Juicing a lemon or lime isn't exactly difficult, but if you want to get the most out of your citrus fruit — and your money — here are a few kitchen tricks to make sure you don't waste any of it.
Title photo by Mattie B.
Roll Lemons and Limes On the Counter Before Slicing
This is a classic — and one we've covered before — but it's an important tip in your juicing toolkit. Rolling the citrus fruit on a firm counter top before trying to juice it will break the membranes around the capsules in the fruit's flesh that hold all of the juice. If you're going to squeeze through your hands, or you don't have any other tools aside from a knife, this is the fastest way to go. Photo by Bobbi Bowers.
Microwave Citrus for a Few Seconds Before Juicing
While this trick may be old news to some, I first saw it while watching Jacques Pepin's show, Fast Food My Way. He suggests microwaving a lemon for about 10 seconds before juicing, and the results looked convincing. The process is similar to rolling the fruit, but because microwaves pass all the way through the fruit and excite the water molecules in the flesh, you get a similar effect without having to roll the fruit around first. The explanations for why this works vary.
One theory is that the water molecules, now energetic after being hit with microwaves, have so much momentum that they rupture the membranes around the capsules that hold the juice, making the fruit essentially a ball of juice when you cut it. Another suggestion is that the heat and the excited water molecules make the membranes and the skin of the fruit softer and easier to rupture when you slice it open and start squeezing. We'd put our money on the latter.
Freeze Your Citrus First, Then Microwave It
The rationale behind this is that as the water freezes and turns into ice, it will expand and break those membranes — or at least make them fragile enough that when you microwave the fruit later they'll break more easily, leading to the "ball of juice covered in zest" that's super-easy to squeeze when you cut it open. This method may work, but it takes so much time to freeze a lemon all the way through, then microwave it for 30-60 seconds so it's soft enough to cut and squeeze, that it may be impractical if you get the sudden urge to make a cocktail one night. Still, your fruit won't spoil in the freezer, and you do get a lot of juice from this method with little manual effort.
Just Buy A Juicer
OK, tricks and hacks are great, but there's a point where you just have to stop and get the right tool for the job. Slice your fruit in half, put it in the juicer, squeeze and call it a day. If you do a lot of juicing — and we mean a lot of juicing — you may want to consider a standing juicer. But they're expensive and you'd have to be really dedicated to juice to keep a uni-tasker like that in your kitchen. Photo by Michael Coté.
Note that none of these methods magically give you more juice than you would otherwise get from a citrus fruit if you beat the crap out of it — the amount of total juice doesn't change based on how you get it out, but these tricks will keep you from throwing away a half lemon that still has plenty of juice in it because it was too difficult or time-consuming to squeeze out.
Do you have a favourite kitchen trick to get the most juice out of a citrus fruit that we missed? Any better explanations for the way the above methods work? Let's hear it in the comments below.