On the origin of ice trays
That cube in your cocktail is a product of evolution.
We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn more ›
The original drink chillers came from frozen lakes, harvested and delivered to families whose offspring would someday mold it into tiny dinosaurs. Here are the highlights of its trip:
(1) THE FUTURE is clear
Transparent ice takes time. You either carve the clear center of a huge block or use insulation to slowly solidify so the water comes out crystal.
(2) 2000s: Going soft
Slick silicone has a low coefficient of friction and a pliable nature. Both let you create otherwise impossible-to-release shapes with ease.
(3) 1980s: Topping it
Modern plastics don’t crack as easily as the old stuff, but the genius award goes to lidded trays: You can stack them before the water sets.
(4) 1960s: Plastics
Injection-molded polymers changed every industry, ice included. Trays graduated from skin-chilling metal to twistable polypropylene and polyethylene.
(5) 1930s: DIY Cubes
With the advent of refrigeration, you could freeze your own ice in aluminum trays; the metal warmed as it left the freezer, releasing cubes easily.
(6) MID-19TH CENTURY: Early Ancestors
Antique solid water came as giant blocks to chill your insulated icebox. For a frosty sarsaparilla, you’d chip the ol’ block with a sharp pick.
Want to read an article that’s just 47 amazing novelty ice cube trays? Right this way.
This article was originally published in the March/April 2017 issue of Popular Science.