Sunday, July 5, 2009

Stainless Steel Ice Cube Trays - Tips for Making Ice

Beautiful clear day, windy,cool. Only slight brown horizon.

Stainless steel ice cube trays were the original metal ice cube tray invented over 75 years ago in 1933 by Guy Tinkham. (yes they had refrigerators back then, even though people still used block ice cut from the winter, hence the name "ice box") The 1933 ice cube tray model was thin enough to flex causing the dividers to crack and dislodge the ice. There definitely is a knack needed for getting the whole cube in the end; hence the tips for making ice later. But safe to say - the crack is back.

It seems the aluminum tray with the lever, the one some of us fondly remember, didn't appear until 1950, even though aluminum was widely used for cookware. Pulling the lever seemed to be an improvement over having to flex a cold tray and hoping for the best. The aluminum ice cube tray is still around but may be going out of favor with the concern for leaching aluminum.

Aluminum toxicity
is of concern for some and even the American Academy of Pediatrics has a policy statement about it. Aluminum is not an essential trace mineral and can be excreted by the kidneys but the concern is that the brain has a tough time excreting it. The half life appears to be 7 years for the brain. So a lot of concerned parents are looking for safe ice cube trays, not only for their ice, but for purees and baby food.

And so here we are witnessing the come back kid - the stainless steel ice cube tray. It's not plastic or aluminum, or silicon, which is suppose to be safe (but then they add all sorts of colors and other stuff). Stainless steel has a high recycled content (minimum50%) and can easily be recycled again (after the car drives over it?) and so is considered a more earth friendly alternative. Food grade Stainless does not leach any highly toxic minerals (at least tested in parts per million) and may leach some iron or nickel, both of which are essential in our diet (if you don't want nickel, here's a huge list of foods to avoid)

In case you are new to using a metal ice cube tray, here are some tips for making ice:

1 - Do not over flow the tray with water as this makes cracking and releasing the ice cubes more difficult.
2 - When the ice is ready, the "slow method" takes, well a little bit more time. Just pull the tray out and set it on the counter for 5 minutes. This allows a little melting so the cubes will release in more cube like fashion. And probably will extend the life of the lever.
3 - The "quickie" is to run the tray, top and bottom, under water to, again, melt the contact between the metal and ice.
4 - After either method, anchor the tray with one hand (might need a tea towel if it is cold) and gently pull up the lever enough to crack the cubes and dislodge the ice. Both of these methods should result in more whole cubes.
5 - For more of a crushed ice result, don't bother with the slow or quickie method. Just pull the lever and crush.
6 - What ever method you used, you may gently shake or wiggle the divider out of the tray; most of the ice remains in the tray.
7 - If you don't use all of the ice, just put the tray back in the freezer and grab it as needed. Wash and store the divider until you make ice again.

I'm not sure what is used to hold the ice in automatic ice makers inside refrigerators. Is it plastic or metal? And what kind? Maybe that's why there seems to be a growing trend, especially among moms, toward the stainless steel ice cube tray.

See what I mean? The crack is back.


Mary@FitandFed said...

Thanks, I'm ice cube tray shopping, and while it seems that the health risk from plastic would be really low (cold/frozen molecules don't react much with anything) there is definitely something to be said for a few less pieces of plastic in the world--- plastic which will eventually break and end up in the landfill.

Real Green Girl Activist said...

Good point! Considering the entire life cycle of a product is really important. While something frozen may be fairly non-reactive, most ice cubes begin with room temperature liquid that takes awhile to freeze. Less in the landfill or in the air from incineration the better!
Thanks for commenting.

Anonymous said...

I recently started using a mini muffin tray (totally by accident I was freezing smoothies) and when I used water- the 'cubes' would just freeze and naturally pop themselves off the bottom b/c of the sloped sides. When I took the tray out they slide out easily!

Real Green Girl Activist said...

Great advice! Thanks so much for writing!

Holly Greene said...

Thank you for the tips as I just cut my hand on the tray as I've always feared. My husband said to use a hammer and I thought there has to be a better way! And I thought about using the muffin tray but thought it would be hard to get them out. I will have to try it now! Thanks.