The Absolute Best Uses For Ice Cube Trays

There are some pretty innovative kitchen tools on the market nowadays. Home cooking has become modernized and more accessible for even the most inexperienced home chefs with the help of unique, nifty tools like avocado cutters or smart ovens. While these tools are awesome, some of the tried-and-true gadgets you've already had in your kitchen are great for simplifying your home meals. All you need to know are the right ways to use them.

Your classic ice cube tray, for example, has numerous helpful uses that you haven't considered. An older tray can be repurposed as a seed starter for your garden or as a paint holder for a craft day, but there are lots of ways for you to use this item to help enhance recipes or make cooking tasks a little bit simpler. From making bacon-flavored ice cubes to chocolate-covered strawberries, these are the absolute best ways to use your ice cube tray in the kitchen to make your life easier.

Make coffee ice cubes

Ice, by definition, is frozen water. Most of us have made ice cubes, whether adding them to a glass of water or other beverages. What if you could make ice cubes out of these other beverages? You can!

If you've ever tried to make iced coffee at home by pouring freshly brewed hot coffee over ice, you know that it can taste diluted, weak, and watery. Even if you've already chilled the coffee and poured it over ice, the ice will inevitably melt, and again, your coffee becomes watery. There is a super simple solution to this problem: coffee ice cubes. The Dinner Bite shares a method for making coffee ice cubes that entails brewing your choice of coffee, adding a desired amount of sweetener, pouring the coffee into an ice cube tray, and letting it freeze for at least three hours. Once the cubes are frozen, you can use them as ice that won't dilute your coffee. Or, you can simply pour milk over the cubes and stir!

Make cocktail ice cubes

Imagine this situation: You're enjoying a fruity, cold cocktail on a hot day, and in only a few minutes, your ice starts to melt, making your drink watery. A common solution for this issue is a large spherical ice ball rather than a handful of smaller cubes. The larger block of ice is great for cocktails because it takes longer to melt and, thus, won't water down your drink as quickly.

However, we aren't all blessed with a nifty cocktail ice cube mold. You can still fix the watery cocktail issue if you've got a regular ice cube tray — all you have to do is make ice cubes out of something other than water, depending upon your drink of choice. For example, try Half Baked Harvest's cocktail ice cubes made by freezing tequila, lime juice, sugar, and chopped basil and strawberries in ice cube tray molds. Once frozen, you can drop a few of these into juice or sparkling water for an easy spiked drink! Get creative with your recipes, and you'll never sip a watered-down drink again.

Freeze wine for future recipes

As we live through a period of time where the state of the environment is deteriorating, we aim to do as much as possible to help the planet, including eliminating waste. Moreover, as wine lovers, we hate to see wine go to waste. If you've ever opened a bottle and were unable to finish it, you don't have to pour it down the drain or let it go bad.

According to cookbook author Nigella Lawson, all you have to do to salvage your wine is pour it into an ice cube tray and pop it in the freezer. After it's frozen, you'll have perfect portions of wine ready for an array of cooking recipes, like a creamy white wine sauce for mussels or a red wine-braised lamb neck. Another fun way to use these frozen wine cubes is to toss them in a blender with fruit for a wine slushy or drop them into a glass of sangria instead of using regular ice.

Keep herbs fresh

Growing your herbs at home is becoming a common practice in many households. Not only is gardening a fun way to spend time outdoors but growing your herbs is cost-effective and can help you remain conscious of your impact on the environment (via My Little Green Garden). If you grow your herbs, you probably know that it's easy to produce very quickly — sometimes too much.

Even if you've purchased fresh herbs at the store, such as basil, thyme, or rosemary, you may have been unable to use all of them before they started to brown or wilt. However, you've got a solution if you've got an ice cube tray! Submerge the herbs in water in an ice cube tray, pop them in the freezer, and thaw or toss them into a skillet when you're ready to cook with them. suggests using boiling water to freeze and preserve your minced herbs, as it should help them retain their color. Moreover, you may also consider freezing the herbs in olive oil for an even easier cooking hack — place a cube of frozen olive oil and herbs into a hot pan, and you're ready to get cooking (via Diethood).

Make herb-infused butter

If you love to cook and want to get creative when cooking, we suggest making delicious and creative herb-infused butters. From desserts to hors d'oeuvres, butter is an ingredient in so many recipes, and it's the kind of thing we usually add in slices or spoonfuls without precise measurements. However, it's time to start getting innovative with your butter because there is so much that you can do with it to vamp up your recipes. Plus, a taste of butter enhanced by fresh herbs is always better than one without!

Wishful Chef suggests mixing two foolproof ingredients into softened butter: crushed garlic and parsley. After softening the butter, pour it into individual ice cube molds and freeze! Get creative with your favorite herbs and spices, and use these nifty and convenient butter cubes for your morning eggs or toast, a pasta dish, a roast, or any stir-fry.

