Cooking

Pucker Up

5 things you didn't know you could do with lemons
Photo: Katie Foster/Tasting Table
5 Lemon Hacks

A lemon is a workhorse: It's used more than almost any other citrus fruit for its juice, as a garnish, to provide sauces with a lift or to cut through rich, heavy dishes. (When was the last time you squeezed a grapefruit over your fried fish?) And it can do more still. Check out these other uses for lemons to make the most of this cheery little fruit.

Peels and all: When a recipe calls for the juice of a lemon, what do you do with the skin once you've squeezed—toss it in the compost? Stop! You can make much better use of the peel's massively concentrated flavor than the microbes can. Cut the peel off in strips and use it to flavor olive oil or vinegar. Use the zest to make a compound butter or rub it into sugar to give your baked goods a subtle brightness. (Hint: It's much easier to remove the zest before juicing.) Or just save the plain, dried zest (spread it in a thin layer and toast in a low oven for about an hour to dry) for flavoring just about anything.

The clean scene: The citric acid that gives lemons their bright flavor and welcome astringency is also the same thing that gives lemon juice its antibacterial properties. Use a little juice—or the spent skin of a juiced lemon—to help degrease pans or clean wooden cutting boards, marble and countertops. Microwave a sliced lemon in water for two minutes to make cleaning handheld appliances easier, and even clean a gummy cheese grater by rubbing it with a lemon half.

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Freshen up: Remember all that lemon-peel flavor we talked about? Turns out, it's got a powerfully good aroma, too. Toss peels (just the zest without the pith and pulp) into the bottom of your trash can or tuck some away in your fridge. That smell lingering from your pan-fried fish dinner? Slice a lemon and boil it uncovered on your stovetop to make things smell fresh and clean again.

Nonstick seafood: We love the delicate texture of fish when we're eating it, but curse it when we're cooking it. To keep seafood from sticking to the grill or the roasting or broiler pan, set it atop lemon slices. The citrus provides just enough distance to keep the proteins in the fish from binding to the cooking surface, and the moisture in the lemons helps cook the fish by adding flavorful steam.

Perk up produce: Yes, you know the trick about using lemon juice to prevent produce like avocados, apples and potatoes from browning. But you can also use a little juice to revive limp lettuce, too. Simply squeeze a small amount into a bowl of cold water, then submerge the lifeless leaves into the bowl and refrigerate for about an hour. Dry well and your salad will be back on track.

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