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How do you squeeze a lemon if you don’t have a lemon squeezer?
Lemons are a versatile citrus fruit that can add flavor and acidity to a variety of dishes and beverages. Whether you’re making lemonade, seasoning fish or chicken, or garnishing a cocktail, fresh lemon juice is often called for in recipes. But if you don’t have a lemon squeezer handy, how can you easily extract the juice?
Never fear – there are actually many simple methods and common household items that work great for squeezing lemons! Keep reading to learn several easy lemon squeezing hacks using things you likely already have at home.
Why Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice Makes a Difference
Before getting into the squeezing methods, let’s look at why it’s worth the small effort to freshly squeeze lemons instead of using bottled juice:
- More flavor – Freshly squeezed lemon juice tastes better and has a more intense, bright flavor than commercially bottled juice.
- More nutrients – Lemons begin losing vitamin C and antioxidants immediately after being squeezed. Bottled lemon juice can sit on shelves for months before being purchased, meaning less nutrients make it into your food or drink.
- No preservatives – Bottled lemon juice contains preservatives and additives to prolong its shelf life. Fresh squeezing avoids these unnecessary ingredients.
- Versatility – Freshly squeezed juice allows you to control the quantity and strength, whether you need a teaspoon or a cup of juice.
- Cost savings – Buying whole lemons and squeezing only what you need is typically less expensive than purchasing bottles of juice.
Now let’s look at some of the best methods for squeezing lemons without a dedicated citrus press.
The classic, low-tech way to get lemon juice is by hand squeezing. Here are some tips for maximizing juice extraction by hand:
- Roll the lemon vigorously on the countertop or between your palm and the counter, applying firm pressure. This softens the lemon and breaks down some of the pulp inside, making it easier to juice.
- Cut the lemon in half crosswise and pick out any visible seeds with the tip of a knife.
- Grip the lemon half firmly in one hand and hold it over a bowl. Squeeze with steady, even pressure, being careful not to crush the peel.
- Turn the lemon half periodically in your hand as you squeeze to continually reposition the pulp and expose new juice pockets.
- When your hand gets tired, use your other hand to squeeze out the remaining juice.
- You can also place the cut side of the lemon half against your palm and press your hands together to squeeze out the juice.
Hand squeezing takes a bit of time and effort, but can produce adequate juice for recipes requiring only a small quantity of lemon juice. For larger amounts, read on for some other household items that make lemon squeezing faster and easier.
Spoon or Ladle
A basic spoon or ladle provides a little mechanical advantage for lemon squeezing. Try this method:
- Prep the lemon as described above, cutting it in half and removing seeds.
- Hold the lemon half cut-side down over a bowl and place the back of a spoon or ladle against the flesh of the fruit.
- Press the back of the spoon into the lemon half, keeping it at an angle. The curved shape traps juice and helps direct it into the bowl.
- Continue repositioning the spoon and pressing to extract as much juice as possible.
This works best with a larger spoon or ladle with a deep bowl. The curvature concentrates the pressure and acts almost like a mini juicer. Sturdy metal spoons work better than flimsy plastic or wooden spoons.
For those with some arm strength, grabbing a rolling pin can be an effective lemon squeezing method. Here’s how to try it:
- Place the lemon half cut-side down on a clean, sturdy surface like a countertop or cutting board.
- Roll a rolling pin over the lemon half several times, applying downward pressure. This crushes and squeezes the lemon to release the juice.
- Periodically lift the rolling pin and move the lemon half around to expose more juice pockets.
- You can catch the juice in a bowl held below the lemon.
The solid, heavy construction of a wooden rolling pin works very well for this juicing hack. Acrylic or metal rolling pins can also be used.
For small lemon squeezing needs, a garlic press provides a quick and easy solution. Here’s how it works:
- Cut the lemon half to fit into the garlic press opening. Leave the peel on for this method.
- Place the lemon half face down in the press.
- Squeeze the handles together, pressing the lemon through the holes in the bottom of the press.
- Catch the juice in a small bowl or cup below.
Garlic pressers are designed to efficiently squash garlic cloves, but their mechanism also does a great job juicing lemon halves. The ribbed interior pushes out the juice while the little holes strain and separate seeds and pulp.
A reamer is a small handheld juicer popular for extracting juice from citrus fruits. It consists of a fluted metal cone attached to a handle. Here is how to use one:
- Cut the lemon half to fit the cone and hold it cut-side down over a glass or bowl.
- Press the metal tip of the reamer into the center of the lemon half and twist back and forth while applying downward pressure.
- The reamer will bore into the lemon and the fluted cone will strain and direct juice out the bottom.
- Rotate and move the reamer around to extract as much juice as possible.
