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The secret to supreming?

Arrgghhh... so frustrating! Just thinking the word 'supreme' is frustrating me right now and to never hear "I Hear a Symphony" again without frustration is just not an option! ;-) I've watched people do it, I've attempted it before, but I think this Saturday was the ultimate in frustration. I was trying to supreme two oranges and two ruby red grapefruits for a citrus salad and a half hour later, I had citrus coleslaw!! Is there a secret to it? Or does practice just make perfection? Do you peel your citrus as if you were going to eat it and then proceed with the supreming? Or do you slice the peel off the top and bottoms and then down the sides and then proceed from there? Is there any hope?

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  1. I slice the top and bottom off the grapefruit, then down the sides to remove the peel and pith. Then, I use a knife to cut down one side of the pulp section along the membrane, and then twist the knife so that the entire pulp section comes off the other side of the membrane 'naturally'. I don't make 2 cuts to release the pulp section. The grapefruit sections never fall apart. HTH.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Fid

      Years ago, I saw Jacques Pepin on tv use this exact technique and I've used it ever since. Never fails to create perfect sections with little or no waste.

    2. I think I've been particularly lucky with supreming. I remove the peel with a knive so that the pith is removed along with the peel. Then, I continue with removing the segments. You definitely do lose alot of fruit with supreming though. I does seem a little wasteful. Just keep practicing.

      1 Reply
      1. re: geg5150

        "you definitely do lose alot of fruit"

        I think you've got the tip right there - know that you will lose alot of fruit and be OK with that before you start. Trying to get every last bit will make you crazy. Yes, I'm sure that there are folks with excellent knife skills who leave little but the membrance, but you have to start somewhere and if you start out looking for perfection in both the supremes and the leavings you'll just give up!

        Sacrifice some flesh when you remove the skin and sacrifice more when you extract the segments. You'll wind up with nice looking supremes and be happy enough with your result that you'll be willing to take the task on again. Over time, you'll leave less fruit behind.

        And be sure to juice the leavings so that you can make a dressing or even just add to a glass of sparkling water if you can't use it in your recipe - then it will feel less wastedful.

      2. I slice the peel off the top and bottom, then down and "around" the sides. Then I take a sharp paring knife, and slice as close as I can to the wall/membrane separating each "supreme" and work my way around. It does take some practice, and each time I do it it takes a couple of slices to get in the rhythm.

        1. It helps to have a really sharp knife, too. Don't peel it first. Follow these directions (basically repeats what people have said above):


          1. Katie Nell, your paring knife must be sharp, first of all. It does take a bit of practice.

            One tip: When making the first cut into a segment, cut against the membrane at the bottom of the segment (when facing you) and twist the knife upwards (and AWAY from you) against the membrane at the top. It also tends to work best when you hold the fruit in one hand and cut with the other, rather than keeping the fruit on a cutting board.

            I agree with the other posters that it is best to top and tail the grapefruit/orange, then cut off the peel and pith with a knife.

            1 Reply
            1. re: FlavoursGal

              Yes - definitely hold the fruit in one hand, and the twisting tip is a good one.

            2. I'm curious - am I the only person who read the title of this thread and thought it would be about chicken? I've never heard the word "supreme" with reference to citrus fruits. I just call it "segmenting" an orange/grapefruit.

              5 Replies
              1. re: FlavoursGal

                Not sure if you are the only one, but I thought of citrus fruit when I saw the title. It's what it's called in my classes.

                1. re: pescatarian

                  Interesting. When I went through my training at George Brown, the word was used only as a method of boning/serving a chicken breast.

                  Thanks for teaching me a new word for a culinary technique, Katie Nell. I just googled "supreming citrus fruits" and came up with many references to the word used in this context.

                2. re: FlavoursGal

                  You are not alone! Supreme de volaille (or canard) is the only way I've ever seen it used - though there do seem to be two schools of thought as to what it is, some saying (as you do) that it refers to the preparation of a boneless, skinless breast of fowl, others (like the 1970s-edition Joy of Cooking, from which I learned it) indicating that is it the breast served in a cream sauce.

