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TOOL DEPARTMENT

Unplug the juicer, then squeeze your biceps

May 14, 2003|Jennifer Lowe | Times Staff Writer

SOME say that for the best fresh juice, one must unplug. That's why you'll find a new crop of hand-powered citrus juicers alongside the electric models.

They fall into two camps: those that look high-tech and muscular and those with a simple style hearkening to old-fashioned kitchens stocked with other painstaking gadgets such as cherry pitters and hand-crank nut grinders. The brawnier types are countertop models with handles: You place the fruit on a reamer, pull down and the juicer presses the fruit. The simpler models cost from $20 to $100 less and work the way nutcrackers do: Just put the fruit in the hand-held gadget and squeeze.

We tested four juicers with varying success. The industrial-sized Orange X worked so well, it was easy to start rationalizing a way to fit it on our counter -- or maybe build a whole new kitchen to accommodate it. At the other extreme, the large hand-held squeezer produced just a few drops of juice from a whole orange, a real waste of time and fruit.

Whichever model you use, hand-juicing requires commitment. You need to set up, clean up and be organized enough to have plenty of oranges on hand. You also need some pretty good biceps, despite seeming ease of use.

The stainless steel Mighty OJ by Metrokane worked well enough and, at 11 inches tall with handle fully extended, would fit on most kitchen counters. Our more petite testers found it easy to use -- they were able to push down on it without standing on their toes. We didn't need to press too hard, which was nice, and the flat-sided handle didn't leave imprints on our hands. We got half a cup of juice from two oranges.

For more than twice the price, and at 29 inches tall fully extended, the medium-sized Orange X juicer was such a pleasure to use that we couldn't stop popping oranges into it. As with the Mighty OJ, you place half an orange on the stainless steel reamer and pull the lever down until it snaps into place. We had to hold down the back of the juicer, though, to prevent it from tipping over. Except for that, this coated cast-iron juicer felt sturdy and tough, as if it could juice a bushel. Two oranges yielded almost two-thirds of a cup of juice.

We were less than thrilled with the hand-held juicers. The jumbo fruit juicer looks like a can opener with a lid still stuck to it, or maybe a potato ricer. Press the top handle down and the lid thing squishes the orange half as best it can. Without a reamer, though, our two oranges flattened and gave up less than half a cup of juice.

Our final squeezer, simply called a large orange squeezer, looks like an orange half with two handles. It took a good two-handed squeeze but didn't require as strong of a grip as the tin-can juicer. Still, two oranges gave us just two tablespoons of juice.

If we're going to exert that much effort in the morning, we want something more in return than a good workout.

*

It's a gusher

What's the difference: A counter-friendly size, the Mighty OJ is a dependable producer.

What we thought: Get it to make coffee and it'd be a must for a small counter. Actually, if you really want to go the manual route, this would be a good entry model.

How much: $39 to $59 at Williams-Sonoma, Crate & Barrel and other kitchen shops.

Tall, and taller

What's the difference: You want juice, this will give you juice. You just need the designer kitchen to handle the Orange X (and this one, at 16 inches tall with the handle down is the medium -- it comes in larger sizes).

What we thought: A fun gadget that produces a lot of juice. But you need to be tall enough to use it.

How much: $120 to $130 at Williams-Sonoma and Amazon.com.

To have

and hold

What's the difference: You hold this jumbo fruit juicer in your hands and work too hard for too little.

What we thought: If you're not too thirsty, maybe.

How much: About $20 at Cookin' Stuff in Torrance and other kitchen stores.

Get in shape first

What's the difference: This large orange squeezer is cute (looks like an orange), but maybe just keep it for looks.

What we thought: Yielded very little juice despite our straining biceps.

How much: About $16 at Williams-Sonoma and Crate & Barrel.

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