curl up so that your green onion looks like a brush. Dry them using a paper kitchen towel. You can eat these brushes raw or they can be served up grilled too (via Something New for Dinner).
Cook and ice green vegetables
The coldness of ice can be used as a contrast to heat in a variety of culinary ways. One of these is revealed in a Mashed article, which suggests a way in which to cook vegetables using iced water. The featured eatwell101 article suggests you cook veg in salted water, boiling for a few minutes until they’re al dente. The next step is to put whatever you’re cooking into ice-cold water.
By giving your veggies an ice bath you’re halting them from cooking further and also preserving the color too. Good Food also relates a tip on adding bicarbonate of soda to the water when cooking green vegetables. Not only does this apparently keep the green color looking bright, but also tenderizes as well, which makes them cook quicker. Meanwhile, to get the best and brightest green vegetables, whether you’re cooking beans, asparagus or broccoli, follow a three-step process. Blanch your veg first in boiling water, then shock them in ice water before sautéing them.
Give yourself an ice facial
In addition to using a frozen cucumber to give your complexion an icy blast, or using a beetroot to give yourself a rosy glow, you may want to try ice cubes. According to Real Simple, using ice cubes to improve how your skin looks, and the texture, as well as reducing puffiness is a "thing" among celebrities and Hollywood beauty experts. Actress Kate Hudson, for example, is reported as being a fan of sticking her face into an ice bath to rejuvenate her skin.
To give yourself an ice facial, wrap an ice cube in a muslin cloth with a side exposed, so that you can hold it. Massage the ice into your skin in an upward motion. Sweep using long strokes starting from your collar bone area up the neck, before moving up the face, along the chin and cheeks, to the forehead. A good tip is to use a smaller cube for movements close to the eyes. Healthline suggests using frozen aloe or green tea in place of water, and states that anecdotally this so-called "skin-icing" is great for giving the skin a healthy glow, while also reducing age lines. Meanwhile, if you try this natural and affordable beauty tip, don’t hold the ice against your face too long as it may cause some burning, and wash your face before you begin. Remove any excess liquid from your face with a cloth as the ice cube melts, and always use a clean tray.
Add floral ice cubes to your summer drinks
As the sun comes out so too do the summer drinks. Use edible flowers to make stunning ice cubes that add a floral look to cocktails and mocktails as well as a gentle flavor as they melt too. What’s great about this Funny How Flowers Do That hack is that it’s pretty easy to do. All you really need are some edible flowers, and it’s vital that they’re not just attractive, but can also be consumed. Examples include the pea flower, chrysanthemum, and primrose. You can also use herbs, such as mint, basil, and lemon verbena.
Put a minuscule amount of water in each ice cube compartment and add your flower. Let this freeze for at least 20 minutes. What you’re doing is making sure that the petals don’t rise up and out of the ice cube. You’re fixing them in place, basically. If you’re using really small flowers or herbs, you can repeat this process so that you’re layering up and suspending the designs within and throughout the ice. Otherwise, if you’ve only frozen one layer, fill up the ice tray and freeze as you would regular cubes.
Freeze fresh herbs in olive oil
You know how it goes. You’ve got a bunch of herbs for a dish or two, and you’re left with leaves that’re bound to wilt in a day or two and be wasted. A great way to save your herbs, especially if you’ve taken the effort to grow herbs by yourself, is to freeze them. Instead of putting them directly in the freezer, where they may come out with freezer burn, turn them into ice cubes. While you can certainly do this by putting the herbs in water, you can also use olive oil which turns opaque when frozen (via Reddit).
While garlic oil is not recommended because of the risk of bacteria, woody herbs such as rosemary and thyme work well frozen in olive oil, perhaps because they’re more robust. While you need to remove the tough stems, the leaves are less likely to lose their characteristics and taste. A good tip is to really put as much of a herb into the ice tray as you can before you add the oil, as this hack is all about having freshly frozen herb cubes ready for when you get cooking. You may want to freeze a mixture of olive oil and water cubes too, to suit different dishes. Herbs in olive oil are going to be perfect if you want to sauté something, while iced water cubes are more suited to recipes whereby the herbs are added later and no oil is required.
