Analyzing the Different Ice Cube Shapes
Believe it or not, not all ice cubes are created equal. In fact, not all ice cubes are cubes at all! Many modern ice makers vary their ice shapes according to the user’s preference. It is uncommon to find two ice makers produce the same shape of ice cube, as there are several varieties that appeal to specific uses.
Want to find out what the common ice cube shapes are, and what each shape is useful for? In this guide, our experts weigh in with a discussion of the six most common ice cube shapes and the various scenarios in which they should be used. So, read on and become the ice cube geometrist you’ve always dreamed of becoming.
Most ice “cubes” are not even cubes at all. Rather, they are more likely to resemble crescent moons, small eggs, or trapezoids than a standard equilateral cube. If you have ever eaten out at a restaurant, chances are you have run into loads of different ice shapes after ordering your drink. In truth, very few are actually square.
To put it succinctly—different ice shapes are designed to satisfy different purposes. For example, a full cube is a bit ridiculous if your goal is to complement a small child’s drink. Instead, crushed ice or a half cube might get the job done better. Get the idea?
To help you understand the many different purposes of ice, we put together this quick guide to the various ice cube shapes and for what scenarios each of them are good for. With the help of this guide, you will no longer have to worry about using the incorrect variety of ice cube in your dinner guest’s beverage. We wouldn’t want to do that, would we?
Nugget ice, also sometimes referred to as sonic ice, is a tiny form of ice that is generally softer than other varieties. It is loose and slushy, which means each individual piece tends not to mesh together. You most commonly find nugget ice in ice makers at restaurants or food service establishments.
Unlike other kinds of ice, nugget ice is chewy and can be consumed safely on its own. I mean, I would not recommend snacking on ice on its own. However, its chewable quality is one of the reasons why nugget ice a favorite among some. For example, you can safely use nugget ice in a child’s drink without having to worry about choking hazards or other potential dangers.
We recommend using nugget ice to top off sugary drinks such as Coca-Cola or Sprite. We find that the smooth and slushy quality of nugget ice, or sonic ice, allows it to blend well and for it to complement soft drinks and cocktails very well. It is also ideal for outdoor dining. Simply place a tray of nugget ice under your food platter to keep it cold for hours.
These days, it is rare that you come across bullet ice. As you might imagine, it is appropriately named “bullet ice” because it is shaped in the form of a small bullet shell. In appearance, it looks somewhat like a thumbtack. While this does not sound like the most appetizing form of ice, it was once common in the early days of soft drink machines.
Bullet ice can still be found in hotels and often self-serve drink machines. These ice cubes tend to appear whiter or creamier in appearance than other cubes, which are usually transparent. When using bullet ice, know they melt faster than full-sized ice cubes. This makes them ideal for smaller drinks like cocktails or for use in a high-powered blender.
These little chunks of ice have the appearance of a crescent moon. They are solid, smooth, and curved on one side. On the other side, the cube is flat and usually sticky when first removed from the freezer. Crescent ice is among the hardest of the ice cube shapes, given their geometric form.
Given their hardness, we find that crescent ice is the perfect choice for using in a cooler. If used in a low-powered blender, you may cause damage to the blades or the motor. We recommend using these funky little cubes for cooling purposes rather than blending. Plus, their curved surface is perfect for pouring over as they cause minimal splashing.
As you might have guessed, gourmet ice is commonly found on upscale restaurants and gourmet dining spots. They resemble old-fashioned top hats, in that they are skinnier on one end than they are at their base. These little ice chunks are unique because they do not look anything like other ice shapes, and they must be created by high-end ice makers.
These chunks of ice tend to look transparent. In fact, you should be able to see through gourmet ice almost as if you were looking through a pane of glass. Proper gourmet ice should not have a distinct smell, and it should melt slower than traditional ice cubes. You are most likely to come across gourmet ice at banquets, formal galas, and weddings as they are used for purely aesthetic purposes.
Unlike standard ice shapes, flake ice looks more like a pile of wood shavings than it does a “shape.” It is not often that you come across flake ice. However, it is not unheard of to find flake ice at fast food restaurants. Flake ice is also commonly used in the production of sno-cones, one of our favorite summertime treats.
Flake ice is less than ideal when it comes to filling an ice box or cooling a platter of food. In our experience, flake ice is best used for niche cases such as making sno-cones or cooling down drinks with lids. If used in a drink without a lid, it’s easy for the flakes to end up in your mouth or to clog your straw. In our books, this makes flake ice less desirable than other ice cube shapes.
The Full Cube
We all know exactly what full ice cubes look like. Full ice cubes are what comes to mind immediately when most people think of ice cubes. They are rectangular, nearly square, and often tapered on one side. They can be made with a traditional ice maker appliance, or with a standard ice cube tray in your home freezer.
Full ice cubes are certainly the most convenient of the bunch. This is because they are so versatile. They can be used in drinks, to cool food, to fill coolers, and various other things. Chances are, if you have been to a bar or restaurant and ordered a drink you have encountered full ice cubes. They are the ideal choice for all kinds of drinks, from sodas to cocktails.
It’s true: full ice cubes are the “everyman’s” ice cube. This is because they can simply do more than most other variants of ice cube. They have no odor, they have no color, and they always get the job done when it comes to providing a little extra chill in your drink. Plus, full ice cubes are among the slowest to melt which makes them perfect for road trips and for filling coolers.
The Half Cube
The half cube is a great compromise between the versatility of the full ice cube and the niche of the flake or bullet ice cube. These cubes are significantly smaller than the full cube, and they are thinner than most other variants. When cut, they vaguely resemble a wedge of butter or margarine.
Like full cubes, half ice cubes have no tangible smell or color. This makes them the ideal complement for beverages. Given their compact size, they are not the best choice for filling coolers since they might require a greater amount of volume to fill a cooler to capacity. The half ice cube is a classic ice cube shape that is famously dispersed by soda machines and restaurant bars all over the world.
Who knew that there were so many varieties of ice cubes to choose from? From flake ice to gourmet “top hat” ice to your regular old ice cube—there are plenty of ice varieties for every situation. However, not all ice cube shapes serve the same purpose. In this guide, we broke down all the best uses for the many ice shapes available.
Now that you are an expert in all things related to ice, you can safely go ahead and make your first ice cube maker purchase. Just be sure that your ice maker of choice can produce your favorite variety of ice cube. Ideally, you will want an ice selection that is appropriate for both blending smoothies and for using in drinks such as sodas and cocktails.
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