The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
October 9, 2009

Would You Use A Stainless Steel Ice Cube Tray?

I can’t tell you the number of times since I started Fake Plastic Fish that people have asked me what I do for ice. The answer has always been that I just keep using the same plastic ice trays that I owned before I started Fake Plastic Fish. I know, I know. I don’t like to put food in plastic because of possible chemicals leaching. But it’s my understanding that chemicals leach more from plastic when it is heated and that plastic interacts more with fats in foods. So I figured freezing water in plastic was safe.

Is it? I honestly don’t know. And since so many people have asked about a plastic-free option for ice, I decided to try out the stainless steel ice cube tray sold by Fake Plastic Fish advertiser, NoPlastic.Ca, a Canadian company that sells all kinds of plastic-free home alternatives. I asked the owner Ramin to send me a tray to review, and here it is:

stainless steel ice tray

We had a metal ice tray like this when I was growing up. I think ours might have been made out of aluminum. My mom hated it and was happy to switch to the new plastic trays because she had a problem lifting up the lever to release the ice. But I had no problem at all with this one. I used a towel in both hands, holding down one end with my left hand and lifting the lever with my right.

stainless steel ice tray

It feels so funny explaining this to the youngsters. Sort of like explaining metal safety razors. Honestly kids. People made ice and shaved themselves before plastic!

One difference between a metal tray and plastic is that with metal, you can’t remove the ice cubes individually and replace the water. So I emptied the whole thing into a glass bowl and refilled the tray. Simple.

stainless steel ice tray

So what to you think? If you needed an ice cube tray, would it be worth it to spring for a new stainless steel one or would you be satisfied with a used plastic ice cube tray from a thrift store or Craigslist? (Notice buying new plastic is not one of the choices.) Do you feel that ice is the same as food and should not touch plastic? In that case, would you replace your plastic ice tray with a new stainless steel one? I want to hear what you think.

64 comments
cullenar
cullenar

We bought 2 vintage aluminum ice trays for $5/each at a mid century modern consignment store. We love them. I had been searching for non plastic and especially non-chinese made ice trays for a long time. I'm to young to remember these (28) but love them.

dennis
dennis

how about using those small pyrex dishes vs a bowl?  What are those made off? Will try those and maybe buy metal.

gr8escap
gr8escap

I would DEFINITELY us one! Found this post while trying to find one, actually.

gr8escap
gr8escap

I would DEFINITELY us one! Found this post while trying to find one, actually.

Stacey
Stacey

I read terrible reviews on this product. Made in China. Some said theirs started to rust. Others said there was a coating on the tray that came off on the ice and left a residue in their drinking glass. Are there any better made alternatives?

Shdfx1
Shdfx1

I bought the metal ice cube tray from your site a while ago, and I LOVE it! I use it most often for freezing leftover broth. I used to put leftover broth into plastic freezer bags, but then if you only needed a little, you'd have to defrost the whole package and throw the rest away. I use the tray to freeze broth into cubes, which I then store in freezer bags in the freezer, which is much more convenient and lest wasteful.

Which brings me to my big question. I want to replace my freezer bags with a non-plastic, non-toxic alternative. Any suggestions?

girlinchair
girlinchair

i just found your blog while looking to learn more about all metal ice cube trays. I have mast cell activation disorder and anything put in plastic sends me into allergic reactions that often progress into full blown anaphylaxis.

I have been plastic free (or avoiding it as much as i can) for over 2yrs now. In all that time I have not been able to make or use ice for myself. we used a plastic ice tray and I got very ill- I never thought I would find ice in my life again. 

After reading your experience with them I am going to buy one. I am also going to look through your site and other links provided. 

Thank you for creating this blog!

girlinchair
girlinchair

i just found your blog while looking to learn more about all metal ice cube trays. I have mast cell activation disorder and anything put in plastic sends me into allergic reactions that often progress into full blown anaphylaxis.

I have been plastic free (or avoiding it as much as i can) for over 2yrs now. In all that time I have not been able to make or use ice for myself. we used a plastic ice tray and I got very ill- I never thought I would find ice in my life again. 

After reading your experience with them I am going to buy one. I am also going to look through your site and other links provided. 

Thank you for creating this blog!

lvotey
lvotey

Sadly, those stainless trays are made in China.  Can we really trust them?

lvotey
lvotey

Sadly, those stainless trays are made in China.  Can we really trust them?

Sonya
Sonya

I purchased metal trays about fifteen years ago and have used them ever since. There is a danger with leeched dioxins, etc with freezing as there is with heating. That is what I have heard from reputable sources. I avoid food and plastic whenever I can, and that is at least 90 percent of the time. With the metal trays, you need to run cold water over the tray enough times so that the lever will pull up. That is a necessary step in order to avoid damaging the tray.

