There’s no denying how much vibrant flavor fresh lemons and limes bring to a recipe, but they’re not cheap! So here are a few tricks that I use to juice a lemon (or lime) to make sure you get every last drop of juice and leave no penny wasted.
1. Choose Ripe Lemons
This step might be the most obvious, but it can also be the most difficult depending on the season or your location. Unripe, rock-hard lemons are not likely to give you much juice no matter what, so spend some time checking for ripeness before you buy.
Give the lemons a light squeeze. A ripe, juicy lemon will feel a little heavy and give just slightly when squeezed. If it’s too soft, it’s probably past its prime. A very light lemon is likely to be dry or have a thick pith and less juice. Looks for a bright yellow peel with a nice sheen. The lemon should never look dull or wrinkled.
2. Roll It
I like to think of this step as the “pre-squeeze.” Before cutting into the lemon, roll it on the countertop with pressure. This crushes some of the membranes in the lemon even before you cut, so the juice is loose and ready to go!
3. Microwave It
Pop the lemon in the microwave for 20-30 seconds (again, before cutting it open). This has a similar effect to rolling the lemon in that it causes some of the membranes inside to burst and release their juice. Plus, a warm lemon is a lot softer and easier to squeeze than a cold lemon.
4. Ream It
After finally cutting the lemon in half and doing an initial squeeze by hand, I like to “ream” the inside of the lemon. While there are special tools made for this purpose, I find that a large spoon works just fine. Simply insert the spoon into the center of the halved lemon and twist. This crushes any remaining membranes and releases every last drop. And then do one last squeeze after reaming.
5. Freeze It
Another option, if you do happen to get some lemons that are really dry, is to freeze them. Freezing breaks almost all of the internal membranes and will leave the lemon very soft and juicy after thawing. Freezing lemons is a great way to save extra lemons that you plan to use for zesting and juicing. You can read my full tutorial on how to freeze citrus here.
Recipes for Fresh Lemons
Now that you’re a pro at squeezing lemons, here are a few awesome recipes to make with all that fresh juice!