Not only does knowing how to cut a lime, lemon, grapefruit, or orange into sections reveal a prettier cut of fruit for your favorite citrus recipes, it can actually make it taste better, too! For gorgeous peel- and pith-free citrus that adds flavor and beauty to fruit compotes, salads, desserts, and more, follow these quick steps to learn how to section an orange (or an other citrus fruit).

By Katlyn Moncada
Updated March 09, 2020
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If the idea of taking a bite of grapefruit makes you squint, you're probably eating it wrong. Sure, citrus is naturally tart, but it doesn't have to be unpleasantly bitter. Much of the bitterness in citrus fruit comes from the thin, white membranes. We're not talking about the outer peel or white pith, but those thin membranes dividing each section of your fruit. If you remove the membranes by sectioning, the sweet flavor comes through more. That's right, you can actually change the flavors you taste simply by knowing how to section citrus properly. By using this easy sectioning method for all your citrus fruits (grapefruit, oranges, lemons, limes, tangerines, mandarins, clementines, ugly fruits (aka uniq fruit), tangelos, pomelos, etc.), you'll get seemingly-juicer, membrane-free sections. Eat as a snack or in your favorite citrus fruit recipes.

trimming ends from whole orange
slicing rind from orange
Left: Credit: Scott Little 
Right: Credit: Blaine Moats

Peel the Citrus

Knowing how to peel an orange, grapefruit, or any citrus isn't hard. Using a paring knife (Farberware Edgekeeper 3.5-in. Paring Knife, $12, Walmart), cut off a thin slice from both ends. This gives you a flat surface to cut from. Place a flat end of the fruit on a cutting board (Epicurean Natural Cutting Board, $22, Sur La Table) and cut away the peel and white part of the rind, also called the pith, in a rounded motion working from top to bottom.

Test Kitchen Tip: Don't waste those peels! Citrus fruit peels are not usually eaten, but there are exceptions. So be sure to capture any needed citrus oils or fresh citrus zest before you peel citrus fruit. You can make homemade candied citrus fruit peels to top your desserts (or snack on their own), or extract the oils into cocktails. Keep a fine handheld grater around (Microplane Classic Zester, $12.95, Amazon) for finely-zested citrus peels in recipes.

sectioning citrus into bowl
Credit: Peter Krumhardt

Section the Citrus

Holding the fruit in one hand (or holding still with one hand on a cutting board), put the fruit on its side and slice just inside the membrane on both sides of one segment. Continue with the remaining fruit sections.

Test Kitchen Tip: You may want to section the citrus fruit over a bowl to catch juices that drip while sectioning. Make sure to squeeze any juice from the membranes after sectioning.

Our Best Fast and Fresh Citrus Recipes
fresh citrus salad with oranges
Credit: Andy Lyons

How to Use Sectioned Citrus

Now that you've got some lovely sectioned citrus fruit ready for eating, there are all sorts of ways to incorporate that grapefruit or orange into your everyday meals for a bright burst of flavor. Upgrade your avocado toast with some grapefruit for a healthy breakfast option. Keep your lunch salad fresh with oranges and shrimp. Use sections to top your favorite cake recipes or add even more citrus flavor to desserts like our grapefruit olive oil cake.


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