Patricia
Patricia

I would use metal. It is my understanding that the toxins will leach rapidly into any liquid.

Nichalus
Nichalus

Have you ever noticed that your refrigerator is probably lined with plastic walls and door panels. I can taste this from foods that get exposed too long in the freezer - especially the ice even when it is made with filtered water. Assaulted from every angle. Go within. Make peace with god. Return more present authentic and aware of all that is.

Nichalus
Nichalus

Have you ever noticed that your refrigerator is probably lined with plastic walls and door panels. I can taste this from foods that get exposed too long in the freezer - especially the ice even when it is made with filtered water. Assaulted from every angle. Go within. Make peace with god. Return more present authentic and aware of all that is.

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

That's a great idea. I've been using mine lately for coffee cubes. That way I can have ice coffee without diluting it with watery ice cubes. And I don't have to worry about hot coffee I in plastic trays.

Barbara Hayes
Barbara Hayes

I would use stainless steel if I needed to use an Ice Tray

Eco-Vegan Gal
Eco-Vegan Gal

Are you still using this? I need to replace my plastic trays in my effort to get all plastic out of my kitchen (and home).

Sue
Sue

I still have one of the metal trays (and a number of plastic ones). Frankly, I'm not sure why I keep the plastic ones, because I like the metal one so much better. I prefer it, not only because it's not plastic, but because you can break up the ice, remove the grid, take as many cubes as you wish easily (no flipping it over or struggling to get the cubes out of the holes in the tray) and leave the rest in the tray if you like. Plus, I rather like the fact that some of the ice often chips a bit. If they weren't so expensive now, I'd buy more stainless ones.

bigdubba
bigdubba

I recently noticed tiny flakes of somthing in all my ice made from all of my 3 different types of plastic ice trays ?! And yes I use a water filter on my kitchen faucet I use for the water . Anyone know what might the heck might be going on here ?

Anna Fay
Anna Fay

I have been doing a lot of research on plastic the last year & I love your blog... anyways, this is the first comment I've done.. What I know about plastic is that leaching happens more especially when it is heated & cooled (frozen). So, I would definitely prefer a stainless one over plastic! I love that you put the cubes in the glass bowl too.. plastic is oh so trashy! I'm a college student & don't really have any belongings other than my clothes.. but I'm slowly gathering non plastic home stuffs for when I've got a place of my own! (I found some awesome food storage containers at an Antique shop in town--I suggest checking out places like that too!) Anyways, love your blog & happy to see other people here who care about life & are anti plastic. xxoo Anna Fay

Doctor Ed
Doctor Ed

As a physician, pathologist, I heartily agree with your and your readers concerns re plastic. Our culture is steeped in plastic, with soft drinks, food wrapping of meat, so-called bottled water, and on and on. I would add an additional caution: Don't overlook all of the other ways that we ingest plastics, and so many other toxic chemicals. Read labels carefully, avoid food grown or processed in other countries which use our pesticides and fertilizers, fish which ingests fertilizer and mercury, chicken which may be fed arsenic-laden feed, and the list goes on. I don't think that the cancer rate in America is coincidental. The increased incidence follows the same curve as this country's use of chemicals for increased production, bacterial control, taste, coloring of food, wrapping in plastic, etc. So our apparent advancement has a hefty price tag. All of this is especially pertinent to young children, who have a lifetime of exposure ahead of them.

Morgan
Morgan

I don't like plastic; agreed there. I tried the silicon ones, and frankly, they REEK. My freezer itself doesn't smell, but the trays sure did after awhile, and no amount of handwashing could get the funky smell out (I don't have a dishwasher, so I don't know if that would work). Either way, I wasn't about to eat any ice from something so nasty-smelling. Plus, since at the time, I didn't use much ice, and the cubes evaporated fairly quickly. I just bought one of those freakishly expensive stainless steel ice cube trays, and my first attempt at dislodging the ice with the handle was very difficult, I will admit--but I think I filled the tray too full. One rinse with warm water, however, and it worked like a champ. I emptied the tray into a covered container that I bought just for that purpose--to prevent more funky smells and evaporation, and refilled the steel tray. It freezes FAST. Contrary to someone's worry above that this might not work for an ice-loving family, I think it would work perfectly--you just empty the tray into an larger container, and refill as necessary. It makes 18 big cubes.

A Guest Post from Beth Terry of Fake Plastic Fish
A Guest Post from Beth Terry of Fake Plastic Fish

[...] clean your Dry Clean Only fabrics) we bought a reusable Clothesnik dry cleaner bag. We got new stainless steel ice cube trays to replace their plastic counterparts. We purchased a whole set of ten Anchor glass refrigerator [...]