Add ice to a ladle to remove oil from dishes
Nothing beats a homecooked meal, such as hearty stew or tasty soup that’s not from a can. However, to infuse these dishes with depth of flavor you can sometimes end up with the oils used coming up to the surface, creating an unappetizingly oily film. If you’ve ever cooled down such as dish for long enough in the refrigerator, that fat solidifies and you can remove the hardened layer. However, if you don’t have time to do this or don’t want to there is another way, as discussed on Reddit.
Put some ice cubes in a ladle so that the metal becomes nice and cold. Next, skim this ladle over the surface of your oily dish. The ice-induced coldness will cause the oil to solidify and as it does it’ll stick to the utensil. You can then remove it without ruining what you’ve cooked and without taking out other ingredients along with the oil if you were using a spoon to scoop it out.
Make bar-style ice cubes
Ice cubes don’t have to be boring and conformist. In fact, they can be dramatic and almost like works of art. After all, ice isn’t just a way of cooling down your cocktail, the size of the cube itself can be dictated by what type of concoction you’re imbibing, and also impact the flavor of it as well. While you may not want to start sculpting ice before a drinks party, you may want to cut your cubes to size. If you want to make bar-style ice cubes then this Live Mint hack is for you.
Freeze water into a block first. Make sure that there’s no lid on top and that the freezer is set between 3 and 8 degrees below zero centigrade. This is not as cold as the usual temperature for foods, which is recommended by the FDA to be minus 18. Check there are no bubbles in the ice block and after another couple of hours, you should see an icy layer. Add a lid, turn over and leave this for 3-4 hours before taking the ice block out of the container. Cut the ice with the sharp edge of a knife, knocking the blunter edge to create your clear, well-cut cubes. Make an ice ball by molding it with your hands under running water or use a hard bottle filled with water to round out the edges.
Clean ice trays with vinegar to prevent shattered cubes
You’re likely not alone if you’ve ever tried to get an ice cube out of a tray and broken it in half instead, or worse, it’s shattered into many pieces. The whole raison d’être of ice cubes is lost, as these slithers aren’t going to keep your drink cold. Thankfully, there’s a simple trick to avoiding this which is explained in a Good Housekeeping reply to a reader’s question, and it’s all about how you clean your ice cube trays.
Mineral deposits are to blame for your cracked ice. These come from water and are built up in trays as they’re used. When you fill the compartments, the water attaches to the deposits as it freezes, meaning that the surfaces of your ice cube are not smooth and even. To avoid this, don’t clean your ice cube trays with anything that’s going to scratch them and allow these deposits to settle. From time to time, clean them using distilled white vinegar to avoid this. Don’t forget to also repel freezer odors by letting your trays sit a little in soapy water before rinsing.
Create clear cocktail ice not cloudy cubes
Are you looking for a sophisticated iced drink experience? One whereby you’re not resorting to plonking a frosted-up, cloudy piece of ice into your drink from a half-filled tray at the back of the freezer? There’s nothing stopping you from creating crystal-clear ice cubes that you see bobbing about in a cocktail at a swanky bar. And while this does take a bit more effort than simply filling up an ice tray from the tap, it’s worth it, as clear ice doesn’t melt as fast which means your drink cools down without being as quickly diluted. The trick to clear ice cubes is tempering a block of ice, as explained in an Insider feature.
Because cloudiness is caused by impurities, using distilled or filtered water is a good idea. Also, water that’s boiling or just boiled can boost clarity too as the heat makes these particles and they then fall to the bottom as the water freezes. A simple way to get clear ice is to put water into a cooler that’s open at the top and place this in your freezer for a couple of days. Take it out and let the ice slowly heat up for an hour. This tempering process strengthens the ice so it can be more easily cut into cubes without breaking. Cut off the icy layer and instead of discarding this cloudy ice, smash it up and use it in a crushed ice drink.
Fruity ice cubes appeal to kids
As well as offering a great tip to get kids to drink more water, with fruit juice ice cubes, My Fussy Eater promises a great suggestion to get kids to eat more fruit, too. Once again, the trick is to use ice cubes to engage young ones. This fruity ice cube hack is fun and you can make them with lots of different types of fruit. That way, youngsters can also feel independent and interested when they choose which one they want.
