The Real Reason Pellet Ice Is So Popular

The latest food craze to sweep the nation is not exactly, well, a food. Pellet ice is more closely related to water, but its flaky, soft texture makes it more pleasant to chew than most foods, despite it being relatively flavorless. 

According to Texas Monthly, actor Matthew McConaughey called it the "best damn ice in the world!" Now, more than ever, pellet ice is becoming easier to find, despite the complicated freezing process that requires a specialized machine. According to McConaughey in Texas Monthly, the Manitowoc QF-400 makes the best ice, but with most models costing upward of $4,000, McConaughey might be the only person who can afford one.

What exactly is it that makes pellet ice so renowned? It's hard to imagine how ice became the obsession of so many foodies and cocktail connoisseurs — that is, until you've tried it. Pellet ice may not sound like much to the inexperienced palette, but as many Sonic devotees know (the fast-food chain was one of the first locations to serve pellet ice in their drinks, per Food52), it's hard to return to the hard uniformity of ice cubes past once you've tried it.

It's all about the crunch

Seeing as ice does not, in fact, have much flavor, it makes sense that this latest food trend champions texture as its most laudable characteristic. According to Eater, pellet ice is positively reviewed less for how it affects the drink it cools and more for the joy of chewing it once the drink is gone. 

Pellet ice is reminiscent of the shaved ice you'd find in a cool summer treat — soft and snowy, it melts in your mouth without breaking your teeth. But unlike shaved ice, pellet ice maintains its small, nugget-like shape despite the ease with which it dissolves on your tongue. According to The New Yorker, pellet ice is made using flakes of ice similar to shaved ice, but those flakes are then molded together to make the pellet shape we all know and love. The result is a defined shape that doesn't harden into the smooth rocks of its ice tray counterpart. Surprisingly, pellet ice doesn't melt as quickly as other forms of ice — as if it wasn't already a few steps ahead of its competitors, this convenient trait makes it truly irreplaceable.