John
John

@ Brigid The world was once seen as flat, smoking was thought to be good for you, and fluoride really doesn't do anything for your teeth. Anyway if your uninformed about plastic, a good documentary to watch is Addicted to Plastic It will really open your eyes to the problem of plastic, both environmental and health.

Sharonus
Sharonus

I don't know if it's the minerals in our water or that our ice cube trays are too soft, but I have a terrible time getting the cubes out. I twist and twist and they never pop out. I found myself wishing the other day that they would crack so that I could buy new stainless trays. :)

Rob M.
Rob M.

I also debated on my plastic ice trays. In the end I decided I would put them on the shelf and try something new (that is really old). I bought a nice glass mixing bowl at a thrift store and an ice pick at a local big box retailer. Another bummer about that was the awful and unnecessary plastic package it came in. I wish I could have found one another way. For ice, I pour a decent amount of water in the bowl and freeze it. I then take it out, flip the bowl upside down, place it on a cutting board, and wait for it thaw just a little so that the block of ice falls out of the bowl. I then put the block back in the freezer for a few minutes to get the surface moisture to refreeze. Once ready, I take the block of ice, place it on a cutting board, wrap a towel around it, and go to work with my ice pick. I end up filling another bowl with these interesting looking ice chunks that are every bit as good as cubes. They look great in a mixed drink! "Basic Instinct" references aside, I think this is a fun and effective way to make ice.

Would You Use A Stainless Steel Ice Cube Tray? - G
Would You Use A Stainless Steel Ice Cube Tray? - G

[...] a towel in both hands, holding down one end with my left hand and lifting the lever with my right.Read the full article here.Beth Terry writes about finding alternatives to plastic and tracks her own plastic consumption and [...]

Emily
Emily

I found some vintage spring loaded ice cube trays on EBay for less than $10. I thought that Beth's cubes like a good size for a portion of babyfood. I could see why there would be a market for these trays given that many more people are making their own babyfood. Love all of the progressive products Emily

Meg
Meg

@Brigid We use a towel when using our stainless steel tray. That way our hands don't get cold. We haven't had any big problems with the handle sticking, so long as we don't fill it up too far. It does take a good tug, but I'm a weakling and I can use it just fine. (Might not be suitable for those with severe arthritis or similar conditions, though.) I do wonder how the stainless steel and aluminum ones compare. I saw an aluminum one at a resale store just recently, but I try to avoid aluminum around my food, too. It seems like the stainless one would be a bit sturdier. The part that scares me about plastic is that it DOES degrade -- and degrade into bad things. It used to be that they thought plastic would be around forever, but turns out it does break down. And even before it degrades much, it becomes less useful. We went through several soft plastic trays because they brittle as they aged. Turns out, that's what happens when BPA leeches out of plastic. So, yes, I do think there is cause for concern. How does the footprint compare? Well, by the looks of the antique aluminum tray I saw in the second hand store, as well as the construction of the tray we have, I think our tray will be around for some time -- much longer than a typical plastic tray is useful for. And, when it's time is up, it can be recycled.

Brigid
Brigid

NEVER!!! I remember those metal ice cube trays from my childhood. They were horrible! The lever always stuck, and then it would release suddenly and the ice cubes would explode all over the kitchen. I would always cut or bruise my hands in the process, and it always seemed to hurt twice as much because they were already cold. Also, my hands always stuck to the metal surfaces. OK, our trays were aluminum, but somehow stainless just seems like overkill. Has anyone ever shown that plastic leaches out of ice cube trays into the ice cubes, or are we all working on guesswork here? I'm pretty serious about buying organic, avoiding canned food, not using plastic containers in the microwave, etc., but this risk seems to be pretty theoretical. Our ice cube containers came with the fridge, and I bought another set at a garage sale. They last pretty much forever, so they are not going into the waste stream anytime soon, and they perform their allotted function (making ice cubes and releasing them easily) beautifully. I do think plastic has a place in the world—when the alternatives are less efficient or have a higher environmental cost. I find it hard to believe that the stainless steel tray doesn't have a bigger environmental footprint than the plastic trays, and like them, it's not biodegradable. While it may fit into a no-plastic lifestyle, from a more holistic point of view I'm not sure it's the better choice.

David
David

I like the idea of stainless ones, but I am sticking with my plastic ones. Seeing as how they never get heated up, I am not that worried about 5 year old plastic leeching into my ice cubes. When they need replacing, I will get metal ones, but for now will use up what I have. Thought-provoking post.

