It's amazing how many gadgets there are that are designed specifically for extracting juice from citrus. You'd think we'd have it figured out by now.
Apparently not, because in short order I received three citrus tools with different functions and features.
Lemon Spray, Anyone?
How many times have you looked at a lemon and thought, "Gee, I wish I could spray lemon juice directly from that lemon"? Yeah, probably not.
But wouldn't it be handy if you could? I mean, think about it: you slice a lemon and squeeze it and you get dribbles and drops. What if you wanted a thin layer of juice? Would you brush it on? Or would you pour the liquid into a spray bottle, and then spritz it? That sounds like a lot of trouble. If only there were a better way.
The Stem ($4.99) from Quirky can help you with your citrus-spraying needs. You insert the pump-spray stem into the citrus, then pump the top to spray juice. No need for all that strenuous cutting and squeezing.
It actually works pretty well. To get the most juice out of the lemon, roll the lemon around on the counter before you insert the Stem, and squeeze and massage the lemon a bit when you're not getting as much spray. If you don't use all the juice, you can leave the Stem in the lemon when you refrigerate it. Just make sure the Stem is upright, or the juice will leak out.
It takes a couple lemons worth of practice before you figure out how much to massage the lemon before spritzing. If you massage too much, juice leaks out around the stem. Surprisingly, this gadget is pretty efficient about getting the juice out. After I'd spritzed as much as I wanted to, I cut the lemon in half and squeezed, and there wasn't a whole lot of juice left.
I have a similar device that adds a pour spout to a lemon, and that works really well when I want a drizzle of juice. Being able to spray the juice is even cooler in a geeky sort of way. I used it to spray lemon juice onto fish before I grilled it, and it added an even layer of juice without making the fish too lemony.
Is this a gadget everyone needs? Probably not. But if you have one sitting around in your gadget drawer, I'll bet you'd find times when you'll use it. And then suddenly you'll be spraying lemon, lime, and orange juice on everything, just because it's geeky gadgety cool.
But what if you don't want to spray?
The Fresh Force Lime Juicer ($19.99) by Chef'n is similar to the now-familiar hinged squeeze-type juicers. You put the fruit into the juicer with the cut-side down, and squeeze. Juice comes out of the bottom. It's an incredibly simple idea and it works amazingly well.
The clue to the difference between this juicer and the standard hinged ones is in the name—it's about the force. This gadget has a ratchety-gear sort of thing that makes it easier to apply force to the fruit. It's a great idea, and it does make squeezing easier. Squeezing juice from one piece of citrus isn't incredibly strenuous, but if you're squeezing a lot of them it's nice to have the job made a little easier. And since you can apply that extra force, chances are that you're going to get more juice out of the fruit.
The other big difference between this squeezer and the ones I have is that mine are made from painted metal. On one of mine, the paint has chipped and on the other two, the paint is discolored. This one is made from a heavy-duty plastic and plated metal, so it seems it will be more durable and stain-resistant.
This juicer comes in three difference sizes: for limes, lemons, and oranges—or more accurately, for small, medium, and large citrus. Will I replace old squeezers with these? Probably. Maybe not immediately, but I will replace them eventually and I think the ease of squeeze makes this a better alternative.
New Twist on Old School
The JuiceLab by BeaterBlade ($17.95) combines an old-style reamer with a convenient way to measure the juice as you go. It's actually a pretty good idea for those times when you need to measure citrus juice rather than squeeze it on to taste.
When I saw the first photo of this, I thought it was a cheap gimmick, but it's actually well-made and sturdy. The base has a rubber-like ring on the bottom that keeps it from sliding around, and the base is wide enough to keep it from tilting while you're mashing the fruit on the reamer.
The container works to measure the juice, and you can store the extra as well—there's a plug that fits it securely. It measures up to 5/8 cup, but stores a little less because of the plug. It has markings for ounces, milliliters, and fractions of a cup, measured in eighths.
I thought it was a little odd that smaller increments weren't marked, and having ounce measures and eighths of a cup was redundant. When I first used it, I was looking for tablespoon measures, but once I realized there weren't any, it was easy enough to eyeball half of the ounce markings.
If I could ask for one improvement—besides those tablespoon marks—it would be to make the measurements easier to read. The marking are raised, but they aren't colored at all, so it took me a while to figure out what I was looking at. Now that I know I'm looking at ounces, I don't really need to read the numbers—they're far enough apart, and there are only five to count on my fingers.
So there we go: three different citrus tools, three different purposes. None of them are the perfect solution for every citrus problem, but they've all got their uses.
About the author: Resident yeast whisperer and bread baking columnist Donna Currie also has a serious gadget habit. When her father-in-law heard about this column, he upgraded the nickname for her kitchen from "gadget world" to "gadget heaven." You can find her on her blog, Cookistry or follow her on Twitter at @dbcurrie.
Disclaimer: Testing samples were provided to Serious Eats.