To get a few drops of lemon juice for your iced tea, squeezing a lemon slice by hand gives you exactly the amount you need. The hand method has its advantages, but, like all the other techniques, both manual and electric, it has disadvantages along with benefits. Think about cost, ease of use, and shelf-space when you decide which option to choose for juicing lemons to flavor any dish, from drinks to salad dressings, risottos, cakes and frostings.
Getting the Most Juice
No matter which method you pick for juicing lemons, you will get more juice by manipulating the whole lemon before you start juicing. Break apart the small juice sacs inside the lemon by rolling it on your counter while pressing down on it at the same time. Or, microwave the lemon for 20 seconds to help its juices to flow more freely once you start juicing; this method works especially well for lemons you've stored in the refrigerator.
Squeezing by Hand
Your hands work as both squeezers and strainers when you cut a lemon in half and squeeze it with one hand through the fingers of your other hand, letting the juice fall into a bowl while your fingers hold back the seeds. Or, if you know you need the juice from half a lemon, cut it lengthwise to make it easier to squeeze out all the juice. Juicing by hand works best if you only need a small amount of juice.
Low-cost, small-sized manual juicers obtain the juice from lemons quickly and effectively without getting your hands sticky. Insert a cut lemon between the arms of the tongs and press down, but watch out for squirts of lemon juice that might miss the bowl. With reamers, a ridged tool that you twist inside the lemon while holding it over a bowl, you can keep the fruit lower in the bowl to avoid splashes. Hand squeezers use hinged arms that press a cup holding a lemon half and a strainer to catch seeds. And bowl-style juicers, with built-in reamers and juice catchers, allow you to pour the juice into measuring cups.
When you make lemonade or lemon sauces with multiple lemons, an electric citrus juicer gets the job done quickly. Prices range from about $20 to $200, at the time of publication, and all electric juicers take more counter or drawer space than manual equipment. The editors at Cook's Illustrated prefer models that allow you to press down on the cut lemon as the electric reamer turns, because these models allow you to feel when the lemon is finished juicing.