These simple tips will help you zest and juice lemons, whether you have special tools or not!
Lemon treats are among my favorites. And judging by the popularity of some recipes here on BoB, they’re a favorite for many of you, too! I love baking with lemon year-round, from a refreshing summer dessert to a winter treat with some zing.
Luckily, it’s quite simple and quick to get both zest and juice from lemons. These tips will help you get the most out of your lemons so you can make something deliciously lemony!
Please note that these tips all apply to the types of lemons commonly found in grocery stores. These are usually Eureka or Lisbon lemons. While there are many other varieties out there, these common ones are the kinds most often used for baking.
How to Choose a Lemon
Pick a lemon that has no blemishes on its peel. A lemon with a pebbly texture usually has a thicker skin and will be easier to zest; however, a lemon with a thinner, smoother skin will usually contain more juice.
Rinse the lemon with water and dry with a soft towel. Some lemons have an artifically-added wax coating, so try a rinse or soak in warm water to remove that if you’re planning to zest the lemon.
How to Zest a Lemon
One of the best tools for zesting a lemon is a small rasp-style grater, or microplane. It consists of several small raised teeth that are rubbed against the lemon peel to remove the zest. Microplanes are my favorite tool for zesting citrus.
There are also channel zesters available that will create ribbons of zest that can be chopped into small pieces. The fine side of a box grater or vegetable peeler can also be used.
If you don’t have any of those tools in your kitchen, you can carefully remove the peel with a paring knife and cut it into small pieces.
Remember that the finer the zest, the stronger the lemon flavor will be. That’s one of the reasons why I prefer using a microplane.
When zesting the lemon, be sure to zest just the peel and not the pith, which is the white layer underneath the peel. It is very bitter, and you definitely don’t want that in your baked goods.
Use the zest as soon as possible after it has been removed, as the flavor will begin to dissipate as soon as it is removed.
How to Juice a Lemon
Juicing a lemon will be easier if the lemon is softened a bit. Simply, roll the lemon between your hand and your countertop for a few seconds to soften it. You can also soften the lemon by heating it in the microwave for about 20-30 seconds. If you’re also zesting the lemon, do this before you zest.
After the lemon has been zested, either cut it in half or in quarters to expose the inside of the lemon.
Lemons can be juiced in many ways. The simplest way is just to squeeze it by hand. There are also several tools for juicing. These range from small handheld juicers to larger electric juicers. I’ve had a few of these over the years, but I usually just default to juicing by hand.
In the category of “things I shouldn’t have to say, but I will anyway,” take care to remove any seeds from the juice before using.
How to Store Lemon Juice
Fresh lemon juice can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.
If you have a good bit of excess lemon juice, it can be placed in ice trays and frozen for up to 3 months. Just thaw at room temperature or give it a few seconds in the microwave before using. That’s a great way to have fresh lemon juice whenever you need it!
How Much Zest and Juice in a Lemon
A medium-sized lemon will yield approximately 1 tablespoon of zest and 3-4 tablespoons of juice.
You may get a little more or less depending on the lemons you’re using and your own juicing techniques. Your technique, tools, and diligence will have an affect, too. But you can use this estimate when you’re trying to figure out how many lemons you need for a recipe that needs zest and/or juice.
How to Zest and Juice Limes and Oranges
These same techniques can be used when juicing limes and oranges. Of course, their sizes are different from lemons, so you’ll get a different yield.
A medium lime will yield about 2 teaspoons of zest and 2 tablespoons of juice. A medium orange will yield about 2 tablespoons of zest and 1/4 cup of juice.
Recipes Made with Fresh Lemon Zest and Juice
- Lemon Bundt Cake
- Mini Lemon Pound Cakes
- Lemon Bread
- No-Bake Lemon Cheesecakes
- Lemon Icebox Pie
- Lemon Cream Cake
- Lemon Almond Crumb Bars
- Lemon Sheet Cake
Even small amounts of fresh lemon juice and zest can add significant flavor to baked goods. In just a matter of minutes, you can have fresh juice and zest to use in your baking recipes.
Whether you like a little hint of lemon or prefer a mouth-puckering amount, it’s good to brush up on your techniques for zesting and juicing lemons.
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