Pick a selection of fresh fruit you want to use and chop it into pieces that are going to fit in an ice cube tray compartment. All you need to do now is add water and freeze. You can pop these frozen cubes into drinks or you can let children that are old enough eat them as they are. Once the ice melts, a fruity surprise is revealed. To get really clear ice cubes, try using bottled water, which you can double boil. Grown-ups can enjoy these fruit-filled ice cubes, too, with flavors that appeal to adult taste buds such as lemon, ginger, and chili.
Crush ice using a tea towel
While big ice cubes chinking in a glass are perfect for certain drinks, and a must for a cocktail shaker, sometimes some crushed ice works just fine. For example, it can dilute the taste of spirits in cocktails so that they’re not too overpowering. It’s also great for drinks made with any type of syrup or pulped fruits, as the small pieces of ice have the effect of thinning out the thickness of such beverages. To turn ice cubes into crushed ice, follow this hack highlighted by Craft Gin Club.
Once you’ve frozen some ice cubes, take them out of the tray and put them in a tea towel that’s clean and laid out on your countertop. With the ice in the middle, gather in the corners and using a rubber band secure them together. So, you’re basically creating a bag of ice that’s sealed at the top. Holding onto the top, bash the ice using a rolling pin. In just a few minutes you’ll have crushed ice that’s ready to use.
Add ice cubes to soup
There’s something so refreshing when it’s a hot day, about a cold soup. You can enjoy a glorious gazpacho or a chilled sweet corn recipe with plenty of other plant-based summer cookout dishes. You might be used to serving these broths ice-cold, but have you thought about dropping in a few ice cubes just beforehand? This Epicurious hack ups the chill factor and is a cool addition to a bowl of cold soup, too.
Other tips include adding some lemon or lime juice to the ice so that it gives a citrusy pop as it melts. You can also freeze sauces and condiments from pesto to tapenade to add more flavors to the dish. Ice cubes can also be used to cool down a soup that’s too spicy, whether it’s served hot or cold. If you’ve gone OTT on the chili and want to tone down the heat, then a few cubes of ice can help lower the temperature in more ways than one.
Get ice cubes out of a tray more easily
While ice trays are pretty handy, getting ice cubes out of them can sometimes be inordinately difficult. You’ve no doubt tried banging a tray upside down, only to get ice all over your counter, lose a few cubes to the floor, and empty too many out. Perhaps you’ve tried prising them out individually, using your fingernails or a knife. What about running the tray under hot water only for the ice to melt before you’ve got it out? Another irritation is banging the tray so hard it breaks or the ice cubes shatter. Reader’s Digest presents a hack, although you probably don’t want to use it if it’s for anyone else’s drink but your own!
Pour cool running water on the underside of your ice cube tray for a second. Turn the tray the right way round and holding each end twist it a little toward and away from you. Your ice should not be loosened. Lick your finger and touch an ice cube. It should stick and you can simply lift it out. Of course, if you’re doing drinks for someone else, perhaps you can dip your finger in water instead. To stop ice cubes from getting stuck in a tray, make sure the compartments are not so full that the water spills over and they freeze together.
Use ice to keep buffet food cool
While ice can keep your drinks cool during a chilled-out party, cold dishes that are left out can soon warm-up and be either unappetizing to eat or soon become unsafe to consume. The great news is that you can also use ice to keep your platters edible for longer, too, with a hack featured in Our Everyday Life.
Add ice to bowls and dishes and place your buffet food plates on top. You don’t want the food to actually touch the ice, otherwise, it’ll become soggy. The ice acts like a cool bed and for platters you’ll need a shallow container that fits underneath completely. A good tip, to avoid your buffet plates looking wonky, is to use crushed ice as it’s far easier to even out and nestle what you put on top. Ice that’s keeping a bowl of food cool, such as a dip, needs to be deep enough to keep the temperature down of the whole bowl, not just the bottom of it. Think about what containers you use for your buffet dishes too. Glass and metal are ideal as the ice is able to cool the food more easily. All you need to do once you’re set up, is have plenty of ice on standby to fill up your ice beds and keep the food and cool drinks flowing.