Freeze soup stock for future recipes

The terms broth and stock are often used interchangeably, but according to Healthline, a broth is made from simmered meats or vegetables, while a stock — also known as bone broth — is made from simmered animal bone or cartilage. Moreover, Healthline explains that the two contain different nutrients, as stock tends to contain more vitamins and minerals from the broken-down animal cartilage.

If you've got extra broth or stock, Simply Recipes notes that it's a great idea to freeze the leftovers for use in future recipes. Pour the liquid into an ice cube tray so that you're prepared with perfect, pre-made portions of the broth or stock when the time comes. As per Simply Recipes' suggestion, broth cubes can be used to deglaze quickly; simply pop out a cube and toss it into your pan! Likewise, frozen stock cubes can also add boosts of nutrients and robust flavor to soups, curries, or rice dishes (via Brit + Co.).

Freeze homemade sauces

If you've ever cooked at home, you likely know how difficult it can be to make perfect portions, especially when it comes to sauce. Our pasta Sundays are typically followed by overflowing-refrigerator Mondays, as we stuff containers full of leftover sauce inside and attempt to use it throughout the week.

If you've been in this boat before, you also know that a lot of that leftover sauce often goes to waste. Don't let the sauce you worked so hard on go bad! All you've got to do is pop it in the freezer. If you freeze the leftovers in an ice cube tray, you'll have nifty portions of sauce that should be around two tablespoons each, according to StopFoodWaste. After pouring the sauce in, StopFoodWaste suggests covering your ice cube tray with a wrap to avoid cross-contamination. Still, once these cubes are frozen, you can use them for homemade pizzas, enhancing your pasta leftovers, and more.

This trick can work with virtually any homemade sauce, such as applesauce or baby food. If you make your baby food at home, freezing extra portions in an ice cube tray is a wonderful idea (via Yummy Toddler Food). With this method, you can make a larger batch of food than you usually might and store the leftovers without worrying that they'll go bad.

Make chocolate ganache for lava cakes

Because baking can be intimidating, we tend to cling to simpler recipes that are hard to mess up, like boxed brownies or cake mixes. If you've been itching to get creative in the kitchen but fear recipes that seem too complex, we've got a great place to start: chocolate lava cakes.

If you've never eaten a lava cake before, allow us to enlighten you. A lava cake is typically a smaller, personal-sized baked cake with a warm liquid interior — hence the word "lava." Even though this unique dessert balances both solids and liquids, it isn't terribly difficult to make, and if you've got an ice cube tray, it's even more accessible. So Yummy! shares a fun array of options for lava cubes, which entail melting your chocolate of choice with heavy cream, pouring the mixture into an ice cube tray, and refrigerating them for about one hour until they are solid.

So Yummy! notes that it's essential to ensure that your chocolate ganache isn't too runny before you refrigerate it. Once it's set, you can pop it into lava cake-sized batter portions, bake the cakes, and you'll have a fancy dessert with a decadent, gooey molten liquid center. You can also use these chocolate cubes to stir into hot coffee for a tasty mocha. 

Make easy chocolate-covered strawberries

As simple-yet-elegant desserts go, chocolate-covered strawberries are a foolproof staple. Whether you're craving an easy sweet treat or trying to please a large crowd, chocolate-covered strawberries are quick, delicious, and generally loved by everyone. Moreover, since they're made of nothing more than fresh strawberries and melted chocolate, they are unpretentious and can be easily modified for those with food allergies.

While some home cooks may have their preferred methods for making chocolate-covered strawberries, the process generally involves melting chocolate, dipping the strawberries in the chocolate, and setting the strawberries aside to allow the chocolate to harden. Though this recipe is simple, there's a way to simplify it even further by using an ice cube tray. Kraft Heinz's magazine My Food and Family shows that pouring melted chocolate into an ice cube tray and standing the strawberries inside each section is a super easy method for making this classic treat. This method will save you time, as you don't have to single-handedly dip each berry and set it aside. Also, it's a fun way to let your kids help make dessert.

Make mini popsicles

Keeping kids entertained can be hard work. Factor in a swelteringly hot summer day, and it becomes even more challenging. We've got a fun summer idea that will satisfy both children and their adult chaperones: popsicles! When the ice cream truck gets too pricey, or you've run out of crafts for your kids to play with, your ice cube tray and a juice bottle will save the day.

These mini popsicles are an especially great idea for those who don't have a popsicle mold at home or even for adults without children who are craving a simple, refreshing treat. All you've got to do is pour your juice of choice into an ice cube tray mold and cover it with plastic wrap. Then, poke a toothpick through the plastic wrap into each ice cube well and pop the tray into the freezer for a minimum of four hours (via Instructables Cooking). This treat is super simple and totally customizable, whether you'd like to make a healthy treat with homemade carrot juice or something sweet with your choice of fruit.

