Alternatives to Ice Cube Trays

When you make ice, just about any food-safe container other than glass can serve as an ice cube tray alternative. From old egg cartons to plastic bags, the number of things you can use to make ice cubes is limited only by your imagination. As long as the container you use is able to expand with the water as it freezes, you can use it to make ice cubes. The first ice cube tray patent was issued in 1932. Since then, creative people have used a wide variety of household items to make ice cubes and have gone on to make machines that can make ice in less than 10 minutes.

Heart Ice Cubes
credit: Stephanie Connell/iStock/Getty Images
These miniature heart-shaped ice cubes were made in a candy mold.

Gelatin and Candy Molds

Most silicone molds approved for food use make handy ice cube tray substitutes. Gelatin, candy and soap molds come in various sizes and shapes, allowing you to make ice cubes in any desired shape or size. These molds are available in a dizzying array of themes, including wedding, plants, animals, religion, seashells and musical instruments. The choices are almost limitless, and the molds are easy to use. Simply fill them with water instead of candy or soap and pop them in the freezer.

Novelty Baking Pans

Cupcake and baking pans come in many shapes and sizes and make ideal ice cube trays. These pans are strong, and when filled halfway with water, they freeze ice cubes in shapes ranging from Valentine's Day hearts to Christmas trees. Even a simple Bundt pan will make a beautiful round ice ring perfect for floating in your punch bowl.

Frosty Recycling

Being environmentally conscious means getting the most out of every item possible before disposing of or recycling it. Apply this green thinking to ice cubes. You can fill Styrofoam egg cartons, chocolate gift box trays and deviled egg containers with water and use them to make ice. Empty milk jugs and yogurt cups will also get the job done. These containers don't make pretty ice cubes, but they are excellent for keeping foods cold during power outages or picnics.

Stunningly Simple

If you need ice but can't find your ice cube trays, just grab a zipper bag. Whether you use a gallon, quart or sandwich size, it's easy to fill a bag with water, zip it closed and toss it in the freezer. Remember to leave some air space in the bag, since water expands as it freezes. When the ice has formed, drop the bag on a hard surface or take a hammer to it to break the piece up. Plastic bag ice also makes an excellent ice pack for injuries. Just wrap the entire bag in a towel and apply it to the affected area.

Go Automatic

If, like the toilet paper roll, the ice cube trays in your freezer are always empty when you reach for them, consider replacing them with an automatic alternative. Many freezers now come with automatic ice makers that use a built-in water line to fill themselves with water and make ice without human intervention. After the water freezes, the ice maker empties the ice into an onboard container that dispenses the ice cubed or crushed.

Portable Ice Makers

For ice anywhere, consider an automatic ice maker. These portable units make ice anywhere there is electricity. Fill the unit's reservoir with tap or bottled water; turn it on and enjoy ice in as little as seven minutes. Depending on the manufacturer, you can select different ice cube sizes, and some units even filter any ice that melts back into the machine to make more ice, thus eliminating the need for a drain.