Sep 01, 2023

9 Reasons to Buy a Countertop Ice Maker

By Emily Farris

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For years, I pulled one of the worst moves a dinner party host can make. And no, I don’t mean I apologized to guests for the state of my house even after I spent all day dusting and decluttering (though I definitely did and still do that). I mean I would text someone who was already en route and ask them to pick up a bag of ice.

I realize nobody wants to get that text, and I swear my requests were never premeditated. If I’d considered the fact that we might not have enough ice for a party ahead of time—because my husband used it all to fill a beer cooler or because one of us didn’t push the ice drawer back into its place in just the right way earlier in the day—I would have picked up a bag or two myself. But when I was panic-cleaning for parties, the terrible ice maker that’s built into my freezer was the last place I thought to look.

It was only when I’d step into the kitchen to make a welcome cocktail that I would notice we were low on (or completely out of) ice and send a desperate text. This scene played out so often that before sending the dreaded message, I would search my texts for “ice” just to make sure I wasn’t asking the same person twice.

But none of that is an issue any more because now we have a countertop ice maker and we always have enough ice for ourselves and our guests. And because my machine happens to be a pellet ice maker, I’ve gone from being ice-poor to being Emily With the Good Ice.

Whether you want to be a more prepared party host, or you simply need to up your at-home ice game, here are nine really good reasons to buy a countertop ice maker for your kitchen.

See above.

Countertop ice makers make ice at an alarmingly fast rate. Many will churn out the first cubes (or nuggets) in less than 10 minutes. Ice makers that are built into a freezer, on the other hand, can take days to completely fill the built-in bin. Even freezing water in ice trays takes a few hours at the very least. Having a machine that works so fast means that in addition to always having enough ice for parties, you also always have enough for filling a cooler, making an ice bath for blanching green beans, and anything else. (And if you’re willing to get a little spendy, you can have a constant supply of the good ice.)

No matter the kind of ice maker you get—cube, pellet, or bullet—they all work so quickly, the ice they produce isn’t rock hard like what you get from letting water freeze in a mold overnight. And that’s a good thing! Think about how nice it is to chomp on traditional ice cubes that have been hanging out in a glass of water for a while. Well, even the cheaper bullet ice makers turn out that kind of softer, satisfyingly chewable ice.

Did you know that ice you store in your freezer can absorb food smells from the freezer and the fridge? If you completely empty out your freezer’s ice receptacle every day, never put hot or uncovered food in the fridge or freezer, and stay on top of deep cleaning, this might not be an issue—though for most people, it probably is (even if you don’t realize it). But with a countertop ice maker, you never have to worry about stinky ice because fresh water goes right into a self-contained machine that constantly churns out not-smelly ice.

If you happen to be particular about your ice, you can choose a machine that gives you the size, shape, and clarity you want. For example, if you want perfectly clear cubes the Luma Comfort Clear Ice Maker is the way to go. And if nothing but soft, chewy pellet ice will do, the GE Profile Opal Nugget Ice Maker will likely be the best thing you buy all year. And hey, if you just want ice and you want it quickly, an affordable bullet ice maker might be right for you.

Unlike your freezer’s ice maker, a countertop ice maker doesn’t require any plumbing—unless you count the water that comes from your sink tap. These machines are easy to fill with tap water (preferably filtered) or bottled water if you’re on the go.

Speaking of being on the go, while a good auxiliary ice maker will probably live on your counter most of the time, you can absolutely tote it around town too. Sure, these machines are a little bulky and anything with a compressor needs to be transported upright and then rested for at least an hour after being moved. But if you want to take your ice maker over to a friend’s house or into the office, it’s as easy as unplugging the machine and draining the water via a small plug or tube. And because they’re so portable, you can tuck your ice maker away when you’re not using it (though you’ll probably love it so much it will earn a permanent spot on the counter).

If you would have asked me a year ago if I had room on my counter for an ice maker, I would have told you “absolutely not!” But after a few weeks of testing multiple models at home, I decided I couldn’t live without the nonstop access to perfectly chewy pellet ice that the GE Profile Opal Nugget Ice Maker provided. The problem was I didn’t really have room for it—until I realized I could shrink my dish-drying area into something more compact and more functional. All of a sudden I had the 14 inches I needed for my ice maker, conveniently located by the sink.

If, for whatever reason, you can’t or don’t want to give an ice maker a semipermanent home on your counter, you can store it in a closet or a shelf until you need it. And because these machines make ice so quickly, you can pull your ice maker out the day of your next dinner party and have enough ice for everybody.