Great Garnish (And Ice) With Alex Kratena of the Artesian Bar in London
Four Desserts in One Drink

Stovetop Ice Balls: A First Attempt

Now that we know one way to make crystal clear ice, what are we gonna do with it?

One thing I've wanted to attempt is to make ice balls. These can be carved by hand, but that's a lot of work. The big copper ice ball makers make lovely ice balls, but these cost a ton of money. I've been trying to think of a new solution.

When they send bars the copper ice ball makers, they send an ice cube tray that makes a big enough cube to use in it. Unfortunately that tray produces cubes that are cloudy in the center, for reasons described earlier on this site.

I am a big enough nerd that I have brought my own clear ice to a bar that had the ice ball maker to produce a clear ball. It was lovely.

Clear ice ball maker

So I made a first attempt at another way of creating ice balls with conventional equipment: The Stovetop Ice Ball Method.

Don't get too excited: So far it doesn't work.

The theory is that I'll start with a clear block of ice and melt it into a heated metal bowl, creating a half-sphere. Then I'll turn it over and make another half sphere joining that one to form a complete sphere.

I bought a bowl at Ikea that's probably four inches in diameter - too big for a glass but fine for an experiment. I sat the block of ice on it, and set the bowl on the stove burner.


Click the link below (if you see one) to keep reading.

I turned on the burner to heat the bowl so that the ice melted into it.


But as you can see in the next picture, it didn't quite melt evenly. The first problem with this system is that it needs some sort of holder to make keep the ice stable above the bowl.

Tilted melt_tn

The second problem is that as the ice is melting, it gets water everywhere. A couple of times it extinguished the burner and the pilot light, so I had to relight it.

But finally, I had it melted as much as it was going to melt.

Outside bowl_tn

As you can see it's not a perfect half-sphere. This is because of a third problem: the melting ice inside the bowl fills up the bowl. This water then gets hot and melts the ice into a flat-ish shape.

It was then easy to pick off the sides of this half-sphere with an ice pick.

Cutting apart_tn



And the final ice is more the shape of a silicone breast implant than a half-sphere.

Also note that in a real attempt I'd need an ice block twice as tall as this one so that I could turn it over and melt down the other half.

Potential Solutions and Further Experiments

1. Drill a hole in the bottom of the bowl so that the melting water inside it has somewhere to go.

2. Perhaps I can do this more slowly with less heat. This will more mimic the copper ice ball maker that is only a little warm and mostly uses conductivity and pressure to make its spheres. With an only slightly warm bowl I may not have the problems with the flattened sphere as the water collected at the bottom may not melt the ice so much.

3. I may need to devise a method for collecting water so that it doesn't extinguish the burner. The copper ice ball maker has a collection tray at the bottom. I could use a metal pan or larger bowl.

4. Have any other ideas?

An index of all of the ice experiments on Alcademics can be found here.