I was recently at an event that called for margaritas by the pitcher. (Yes, it was absolutely a bachelorette party. No, I was not the guest of honor.) A friend heeded the call and began assembling all the necessary spirits while the rest of us sat around in the next room chatting about wedding-related things. After a while, we realized we didn’t yet have fresh margaritas in our hands. It had been at least 15 minutes—where on earth were they?
Our friend dutifully assembling the batch was hunched over the counter, squeezing limes with considerable difficulty. There was no citrus juicer available, so she was forced to manually squeeze the juice from each cold, firm little lime, and her hand muscles were starting to give out.
“I tried rolling them on the cutting board, because I’ve heard that makes it easier,” she said, “But I’m just not getting much juice out of these.”
Luckily, at that moment, another partygoer entered the kitchen to see what the holdup was. She had spent years as a bartender, so she took one look at the unconquered limes on the cutting board and knew exactly what to do.
“Just stick ’em in the microwave,” she advised. “That’s what I always do.”
If you’ve never done it before, I’ll say it feels a bit weird to put a whole unsliced lime in the microwave. But it turns out that the microwave is a cocktail prep game changer. We nuked each lime for about 20 seconds, then sliced it in half and, instead of squeezing by hand, used a spoon to press into the flesh of each half (another tip from our resident bartender). The juice tumbled out of the lime like a running faucet. No more sore hands!
I figured our helpful friend had learned the microwave trick from those years of bartending, but in fact, she says she learned it from Rachael Ray, who proffered this tip back in 2005. (It’s at the top of a monster list of quick cooking tips, which range from the life-changingly useful citrus hack to the rather patronizing “place your drippy honey jar on a coaster.” Thanks, Rachael.)
The Kitchn investigated the microwave trick in 2016 and similarly concluded that it’s a very useful kitchen hack. The cook time depends on how cold the fruit is when you put it in the microwave; if you’re grabbing limes straight from the fridge, figure 20 seconds, until the fruit is slightly warm to the touch. If it started out room temp, you might be able to go with 15 seconds. You definitely don’t want to end up with sizzling-hot citrus. A slight warmth will relax the membranes inside enough to coax all the juice out.
It’s only a shame that we didn’t hear about the microwave trick a little earlier. By the time the margs were ready, everyone had moved on to frosé. Or rather, almost everyone. I did my part to drain the pitcher.