Fresh lemon and lime juice is a year-round kitchen staple. But when you’re paying 50 cents for what amounts to 3 tablespoons of juice (or less for limes), a good manual juicer—one that wrings out every last drop—can be as essential as the fruit itself.
Within the simple category of manually operated juicers, there’s a surprising range of affordable options: handheld reamers, all-in-one juicers, squeezers, and funnels. We tried more than 30 models that are currently on the market. And after squeezing our way through several cases of lemons, limes, and oranges, we learned that each style of juicer has its unique strengths—if, that is, you use the best model within each class, shown below.
We like reamers. They’re inexpensive, they don’t take up much drawer space, and (assuming you have a good one; see “Shape Matters” below) they are most apt to eke every bit of juice from a citrus half. No matter how well designed the reamer’s cone, however, you still have to work it—pressing, twisting, and circling the cone inside the lemon half to break up the flesh so that the juice spills out. It also requires rustling up a strainer (for seeds and pulp) and a dish (for capturing the juice).
Our Favorite: Classic wooden reamer, $3 at Cookswares.com. We tried a lot of different reamers sporting modern features like ergonomic and gel-grip handles and sleek, stainless-steel cones. But none juiced like this unassuming classic. Its pointed tip makes it easy to sink the reamer into the citrus half, and the fruit’s flesh readily submits to the sharply edged ribs.
This type of juicer, which features a built-in strainer and cup to catch the juice, is especially nice when we need more than just a couple tablespoons of juice for a recipe. An added advantage is that you can put your weight into it by pushing down on the citrus half and twisting it around the cone. That’s helpful when you have a not-so-ripe lemon or lime. None of the cones in this category, however, could juice a citrus half as swiftly as our favorite wooden reamer.
Our Favorite: Oxo Good Grips citrus juicer, $12.99 at Oxo.com. We frequently use this juicer in our test kitchen. A reversible cone insert (a small one for lemons and limes, a large one for oranges and small grapefruit) has a unique open-space design between the ribs that creates a smooth feel while efficiently extracting juice. Markings on the cup (albeit only in ounces) are handy for measuring, and unlike a lot of such juicers, the cone stays in place when you pour.
Funnels are a relatively new tool for juicing. Push the serrated and notched stainless-steel tube into the whole fruit, and the juice (seed-free) pours out the end. They’re great when you need just a squirt of juice—leave the funnel in place until the next time you need juice—but they can also extract all the juice from a lemon or lime. Oranges proved too big for this tool, no matter how much we wiggled and prodded the serrated tube around the inside of the fruit.
Our Favorite: Screwpull model BW-112, $17.99 at KitchenKapers.com. Unlike the other funnel model we tried, this one didn’t leak, and with a little maneuvering it extracted as much juice as a reamer. Just make sure you “soften” the fruit before juicing (see tip below).
To get the most juice, soften the citrus fruit by pressing down on it with your palm and rolling it back and forth along a countertop. This weakens cell walls and makes it easier to extract the juice.
A squeezer works like a giant garlic press. Place a citrus half in it, cut side down, and clamp down the handles. All in one squeeze, the fruit collapses and turns inside out while the juices flow out and the seeds and flesh stay behind. It takes a little muscle, but the process is tidy, and no acidic juices drip down your hands. On the downside, a squeezer, unlike a good reamer, will never extract every last drop of juice from a citrus half.
Our Favorite: Williams-Sonoma Two-in-One citrus squeezer, $20 at Williams-Sonoma.com. We vastly prefer the squeezers that are designed for specific citrus fruits—lemons, limes, or oranges. All-purpose squeezers tend not to juice as well. But who wants three kinds of juice squeezers taking up room in the utensil drawer? This new squeezer is the near-perfect solution. It has two ridged bowls in one squeezer; a smaller one for limes nests within a larger one for lemons.