How to Spot the Best Lemons at the Grocery Store

Not all lemons are created equal.

Published Aug. 20, 2021.

When you’re shopping for lemons, you want to find the one that will get you the most juice. But we’ve all been there: you pick out a good-looking lemon, get home and juice it, and it yields . . .  a miniscule amount.

How on earth can two lemons have different juice contents when they look almost the same? Luckily, we have some tips on how to not only pick the best lemons in the bin, but also how to get the maximum juice yield.

Two of the obvious factors are shape and size. We found that the rounder lemons were juicier than ones that had a more elliptical shape. And unsurprisingly, the bigger the lemon, the more juice it contained.

But while shopping, the best way to get a sense of its juiciness is to squeeze. We found lemons that were squishier contained far more juice than the firmer ones, even when the lemons were almost the same in size, shape, and weight. But why?

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The answer came when we cut the lemons in half. The harder lemons have a thicker pith, which is the white layer of skin between the flesh and the peel. Since it was so thick, that meant there was less room for juice inside.

Now that you have your perfect lemons, how do you maximize the amount of juice you get from them? Here are some of our favorite tips:

  • Roll the lemon vigorously on a hard surface before cutting. This breaks up and softens the rind’s tissues while it also tears the membranes of the juice vesicles, which fills up the inside with juice before you even squeeze.
  • Use a wooden reamer, which digs and tears the lemon to extract the maximum amount of juice. You can also use a regular citrus squeezer, which is easier and faster, and extracts more juice. 
  • If you don’t have either of these and are juicing by hand, use a room-temperature lemon. If the lemon is cold, heat in the microwave until it’s just warm to touch. This will make it easier to squeeze, and in turn, yield more juice.

Photo: Hill Street Studios, Getty Images

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