Jun 19, 2023

The 8 Best Nugget Ice Makers for 2023

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If you like chewing on that soft, crunchy ice from fast-food chain Sonic, a nugget ice maker is the perfect addition to your kitchen.

If you ask any ice lover, they’ll tell you that not all ice is created equal. In fact, many people swear that nugget ice—also called pebble ice and Sonic ice—is the best ice because it comes in small chunks that are soft and chewable.

Popularized by Sonic and Chick-Fil-A, this ice is made using an auger system, which compacts ice flakes to achieve a soft, porous cube that takes on the flavor of your drink and (probably) won't crack your teeth when you chew it. Trust us, this is nothing like the ice that's dispensed from your refrigerator—you can even use it to craft an attractive plate of oysters or shrimp since this ice melts more evenly than traditional cubes.

As you might suspect, nugget ice makers aren’t as common as standard ice machines. But if you simply have to have those amazingly chewable cubes in your life, there are plenty of high quality nugget ice makers you can fit right on your kitchen counter.

Nugget ice makers come in the form of countertop models, which are mostly designed for home use, and commercial models, which are designed for restaurants and caterers. However, none of the options are cheap—even small home units cost upwards of $400—but they typically have capacity to create and hold much more ice than your freezer's built-in ice maker. If the prices make you balk, imagine hosting a big party and never having to worry about running out for more ice.

As you compare nugget ice makers, consider how much ice they can make per day, how much ice the machines can hold, whether the ice compartment is refrigerated, and whether it hooks up to a water line or must be filled manually. Further, some machines can dispense nugget ice into your cup, ideal for daily use, while others have an ice bin for scooping, which is better for parties.

There’s a fairly limited selection of nugget ice makers available today, so we did a lot of research to find only the best options for you. We looked at each machine’s ease of use and reliability, as well as the quality of the ice according to reviewers. I’ve personally tested the first-generation GE Opal nugget ice maker, which has since been updated to the GE Opal 2.0, so I took my own experience into account. We corralled a variety of products at different price points that suit common applications, including home, office, and commercial use.

Looking for more handy appliances? Check out out stories on the best electric stoves, blenders, and toaster ovens.

The GE Profile Opal 2.0 is the next-gen version of the lauded Opal (below) and it comes with several upgrades, including Wi-Fi connectivity that lets you control the machine from anywhere.

The appliance has a streamlined design that can make up to 24 pounds of ice per day, and it has a smaller footprint than the previous edition since its water reservoir is integrated into the bottom of the unit.

This ice maker starts churning out ice around 20 minutes after starting up, and for those with hard water, there’s an ice filtration system available for the lower water reservoir.

Because of the complex mechanisms required to make nugget ice, these ice makers are fairly expensive, which makes this inexpensive model from Euhomy such a great value. The machine has a compact design that fits on your countertop and it produces up to 26 pounds of ice per day.

Your first cubes of nugget ice will be ready in around 18 minutes, and as the ice melts in the non-refrigerated bin, the water is funneled back into the reservoir to be remade into ice again.

Some nugget ice makers can take up to 30 minutes to start producing ice after they’re turned on, but this ice maker has its first pellets ready in as few as six minutes. Yes, you read that right—the thing that humans used to pillage from frozen lakes and store in special bunkers can now be made in six minutes, right on your kitchen counter.

This model produces up to 26 pounds of ice per day and its ice bin, which has a see-through top, comes with a scoop to efficiently remove ice cubes when necessary. The machine even has an exhaust-cooling function and runs relatively quiet, so ice can be produced in the middle of the night for your favorite cold drinks in the morning.

Never run out of ice again thanks to this rapid ice maker. This countertop machine produces one pound of ice per hour and can hold up to three pounds of ice at time. That means you can get up to 24 pounds of crunchy ice per day.

The machine makes the first batch of ice within 15 minutes of turning it on, so you'll never have to worry about waiting hours for ice to freeze.

Many pellet ice makers require you to scoop the nuggets out of an ice bin, but the KBice nugget ice maker has a built-in dispenser that drops it right into your glass, making it ideal for busy households or office break rooms.

The machine can produce around 30 pounds of ice per day, producing its first nuggets as quickly as 30 minutes after turning it on. The downside is the limited, one-pound storage capacity, but that won't be a problem if you're using high volumes of ice all day long. The KBice Maker requires distilled or purified water for best results and it has a self-cleaning function for easy maintenance.

If you need a serious amount of nugget ice daily—up to 44 pounds, to be exact—this compact Frigidaire model can keep up. It delivers serious bang for your buck, priced at $340 at the time of writing. It has a stainless steel exterior, a front control panel, and a clear top for a polished look. It also produces ice in about 15 minutes and holds up to three pounds at a time.

This attractive nugget ice maker from NewAir features an all-black exterior and purple LEDs that are easy on the eyes at night. It has a relatively small footprint considering it generates an impressive 44 pounds of ice per day. You might not be able to use all that ice, though, because the storage capacity is less than competitors at 1.5 pounds. Other highlights include an easy-access tip-out door, a self-cleaning function, and a removable ice drawer.

Don’t want to sacrifice valuable counter space for an ice maker? The Whirlpool freestanding ice maker is designed to be installed into a kitchen cabinet for a seamless appearance. This machine can make up to 29 pounds of ice per day and its bin holds 25 pounds of ice.

This machine can be permanently installed freestanding or under a cabinet in your kitchen, but the water pump—which costs several hundred dollars—and filter are sold separately, making it an extremely expensive option. An interior LED light turns on when you open the door and the electronic touch controls manage the water filter.

Camryn Rabideau is a freelance writer and product reviewer specializing in home, kitchen, and pet products. In her four years as a product tester, she's tested hundreds of items firsthand, and her work appears in publications such as Forbes, USA Today, The Spruce, Food52, and more.

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Best OverallBest Value: Fastest: Best for Parties: Best Dispensing Option:Looking for more handy appliances? Check out out stories on the best electric stoves, blenders, and toaster ovens.