The reconstituted lemon juice that comes in little plastic lemons at the supermarket is not so great. “It’s horrible stuff, tastes like chemicals,” says BobB. “If I couldn’t get a real lemon for a dish I wanted to make, I’d make a different dish before I’d use that garbage. Not that I have a strong opinion or anything,” he says. Kelli2006 thinks reconstituted lemon juice is fine for making buttermilk and tolerable as the acid in a marinade, but the flavor is no substitute for fresh lemon.

The flavor notes of citrus juices have a very short half-life, “like a few hours at most,” says Karl S. “The acidity lasts a very long time, but the full flavors are very short-lived,” he says. “That’s why, when a recipe specifies fresh-squeezed, it means it’s being used for those flavors, not just acidity, and the results will not be the same unless fresh.”

If you just can’t manage to keep fresh lemons around, there are better options. MakingSense likes Minute Maid’s Frozen Premium Lemon Juice. “Wouldn’t make a lemon meringue pie with it,”, says MakingSense. “But for many uses, it’s not bad. Way better than the little plastic lemon.”

Niki in Dayton has another solution: “I keep lemons on the counter (they juice better at room temp) until they start to look like they’re past their prime, then I zest them, and juice the ‘naked’ lemons and save each separately in the freezer. The frozen zest and frozen juice aren’t quite as good as fresh, but they make do in a pinch, and make killer homemade lemonade when I have a large stash.”

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