Lemons are one of the foods I always have on hand, to add a spritz of citrus flavor to whatever I'm cooking. Whether I'm making veggie stir fry, soup, salad or a marinade, lemon juice is often the ingredient that ties all of the other flavors together. However, lemons can go bad quickly when not stored properly, leaving me with hard, unusable lemons and a dish without this tasty flavor. To avoid this, here's how to store lemons to get the longest shelf-life possible.
Most people leave lemons out on the counter or in the fruit basket. They add a lovely pop of color to the kitchen, and we know that they won't go bad immediately from sitting at room temperature, so why not? Although this is the most popular way to store them, this method of storing lemons is actually the worst one, as the rinds don't actually keep lemons fresh for long.
Cook's Illustrated tested out a few different ways to store these tasty citrus fruits, measuring their juiciness and shelf-life. They found that storing them at room temperature on the counter will only give you a week of juiciness before hardening. So, unless you're able to use all of your lemons within a week, this storage method will lead to a lot of wasted lemons.
What Is the Best Way to Store Lemons?
Storing lemons uncovered at room temperature is officially the worst way to store them, and will only allow them to last for about a week. You can leave your lemons out in the fruit bowl if you know that you'll use them within a week, but otherwise, this storage method is very inefficient. If you like the aesthetic of having lemons out on the countertop, you can always leave just a few out, and store the rest of your lemons in more efficient ways.
The best way to store lemons is in the refrigerator, where the cold will allow them to keep their moisture for far longer than they would at room temperature. Storing them in the refrigerator uncovered will help lemons last for a few weeks. If you choose this food storage method, keep them in the crisper drawer for best results.
Although keeping lemons loose in the crisper drawer will give you a few weeks before they start to lose moisture, storing them in the refrigerator in a sealed plastic bag is even better. This will give them a full month of freshness before they even begin to harden.
For the optimal shelf-life, buy the juiciest lemons you can find, and store them in the refrigerator in a sealed plastic bag. This will give you a month of fresh lemon juice to enjoy in your salads, smoothies and stir fries!
Other Options for Storing Lemons
If you overestimated how much lemon juice you want for a recipe, and you're looking to store already cut lemons, these should go in the refrigerator in an airtight container like a plastic bag or a Tupperware. The lemon wedges will last for three to four days like this, so make sure to use them up before they go bad!
Another option is freezing lemons, which is best if you have way too many to use in a month. If you freeze your lemons, they'll stay fresh for up to four months, a vast improvement over the one month you'll get in the fridge. To freeze whole lemons, keep them in a food-safe plastic bag or freezer bag, and seal the bag with as little air as possible. Make sure to wash them before storing them.
Another way to go is to freeze lemon slices, allowing you pre-made cut lemons to garnish dishes or quickly add a splash of lemony flavor. To do this, place your lemon wedges on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze until fully frozen. Then, put the slices in a food safe plastic bag or freezer bag, and seal with as little air as possible.
To defrost your frozen lemons when you're ready to use your lemons, either microwave them for about twenty seconds, or put them in a bowl of room-temperature water for about ten minutes or until defrosted.
How Long Do Lemons Last?
Overall, the best way to store lemons is in the refrigerator in a sealed bag. Using this method, they'll last for a month. If you store them uncovered in the fridge, they'll last for a few weeks. Lemons on the countertop will last for a week, and lemon wedges stored in an airtight container in the fridge will be good for three to four days. Frozen lemons, on the other hand, will last for four months, but you'll need to defrost them before use.
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