Make jello shots

Jello shots are generally a universally loved adult treat. They're a great party favor, a tasty way to mask the taste of alcohol, and a little nostalgic reminder of our childhood. If you've ever been in a situation where you're scrambling to find a last-minute party favor, making jello shots is a good option because all you need is jello mix, alcohol, and an ice cube tray — no need to run to the store for special cups or containers. Making jello shots in an ice cube tray is simple and much more environmentally friendly than using a bunch of small plastic cups, which can also be hard to find.

Food blog Wide Open Eats mentions that you should spray a bit of vegetable oil onto your ice cube tray before filling it with jello to ensure that the individual shots don't stick. Moreover, they recommend using one cup of liquor and one cup of water for every three ounces of jello mix when making the shots. When using the ice cube tray, you can even make these familiarly simple treats fancier by submerging a mint leaf or some berries inside the jello. For those under the age of 21 or those who just love jello, you can still use this method for bite-sized, alcohol-free jello bites!

Prep ingredients for your smoothie

Fruit and vegetable-based smoothies are a wonderful source of fiber, antioxidants, and a wide array of beneficial vitamins and minerals (via Healthline). Smoothies are a simple, tasty way to include more vegetables and fruits in your diet. For these reasons, a refreshing, nutrient-packed smoothie makes for an ideal first meal of the day.

To get the most nutrition out of their smoothies, many people also add various dietary supplements like protein powders. Today, greens powder, a powdered version of various vegetables and superfoods, is becoming a popular smoothie addition. Rather than purchasing a container of greens powder, make your own nifty, vitamin-packed ice cubes to toss into your blender! If you've ever purchased a bag of fresh spinach or lettuce, you know that these vegetables can go bad pretty quickly. Instead, making some frozen vegetable cubes will last much longer and take up way less space. 

Simply blend a variety of vegetables with a splash of water, pour the mixture into an ice cube mold, freeze for at least six hours, and pop a cube or two into your blender alongside other ingredients (via Living Beyond Allergies). Living With Allergies suggests that you can use whichever greens you like, such as spinach, kale, chard, arugula, cucumber, and more. 

Store fresh garlic for future recipes

If you're like us, you use a lot of garlic. Most of our favorite recipes include garlic, whether we're making a classic tomato sauce, mashed potatoes, or eggs for breakfast. For certain recipes that call for minced garlic, we sometimes resort to store-bought jars of pre-minced garlic to avoid peeling and chopping fresh garlic ourselves — it's time-consuming! However, as reaffirmed by MyRecipes, fresh garlic is simply better, with more robust aromatics and a sharper heat.

If you're growing garlic at home or prefer to purchase all-natural, fresh garlic, you can mince and freeze it in an ice cube tray so it's readily available to you the next time you cook. For extra flavor, food blogger Fueled With Food recommends freezing minced garlic in olive oil. They also suggest freezing the minced garlic overnight and then transferring the individual portions into an airtight bag for freshness. When you're ready to cook, simply toss a frozen cube of garlic and oil into a pan, and you're good to go!

Freeze cookie dough in even portions

There's nothing better than your favorite homemade cookie recipe when you're in the mood for a simple, satisfying dessert. Depending on your recipe, most cookies are relatively simple to make from scratch. Of course, many standard cookie dough recipes leave you with upwards of a dozen cookies, which can be a lot for one person. Don't let this deter you from whipping up a batch, however. Whether you're always making too much cookie dough or you'd like to have some extra dough preserved for quick future use, your ice cube tray is a excellent tool.

When you freeze cookie dough in an ice cube tray, you'll be able to store between 12 and 16 cookies in each tray. Each portion should be good for one cookie if you use a standard ice cube tray, per the food blog Snack Girl. Another great tip to remember is to store the frozen portions in a plastic bag to keep them tasting fresh. Once frozen, you can quickly bake a last-minute batch or enjoy one cookie at a time whenever you want it!

Save bacon grease

There is so much to love about cooking bacon: the sound of the sizzle, the smoky smell, that distinctly savory taste. Making bacon is blissful until you remember the pan full of bacon grease leftover on your stove. If you didn't already know, it's a terrible idea to pour leftover bacon grease down your drain. Bacon grease solidifies as it cools, and it could severely clog or damage your gutters (via Benjamin Franklin Plumbing).

It's common to pour leftover bacon grease into a disposable container and toss it in the trash once it's cooled. Still, you could be missing out on an incredibly flavorful recipe enhancer! The next time you cook bacon, pour the leftover grease into an ice cube tray and let it freeze. Then, when you're making a stir fry, a steak, or even a gravy, pop a frozen cube of bacon grease into the hot pan, and bam, you've got a fatty, savory flavor boost in an instant. Blogger Rachel Hollis recommends using a strainer when pouring your bacon grease into the ice cube tray and storing the cubes in the freezer. Likewise, you might want to use one ice cube tray specifically for bacon, as the grease residue will inadvertently flavor anything else you freeze in it.