Reamers provide much more juice compared to hand squeezing and their small size makes them perfect for travel or squeezing directly into a glass.
Manual citrus juicers are a very affordable and handy kitchen tool perfect for lemons and other citrus. They operate in two main ways:
- Lever-press juicers: Place lemon half on the reamer cone and lower the lever arm to press down and squeeze out juice.
- Handheld juicers: Grip textured cone in one hand and press onto lemon half to twist and juice.
Both types are quite efficient and make it easy to extract juice from multiple lemons. The enclosed design contains mess and strainers separate out seeds and pulp. Countertop lever-press juicers are especially fast and easy for lots of lemons.
Using a full-sized electric juicer is overkill for a lemon or two, but can be a lifesaver if you need a large quantity of fresh lemon juice. Here’s how electric juicers work for lemons:
- Cut the lemon into chunks that will fit into the juicer feed tube.
- Pass the lemon pieces through the feed tube while juicer is running.
- A fast spinning mechanism shreds the lemon and strains the juice out into the pitcher.
- The adjustable strainer allows control over how much pulp ends up in the juice.
Centrifugal and masticating juicers make quick work of large batches of lemons. The separated juice lasts a few days refrigerated.
Microwave Lemon Juicing
An unusual hack for hot lemon juice involves microwaving the lemons briefly to rupture the cells and make squeezing easier. Here’s the microwave method:
- Cut the lemon(s) in half and place cut-side down in a microwave safe bowl.
- Microwave on high for 20 to 30 seconds. The time will vary based on lemon size and microwave wattage.
- Remove the hot lemons carefully with tongs. Heat makes them easier to squeeze by hand or with a tool.
- Take precautions against the hot steam and juice when squeezing.
Microwaving is fast, but this method doesn’t yield as much juice as other extraction techniques. Only use for small lemon squeezing needs.
Improvised DIY Lemon Squeezers
If you’re in a pinch without any proper kitchen tools, some clever homemade lemon squeezers can be created from common household items:
- Place lemon half in the concave bottom of a clean screwdriver or wrench, then twist and press to squeeze out juice.
- Insert lemon half into a cleaned plunger head from a soap dispenser, then work the plunger to press out juice.
- Improvise a press by placing lemon half between two clean hinges and pressing together.
- Place lemon in the holed tube from a clean lotion pump dispenser, then work the pump to extract juice.
These improvised tools utilize pressure and leverage to imitate the mechanism of a juicer. Feel free to get creative with whatever is around the house!
Tips for Getting the Most Juice Out of Lemons
To maximize the quantity of juice yielded from lemons when using any squeezing method, here are some useful tips:
- Roll lemons vigorously before cutting to soften pulp and release more juice.
- Microwave lemons briefly to rupture cells and make juice extraction easier.
- Cut lemons in half before squeezing to expose more surface area.
- Remove seeds first so they don’t clog up the juicing tool.
- Squeeze lemons at room temperature – chilling makes them stiff and hard to press.
- Press and twist the juicing tool in different directions while squeezing to continually expose new juice pockets.
- After main squeezing, press spent lemon halves against the side of a glass to eke out remaining drops of juice.
Proper storage also helps maximize how much juice you get from lemons. Keep whole, uncut lemons at cool room temperature up to one week. For longer storage, refrigerate them. Freshly squeezed lemon juice lasts in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.
Comparison of Lemon Squeezing Methods
To summarize the various lemon squeezing methods, here is a comparison of their key attributes:
|Method||Prep Needed||Juice Quantity||Speed||Difficulty|
|Hand Squeeze||Cut lemon||Small amounts||Slow||Easy|
|Spoon or Ladle||Cut lemon||Medium amounts||Moderate||Easy|
|Rolling Pin||Cut lemon||Large amounts||Fast||Moderately difficult|
|Garlic Press||Cut to size||Small amounts||Fast||Easy|
|Reamer||Cut to size||Medium amounts||Fast||Easy|
|Citrus Juicer||Cut lemon||Medium to large amounts||Fast||Easy|
|Electric Juicer||Cut lemon||Large quantities||Very fast||Easy|
|Microwave||Cut lemon||Small amounts||Fast||Moderately difficult|
|Improvised Tools||Varies||Small to medium||Moderate||Moderately difficult|
With a bit of creativity and the use of common household items, there are many simple methods for squeezing lemons even if you don’t have an actual lemon squeezer. From the basic hand squeeze to improvised DIY juicers, you can easily obtain fresh lemon juice to enhance food and drinks.
The type and quantity of lemons you need to juice will determine which technique works best. But now you know you have options beyond running out and buying a specialized citrus press. So next time a recipe calls for fresh lemon juice, don’t hesitate to grab a lemon and give one of these no-squeezer juicing hacks a try!