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Should Citrus Juice Be Rested Prior to Cooking?

By Cook's Illustrated Published November 2012

We recommended resting lemon and lime juices before using them in drinks to improve flavor. Does resting also make difference when cooking with juices?

With juices destined for citrus ades and cocktails, we found that a 4-hour rest allowed aromatic compounds in the lemon and lime oils to oxidize, for a mellower yet more complex flavor. To see if resting made a difference in cooked dishes, we made lime bars and spaghetti al limone with both fresh-squeezed and rested juices.

Many tasters asserted that the cookies made with rested lime juice were more “lime-y.” But when it came to the lemon-dressed spaghetti, the results were less clear-cut. A few tasters found the pasta made with rested lemon juice more flavorful, while others felt that the batches tasted the same.

Even with relatively simple recipes like these, the many variables that affect citrus flavor during cooking (including the length of cooking time, the amount of heat and stirring, and even the serving temperature) make it nearly impossible to predict when resting juice will be worthwhile—but it certainly can’t hurt.