Serious chefs understand the importance of freshly squeezed citrus juice. It can be used in marinades and vinaigrettes, as well as cookies, tarts, and sorbets. But where do you get the juice? I found that I unconsciously obey a “quartercup rule” when it comes to juicing. If I just need a quarter of a cup, I squeeze the fruit by hand; if I need more, I depend on technology. I looked at some of the most commonly used products for extracting citrus juice. Although a citrus juicer may cost anything from $500 to $3,000 (check the Frontgate catalog if you don’t believe me), I’ve restricted my search to machines that cost $125 or less—in most cases, far less.
Try a hand-held reamer for full power. A handle is fixed to a ridged cone with a tapered tip on hand-held reamers. To remove the juice, press the tip into the flesh of a halved citrus fruit and twist. Norman van Aken, the chef and coowner of Norman’s in Miami, suggests using a reamer to see if you’re breaking into the rind. If the juicer cuts into the flesh, it releases potent oils that give the juice a more tangy—some may say bitter—flavor. Reamers are inexpensive (less than $10), convenient to store, and clean.
With a saucer and a strainer, you’ve got yourself a classic Citrus Juicers. This is the same juicer that your grandmother had. To extract the juice, the citrus half is pressed onto the cone and turned by hand. When Sunkist introduced its “Drink an Orange” campaign in 1916, it popularized this kitchen gadget. The company started manufacturing its own line of glass reamers as part of its promotion. These reamer-saucers are now available in a variety of materials, including plastic, ceramic, glass, and metal, and have become a popular kitchen collectible. I like a small metal one that fits in a drawer and can withstand a beating (unfortunately, it’s too small for a grapefruit).
Metal hand presses are, well, easy. I recalled Zarela Martinez, the chef-owner of Zarela’s in New York City, telling me how these are among her favorite kitchen tools when I saw them in a Williams-Sonoma catalog. There’s a smaller green one for limes and a bigger yellow one for lemons, as you would imagine. I fell in love with the green press as I squeezed limes. In the perforated cap, position half of a lime, cut side down. Squeeze the cone onto the lime’s skin side by pressing the handles together. As the press inverts the lime, every drop of juice is squeezed out with a satisfying.
PDQ, countertop presses have a lot of psi. A citrus half is subjected to hundreds of pounds of downward pressure thanks to smooth rack-and-pinion gearing operated by a lever or handle. Most of these presses, including the OrangeX and the Chef’s Juicer, which both cost about $100, stand reasonably tall and are ideally suited to kitchens with plenty of counter space. The Mighty OJ, by Metrokane, is the only short one I’ve come across. It stands about eight inches tall, has a charming rounded shape, and is available in a variety of colors for about $50. (When purchasing juicers, shop around: prices for the same model vary greatly between catalogs, discount stores, and the Internet.)
What I like best about all of these countertop juicers is that you can juice a lot of fruit easily without having to listen to an irritating electric motor whirr. They will, however, break the fruit if you go too far with the handle, and they do take some effort. I could feel my triceps burning after juicing a cup of lemon juice with the OrangeX. And risk lurks: the heavy top on both the Mighty OJ and the OrangeX will fall on your fingers if you leave it up; I’ve experienced this when cleaning the Mighty OJ, and it hurts. I’d consider the Chef’s Juicer for that purpose alone, as it has a spring-action handle with a swing-back mechanism that prevents the press from dropping on careless fingers. Electric juicers are the quickest and most comfortable to use. If you drink a lot of juice, an electric juicer may be the way to go. All of the electric models I tested work in exactly the same way: you press a citrus half into a reamer, but instead of turning the fruit yourself, the reamer turns automatically.