Chill Out! 6 Ice Cube Tray Hacks for a Cool, Convenient (and Zero-Waste) Summer
Put your freezer to work to create flavored ice cubes that are as beautiful as they are handy
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Photos by Olga Ivanova with food styling by Julie Smith
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If your ice cube trays are filled with nothing but plain water, there’s a creative, frozen world of possibilities out there to explore. Got some leftover fresh herbs? Scatter them in trays with chicken stock or olive oil, and you’ve got a head start on a tasty dinner. How about pesto; if you ever wished you had just a spoonful for your turkey sandwich, let the freezer set you up for happiness. Craving a cold, refreshing summer drink? It's just a quick pop of the ice cube tray away when you’ve frozen coffee and cream, or wine.
Flavored ice cube tips
Freezing different combinations for flavored ice cubes takes just a few minutes of prep.
What kind of ice cube trays do you need? Silicone ice cube trays, metal ice cube trays, and good old inexpensive plastic ice cube trays all work great for your frozen flavor stashes, though be sure to wash the trays thoroughly between freezing garlicky pesto, for example, and delicate sparkling wine.
How long does it take to make ice cubes? Freeze your cubes until they’re solid, at least 3 hours or preferably overnight.
How long do flavored ice cubes last? When your ice cubes are frozen solid, you can leave them in the trays if you’ll be using them within a few days. For longer storage, pop the cubes out into a zip-top bag and plan to use them within 2 months.
Once you get started experimenting, you may find that these 6 useful hacks for your ice cube trays are just the tip of the ice-berg. So grab your trays and come play in the kitchen!
1. Freeze cubes of spicy herbed olive oil for a jump-start on dinner.
Fill ice cube trays about three-quarters full with extra-virgin olive oil and add a generous sprinkling of fresh rosemary and fresh thyme and crushed chili flakes. Once frozen, these babies are your ticket for a quick hit of flavor when you sauté onion, garlic, or chicken strips; to dress up steamed vegetables; or to toss a bowl of hot spaghetti.
2. Turn leftover chicken stock and fresh herbs into ice cube flavor enhancers.
Any leftover favorite fresh herb such as parsley, cilantro, chervil, oregano, marjoram, thyme, chives, and/or rosemary is fair game to scatter into ice cube trays and top up with chicken stock or vegetable broth. Try the frozen cubes in a pot of soup or a batch of rice or quinoa, or let them melt over hot cooked tortellini.
3. Make pesto ice cubes to add to soups, sandwiches, and beans.
Whether you’ve make pesto from scratch or you’ve got a tub of store-bought pesto, you know a time will come when you’ll be happy you froze it by the generous dollop so you could swirl it in your soup; smear it on a sandwich, burger, or pizza; or toss it with white beans, green beans, or new potatoes.
4. Make coffee and cream cubes for iced coffee that’s strong, not watery.
There’s no need to brew your coffee extra-strong for iced coffee (or settle for a watery drink) when you’ve frozen ice cube trays of coffee and cream. Just fill glasses with as many cubes of each as you like, and then top with cold or room-temperature coffee.
5. Freeze cubes of rosé wine so frosé is just a blender-blitz away.
Summertime means rosé wine time, and by extension, the season for frosé, the grown-up pink slushie. Keep it simple and freeze cubes of wine, or add in a little sugar, fresh fruit, or additional booze before freezing. Either way, purée the cubes in a blender or food processor and then slurp away!
6. Freeze sparkling wine with edible flowers for special-occasion ice cubes.
Whether you’re celebrating an adult birthday, an upcoming wedding, or simply a well-deserved weekend, cubes of sparkling wine frozen with edible flowers, and then topped with more sparkling wine, are sure to delight. Johnny jump-ups, begonias, pansies, lavender, and tiny rose petals would all be beautiful here. Be sure to use organically grown flowers from your garden, the farmers’ market, or a specialty grocery store. Conventionally grown flowers from a florist have likely been sprayed with pesticides.
More kitchen hacks
On Yummly you can explore lots more ideas for making life easier, more useful, and fun in the kitchen.