It may seem like silicone ice trays have been around forever, but the truth is these trays only really made their first appearance in our freezers around 2007.
They made adding ice to our favorite beverage even more fun as ice cube shapes can be themed. But how do silicone ice cube trays rate against their plastic predecessors and which are the better trays?
Silicone ice trays are more flexible than plastic ones and ice can be formed in many shapes. It does not leach any harmful chemicals and is eco-friendlier than plastic. However, plastic ice trays are sturdy, and removing ice blocks is effortless. Plastic is less likely to absorb odors or retain white residue.
Silicone has been making inroads in many areas where plastic and even metal had once reigned supreme. But are silicone ice cube trays all they're cracked up to be?
Let's do a side-by-side ice-tray comparison and see how these two type of ice cube trays stack up against each other.
Plastic Ice Cube Trays Can Leach Chemicals
Most of us have heard of the hazards of plastic water bottles leaching harmful chemicals into our drinking water, especially if it is left in a hot car or bag.
While glass is an excellent chemical-free alternative to plastic for water bottles, it would not be suitable for making ice cubes.
Most of us don't give too much thought to our old plastic ice cube trays, which may have moved around with us for decades. The problem with plastic ice trays is that they may be made with plastic that contained bisphenol (BPA). This is a chemical commonly used to make all sorts of plastic items.
While the FDA has indicated that BPA is safe at low levels, it is still better to avoid it entirely if possible. Newer ice cube trays may be marked ‘BPA free' or have a plastic recycle code underneath.
However, some studies show that even if a plastic is BPA free it can still leach some chemicals into your drinks (and therefore your ice).
Avoid plastic ice cube trays labeled with codes 3 or 7 as they may contain BPA.
Since silicone is not made from plastic it is BPA-free. It is essentially a derivative of sand that has been manipulated to create a flexible resin.
Silicone is inert and does not impart chemicals into your ice.
The complexity of the process is reflected in the slightly higher price tag of silicone products vs. plastic.
Silicone Ice Cube Trays Are More Eco-Friendly
The most eco-friendly ice cube tray you can use is the one you already have!
However, if you find that your old plastic ice cube trays contain BPA or need more trays then silicone is more durable than plastic, and the production process is less taxing on the environment.
While silicone isn't as eco-friendly as metal when it comes to ice cube trays, it is a better option than plastic.
If choosing an eco-friendly way of making ice cubes is important to you, there are a number of eco-friendly ice cube tray alternatives besides having to choose between only plastic and silicone ice cube trays.
Silicone Ice Cube Trays Absorb Smells And Flavors More
The unpleasant, familiar musty-ice taste one encounters occasionally results from the water absorbing flavors and odors floating about inside the freezer or from the ice tray itself. This is far more likely to be a problem with silicone ice cube trays as it is far more porous than plastic.
Silicone trays are porous and can easily absorb smells themselves and then impart these into your ice. Silicone ice cube trays tasting like garlic are a common complaint. This could be from the odors in your freezer or it could be from being placed in the dishwasher with your garlicky dinner dishes.
Many parents freeze small portions of homemade baby food in ice trays, and it is possible to get them back into perfect flavorless, ice-making condition.
Adding refreshing summer tangs like a sprig of mint to ice adds a lovely nuance, but when we have finished that batch, we don't want the taste to linger forever.
Fortunately, whether you use plastic or silicone ice cube trays, the smelly ice problem can be remedied if you know how to clean your silicone ice cube trays properly and sterilize them. In fact, silicone is dishwasher safe, so they may require less elbow grease to freshen up your ice trays.
Plastic Ice Cube Trays Make The Ice Cubes Easier To Remove
When silicone ice cube trays first made their appearance, they received some pretty lackluster reviews.
Most of the complaints were about the difficulty of getting the ice out of the compartments.
Consumers missed the twisty-crack movement that immediately releases all the ice on plastic trays.
Plastic ice cube trays, even the inexpensive ones that can be purchased at any dollar store, release ice cubes with minimal hassle. However, not all silicone ice cube trays are tricky to remove ice from. It depends greatly on the tray's design and the ice cubes' shape.
Click here to see our list of the best easy release ice cube trays. You'll quickly notice that most of them are plastic. I personally love the Oxo Good Grips ice cube tray as the ice practically falls out. It's also no spill and can be put in the freezer on an angle.
Silicone Ice Cube Trays Provide More Shape And Size Options
There's something special and even a little bit magical about having crystal clear spheres of ice in a drink. It lends an air of sophistication whether you are drinking lemonade or fine whiskey. The days of flat rectangular blocks of cracked ice out of plastic ice trays can be a thing of the past.
Since silicone is flexible and stretchy, it has revolutionized what can be done with ice at home. If you have the right ice cube mold and a freezer, you will be able to create any number of shapes or sizes.
For me I like making the ice spheres, but you can make everything from hearts to stars to skulls or snakes. On my list of the best large ice cube trays you can see these super cool 3D snake ice molds that will impress any guest.
Silicone Ice Cube Trays Don't Break As Easily
Life inside a freezer isn't easy. An ice cube tray is frozen, forcibly handled to remove the ice, returned to room temperature, and then refrozen. It is a continuous cycle that would test even the most durable material.
Plastic ice cube trays are notorious for cracking. Over time plastic becomes increasingly brittle until it finally shatters.
Silicone is an incredibly durable, flexible material, so even if you drop your silicone ice cube tray multiple times, it won't crack or break apart.
However, the flexibility of silicone can also make it a little too floppy for some people. Unless it is a covered ice cube tray water can spill out on the journey between the tap and the freezer.
This is something to keep in mind if you prefer your ice tray to have a more solid feel.
Silicone Ice Cube Trays Can Double As Baking Trays
Silicone ice cube trays can be used for baking, and silicone baking trays can be used to make ice cubes! One of the niftiest features of silicone material is that it can tolerate extremes in temperature. So go ahead and create cute heart-shaped muffins if you have a suitably shaped silicone ice tray.
Plastic ice cube trays should never be heated in the oven!!!
The result would be a molten, toxic mess. Silicone can withstand temperatures of up to 450ºF. So while you shouldn't use your silicone ice tray under a grill, it will work perfectly for creating baked goods and can even be used in the microwave.
White Residue Is Less Likely With Plastic Ice Cube Trays
In the same way that silicone is more likely to retain freezer odors or flavors because it is more porous than plastic, it can occasionally collect white residue from hard water.
It is also more visible on dark-colored silicone ice cube trays.
Fortunately, even though the white layer on your ice cube tray may not look appetizing, they are still perfectly safe to use.
The culprit is a naturally occurring mineral called calcium sulfate that tends to get stuck on silicone surfaces. The main concern is that it may make the ice cloudy or leave little specks floating about in your drink and it can have a slightly bitter taste.
Metal Trays Are A Healthy, Eco-Friendly Alternative
Fortunately, ice cube trays are not only limited to plastic or silicone options! Metal ice cube trays have become ultra-trendy again, and the moment you pull the lever and hear that delicious crackling of ice, you will be converted!
Besides being eco-friendly, metal ice cube trays lend a vintage feel to your ice-making experience. They are durable, never leach chemicals, and won't break if you drop them.
Most of us have ice cube trays available at all times, and grabbing a few blocks of ice from the freezer is a regular occurrence.
There are pros and cons to silicone and plastic ice cube trays, so your choice ultimately boils down to your individual preference and ice-making requirements.
However, if you can choose between the two, silicone is a more durable choice that offers more options – you can even use your ice cube tray for baking!