                  I did the same Google search and noticed that there are no citations of supreming citrus fruit earlier than the late 1990's, so it appears to be a fairly recent usage of the word. You and I must have learned to cook too long ago to be up on the trendy lingo. ;-)

                  1. re: BobB

                    Actually, the first time I heard the word supreme for citrus was from Sara Moulton; I would not necessarily consider her "trendy".

                    1. re: BobB

                      Touche, Bob! I graduated from chef school in 1999 (at the tender age of 41). Might be time to head back for a refresher course. :-)

                  2. Thanks for the help and encouragement everyone... I guess I was just frustrated with the amount of fruit I was losing. I do think I could have used a sharper knife and I do need to get some of my knives sharpened, come to think of it. I was holding it on the cutting board too, which I can see now probably squishes the fruit more, making it even more difficult! I will practice, practice, practice!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Katie Nell

                      Good luck, Katie. Just don't get frustrated enough to purchase the canned stuff! :-)

                    2. I usually do it by hand, no knife. It's time consuming. I peel the citrus, break it in half and start sectioning, removing the membranes from the sides of the section. Usually, what little membrane is left on the bottom of the section holds the section together. Works beautifully, but again, very time consuming.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: amyzan

                        That's kinda what I do. I separate the segments, then use a knife to speed up peeling them.

                      2. 1. Cut the stem end off so that a healthy circle of flesh is visible to you.
                        2. Cut the blossom end off so that a healthy circle of flesh is visible to you.
                        3. Stand on the blossom end and cut a strip of rind and pith down one side. It'll be "wrong", and that's OK. Just make another cut if you don't see 100% flesh.
                        4. Now you can see where to cut -- work your way around the citrus, then flip it over and trim as needed.
                        5. Pick up the citrus in your non-dominant hand. With a sharp knife (I use a boning knife, but a chef's knife works too) in your dominant hand, cut just inside one of the "dividing lines", all the way to the centre of the fruit -- you'll feel when you're done.
                        6. Twist the fruit and continue, cutting on each side of the "dividing line" and twisting (pulling) just slightly to release the segment. For extra-large segments you may have to prod along the "back" with your knife to release. Some segments will be too small to bother wise.
                        7. Once you're done, squeeze the remainder to catch the juice, if needed.

                        If you end up with "jagged edges" along the narrow end of the segments, your citrus is probably old and a little fibrous.

                        Buy yourself a half dozen grapefruit and practice -- it's well worth it!

                        1. I feel a little differently about knife sharpness. it is best to use a very sharp knife to remove the peel and pith, but I find it easier to release the segments with a slightly dull knife. If it's very sharp, the knife 'catches' on the membrane and cuts into it, but if your knife is kind of dull, you can run it closer to the membrane without cutting it.

                          As for waste, cutting one side then flipping the segment out creates less waste than cutting on both sides. Then squeeze the juice from the inner membranes and drink it or use it elsewhere in the meal.

                          Practice, practice.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: babette feasts

                            Right about those knives! Use a good sharp knife on the peel, then use a TABLE KNIFE to get in between the segments.

                            I've never seen "supreme" used in this context either, BTW, but then I stopped watching cooking shows well before Rachael and her ilk showed up. To me, Sarah Moulton IS trendy!

                          2. so this is an old thread, i know, but the BF is making something with supremed clementine slices, and i'm trying to guide him, which is the blind leading the blind, and he thinks there must be some other way, ala segments you find in cans of mandarin oranges - where there is no membrane or pith and the slices have retained their shapes completely. does anyone know if that's accomplished by some type of chemical or heat method?

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: mariacarmen

                              Mandarin oranges in the can are cooked in the can. If you buy true clementines they should separate with almost no membrane attached; otherwise, buy the biggest ones you can find and supreme them as above.

                              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                so cooking dissolves the membrane?

                                He ended up just peeling each little slice with a paring knife - no small chore!

                                1. re: mariacarmen

                                  I think it renders it non-offensive. There's definitely still a membrane in the canned stuff, it's just not gross and nasty.