Billie
Billie

The cost of this is pretty darned prohibitive so I haven't made the plunge yet. Still using our cracked plastic ice cube tray .-= Billie´s last blog ..Funny Story =-.

Coccinelle
Coccinelle

I agree completely with Daharja! I don't think ice cube is a necessity! Currently we have two ice cube trays that we got used with no plastic number so I can't say that I trust them... But we have not used them for years! We are perfectly fine with the temperature of the drinks that come out of our fridge! We just don't serve us huge glass when the temperature is hot! The fact that I am not a fan of any diluted drink weight surely in the balance ;o) Also, when we had ice cubes in the freezer, they are usually so old that they taste like crap ;o) But, for answering your question, I have a bad flaw, I put health before environment, so if I would to choose, I would buy I new stainless steal one...

CC
CC

I also remember the metal ones from my childhood. I also remember as a child often having difficulty getting the metal bar to lift up and thus spilling ice all over! Regardless, I currently have plastic and have no problem with my ice touching plastic. Since these plastic trays still work, I will continue to use them until they are as used up as they can get, then purchase metal ones. .-= CC´s last blog ..Boxtops for Education =-.

Sarah
Sarah

I totally would, we had one when I was a kid, but we then got a fridge with an ice maker on it. We have an ice maker now, but I am sure it uses plastic... I am so glad I found your site. I made the declaration last month that I want to remove plastic from my life (mainly because I am concerned about the chemical leaching). It also has an environmental factor--as in that stuff is really terrible, have you read "Garbage Land" by Elizabeth Royte? She titles the chapter on it "Satan's Resin" and it so is. Its kind of scary how much plastic there is and the things you have to do to avoid it!

Meg
Meg

@kimberly I've tried silicone trays, but I found them more difficult to use. You have to put a plate under them or else they bend and spill, but I didn't have a plate the right size or shape. Plus, in my experience, the ice was not as easy to get out as it is using the steel tray.

Meg
Meg

@Daharja We did without ice cube trays for a while, but finally bought the steel tray. It wasn't a necessity, but it is convenient when we want to cool down drinks quickly (and living Florida, cold drinks are just about a necessity).

kimberly
kimberly

i think i'd just go for a silicone tray (new).

Daharja
Daharja

Am I being too ascetic when I say that I really don't consider ice trays one of life's necessities? We have a whole stack of them sitting in our freezer. Empty. I never bother filling them because we never use ice. And yes, I live in a cold country now (New Zealand) but it was the same when I lived in Adelaide, Australia, and temperatures regularly soared above 100F. I just don't think people really need ice cubes to live a fully and happy life. If you absolutely MUST, then buy secondhand stainless. Because the more I do research on plastic, the more I'm starting to think the stuff should be banned completely - there are too many studies coming out telling us it is dangerous and fouls up the planet too much. .-= Daharja´s last blog ..Composting our lives =-.

SusanB
SusanB

My partner is the ice-lover, and we have an icemaker in the fridge. I do buy yardsale plastic trays to freeze pesto/seasonings. We had those aluminum-type trays when I was a kid; I hated them then and try to avoid aluminum kitchen stuff now. I'm happy enough with my used plastic trays (at a quarter or less each) for the limited purpose I use them. I don't think the trays with the pull bar would work as well for my purpose.

John Costigane
John Costigane

Hi Beth, I fully agree with your pre-plastic equipment usage. The 'convenience' of plastic is no longer acceptable due to its waste impact. Promoting alternatives will help consumers who are often forced to buy plastic packaging etc.

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

@girlinchair Thanks for your comment.  I had to Google "mast cell activation disorder."  I'm still not sure I understand it, but I'm glad to be able to help you avoid plastic and stay well.  Cheers!

BethTerry
BethTerry

girlinchair Thanks for your comment.  I had to Google "mast cell activation disorder."  I'm still not sure I understand it, but I'm glad to be able to help you avoid plastic and stay well.  Cheers!

lvotey
lvotey

 @BethTerry Thank you so much for the new information.  Gonna check it out now.  Love the blog!

lvotey
lvotey

@BethTerry Thank you so much for the new information.  Gonna check it out now.  Love the blog!

Trackbacks

  1. Would You Use A Stainless Steel Ice Cube Tray? - Go Green - SustainLane says:

    [...] a towel in both hands, holding down one end with my left hand and lifting the lever with my right.Read the full article here.Beth Terry writes about finding alternatives to plastic and tracks her own plastic consumption and [...]

  2. [...] clean your Dry Clean Only fabrics) we bought a reusable Clothesnik dry cleaner bag. We got new stainless steel ice cube trays to replace their plastic counterparts. We purchased a whole set of ten Anchor glass refrigerator [...]