Chef's Quick Tip: Char Your Citrus for Extra Flavor

Char Your Citrus for Extra Flavor

We're a little citrus-obsessed, and with good reason: lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit: Mother Nature really packed those babies with flavor, from peel (which you can zest without special tools) to juice. Now executive chef Amanda Freitag of Empire Diner has come up with a way to make those lemons and limes give up even more flavor by applying a lot of heat.

These innocent citrus fruits turn into totally different beasts once you put them over a flame. Image by MarkSweep/Wikimedia Commons

Char Your Citrus for Out-of-This-World Juice

Bon Appetit asked Freitag for cooking tips, and she strongly recommended burning your citrus. The process is pretty straightforward.

Cut a lime or lemon in half as you heat a skillet on medium high until it's very, very hot. Brush a little cooking oil on the cut sides of the citrus (Freitag uses olive oil) and then lay the halves down on the skillet. Cook until well charred, about five minutes.

A lot of color on that citrus equals more flavor, so don't be afraid to really let it cook. Image via Bon Appetit

Freitag notes that cooking citrus over high heat in this way caramelizes its flavors, tones down acidity, heightens sweetness, and rounds out bitterness. She says, "It's like you're creating a new, more complex fruit." The resulting juice can be used in sauces, vinaigrettes, or as-is on chicken and fish for amazing flavor.

I'd also imagine that if you wait until the fruit cools down, you could make lemon or lime twists that would provide a wonderful contrast with a cold vodka-soda. Plus, there's no reason you couldn't char your citrus on the grill for great results, too (just like you would with watermelons).

Cover image via EAT Magazine

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