For the beginner cook, learning all the kitchen basics takes time and practice. For those getting started, I'm going to go over the four common ways to manually juice a lemon, the how to and pros/cons of each, PLUS I'll show you an easy trick that helps you get the most juice out of each lemon.
Step 1: Choosing Your Lemons
When choosing your lemons at the market, you want to be on the lookout for those that seem heavy for their size (that means they're full of juice not just a thick rind), have a smooth surface free of major pitting, and are fairly uniform in shape.
When trying to figure out how many lemons you need for a recipe, follow this general rule:
1 medium sized lemon yields approximately 3 tablespoons of juice
Step 2: Wash 'em!
Wash your lemons in cold water just before use.
Step 3: The Trick to Tons of Juice!
No matter which juicing technique you end up using, doing the following trick first will increase the amount of juice you'll get from each lemon.
Place a lemon on a hard surface and roll it back and forth under your hand, while pushing down as hard as you can.
Step 4: Cut Your Lemon in Half
I am a fan of cutting them cross wise (like pictured) but I've read that cutting them in half lengthwise (end to end) can produce more juice. Try both and see which one you like best!
Step 5: Method #1: Classic Citrus Juicer
This is my favorite technique because most classic tabletop manual lemon juicers are designed to separate out the seeds, which eliminates the need for straining the juice afterwards.
Place a lemon half on top of the ridged, pointed dome and twist back and forth while pushing down as hard as you can. Once you remove most of the 'easy' juice, squeeze the sides in harder as you twist to make sure you're getting the last bits of pulp that are clinging to the inside of the rind.
Repeat with more halves until you have the desired amount of juice.
*This tool also works well for juicing limes!
Step 6: Method #2: Citrus Squeezer
The manual lemon squeezer is another great way to go if you don't want to end up with seeds in your juice.
Place a half of a lemon, cut side up, in the bottom half of the squeezer (like pictured). Bring the top half down and squeeze as hard as you can!
Repeat as many times as needed.
*This one's lime friendly as well.
Step 7: Method #3: Citrus Reamer
This is the way I grew up juicing lemons! It's really satisfying and produces a decent amount of juice, but all the seeds make it's way into the juice, making it necessary to use a strainer to remove them.
Grab ahold of the reamer with your dominant hand. Insert the tip of the reamer into the center of one half of a lemon. Twist the reamer while squeezing and pressing the lemon half with your other hand. As you get down to the last layer of pulp, alternate squeezing opposite sides of the lemon half towards each other, pressing hard against the reamer. (while still twisting it)
Strain the juice to remove those rebel seeds. (Or you could use a fork to dig them out if you don't have a strainer.)
*Also lime approved!
Step 8: Method #4: No Tools = Lowest Tech & Most Mess!
This method works well in a pinch, but is the messiest of them all! BOTH hands get covered in juice. But if you find yourself needing to whip up some lemon juice for a tasty cocktail and don't have any of the tools from the previous methods at your disposal, roll up your sleeves and get to work!
First, wash your hands!
Then use a knife to cut an 'X' in the top of a lemon half. Put that half in your dominant hand and SQUEEZE the heck out of it. (or I guess the juice)
Once you're sure you've squeezed out as much juice as possible, use the index finger of your other hand to scrape the pulp that's sticking out of the now flattened lemon half into the bowl.
Strain the juice into a clean container and use the back of a metal spoon to squish the juice out of the remaining pulp.
*I don't like this technique as much for limes as I find the fact that they are smaller, and often less juicy, makes it more difficult to get good results.
Step 9: Keeping It Fresh!
If you end up making more juice than you need and want to keep it for future use, fill an empty ice cube tray and place it in the freezer! Even better, make each ice cube 1 tbsp and then you'll know how much to thaw out for your next recipe!