How to Press a Lemon

Duh, sounds obvious doesn’t it? Apparently not. Having studied the throngs of people passing through the Zen River kitchen who have squeezed lemons during kitchen prep I began to wonder why one lemon produces more juice than another in spite of them being the same size and from the same batch? After paying attention I noticed that lemons squeezed hard and fast collected a lot of unpressed pulp in the sieve but didn’t give much juice. So I started to work on how things could be improved, which included a tip from a visiting cook who recommended to warm the lemons first.

Note that this refers to the traditional type of lemon squeezer rather than the newer hand-held press designs, and if the lemons are old then unfortunately not much else can be done…


1 lemon
1 traditional lemon press/squeezer 


  • Cover the lemon with hot, not boiling, water and let it warm up for a few minutes.
  • Dry the lemon.
  • With gentle pressure, roll the lemon back and forth with the palm of your hand on a flat surface. (If you need lemon zest, now would be a good time to grate it. If you want to keep it for later, leave it to dry out either over the radiator, or in a warm sunny spot.)
  • Cut the lemon in half width-wise. (Trust me, I’ve seen it done the other way which turns out to be problematic.)
  • Take your lemon squeezer.
  • Pick up half the lemon and aim the central core of the lemon with the tip of the squeezer. Press and gently turn until the core of the lemon gives way and starts to grip the squeezer head.
  • Using the least amount of pressure necessary, gently twist the lemon with short back and forth movements against the squeezer. As the squeezer head goes deeper into the lemon and the juice starts to drain out, gradually increase the pressure, constantly twisting back and forth until the lemon shell feels empty.
  • Lastly, press the top of the lemon shell with the palm of your hand against the squeezer head and rotate the shell in a fast clockwise/anticlockwise direction so that any remaining juice falls out. (You might have to remove the small sharp stem from one of the lemon halves if it digs into your hand.)
  • If you’ve got good lemons, with any luck there will be a bit more juice than usual in the collecting jug!

Tip: When you’ve poured off the juice, pour a little water through the squeezer, transfer into a glass and treat yourself to some lemon water.

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