I resisted the urge to buy a handheld lemon squeezer for a long time. Stubbornly I cut my lemons and limes in half and used a fork to help squeeze out all the juices. This way works just as well, I reasoned, ignoring the sting of citrus juice on my fingers.
Why did I hold out for so long? I’m not really sure. Maybe I figured the lemon squeezer was an unnecessary shortcut, just another gadget to clutter up my kitchen drawer. Then, in one day, everything changed.
I was working as a chef and needed to squeeze an entire case of lemons for a big party. I used my fork technique, my prep cook used a citrus squeezer. He finished his case in less than half the time it took me to accomplish the task by hand. Fully schooled, I hopped on Amazon and bought my own citrus squeezer. I was (and am!) a total convert.
I couldn't help but wonder if the lemon squeezer's appeal lies solely in its convenience, or if the device actually yields better lemon juice than the alternative. So I picked up Zulay Kitchen Premium Quality Metal Lemon Lime Squeezer ($16.99 on Amazon) and put it to the test in order to find out. I squeezed dozens of lemons, limes, and oranges in my quest for the truth.
You might think of the reamer-style citrus juicer when you think of a lemon squeezer—that's the one where you impale citrus on a spike and twist until all the juice (and pulp) runs into the container below. These can be great for making fresh-squeezed orange juice, but they're not the ones we're reviewing today. We're talking about the one-handed, hand-held squeezer. Although it does work for orange, it makes quick work at juicing lemons and limes.
The lemon squeezer has a low enough profile that it's easy enough to toss into your gadget drawer. It's super simple to use, too. After you cut the lemon in half, place it cut-side down between the two metal pieces. Apply a little pressure and the juices will flow through the holes while the seeds and pulp stay put. There’s no need to get any citrus juices (or oils) on your hands, and there’s very little technique required to pull it off.
The Zulay Kitchen model is nice because it's built for two sizes—small citrus like limes go in the green bowl, and larger citrus like lemons or oranges are a perfect fit for the yellow bowl.
The classic way to squeeze citrus is with your bare hands. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze away. I often insert a fork into the middle of the lemon as an assist. It makes it easier to squish the lemon half while providing a lever to rock back and forth, really coaxing out all those juices.
The drawback: juicing citrus by hand not only gets citric acid into all the little cuts on your hand (oh, and it stings!), but it also exposes your hands to citrus oils. Personally, I like the smell of lemons on my hands, but the odor is pretty hard to remove with soap and will probably linger for the rest of the day. Plus, it's sticky.
I preferred the handheld lemon squeezer, which was no surprise. With one gentle squeeze, the juices flowed through the holes. While a small amount of pulp did get through (as well as some of the smaller seeds), there was significantly less to sift out than when I used the hand squeezing method. It took less than 30 seconds to completely juice each lemon and lime, and after squeezing one lemon, lime, and orange, I had a good quarter cup more liquid from the lemon squeezer.
Squeezing by hand took a little bit longer (about 45 seconds each), and I definitely made a bit of a mess on the countertop. My hands were covered in citrus oils and liquid, and all the seeds fell into the juice as I squeezed. Basically, it works and there's nothing wrong with hand squeezing if you're okay with a bit of a sticky, less productive mess.
The gadget was the clear winner here. You can't argue with the results: it's quicker, easier, and creates less of a messy. Not only did it yield significantly more juice than hand squeezing, but the juice was also more fragrant. The gadget squeezed out citrus oils from the peels, adding them to the juice and improving the flavor of anything I made with it.
Ultimately, it's worth having around, even though you can make do without it.
Prices are accurate at the time of publication, but may change over time.