How to Supreme Citrus

Let’s begin with a simple question. Have you ever heard of “supreming” citrus? I must admit that I hadn’t heard that term until recently. But I bet we’ve all seen the results of supreming. You know that can of cute little mandarin orange slices? The oranges have been supremed. So has the citrus in your fruit salad at a restaurant (or at least it SHOULD be).

Supreming is a culinary technique whereby you divide the peel and the white pith (which can sometimes be bitter and is visually unappealing) from the fruit underneath leaving behind a nice, clean set of citrus segments. And since this is actually a French technique (and a French word), it’s often pronounced more like “soo-PREM”.

A hint before you start: Decide if you want some of the zest from the peel, If so, zest away! Then when you’re ready, go ahead and start supreming. Here’s how:

  1. Cut off both ends - the stem end and the “flower” end. This will give you flat surfaces to work with - and you won’t be chasing your fruit as it rolls around the kitchen! This part may work best with a bigger knife (but ONLY if you are comfortable using one!).
  2. Set the fruit on one end and, starting from the top, cut down along the fruit segments. Don't cut straight down; follow the rounded contours of the fruit. You try to take off the peel and the pith in one sweep of your knife. But be sure not to cut TOO deeply into the fruit segment. You want to leave as full a segment as you can. (After all, that’s the point, right?)
  3. Do the same all the way around the fruit - cutting away pith and peel as you go. If a little pith is left behind, no biggie. Just trim it away.
  4. Once you have made it all the way around you should have a big ball of fruit left with no pith and no peel.
  5. Now hold the fruit in the palm of your hand and you’ll see the membranes between each fruit segment. 
  6. NOTE: You may want to have a bowl underneath - this next part can get a little wet. Using a smaller knife cut along each side of the membranes on either side of a segment. As you cut it sometimes helps to push back on the membrane with your knife to loosen it from the fruit segment. Slice down to the center. Then work your knife a bit to loosen the segment and “pop” it free. NOTE: You might have to cut slightly into the segment to fully free it from the membranes.
  7. Repeat this for each segment.
This is pretty much what it will look like as you work your way around.

This is pretty much what it will look like as you work your way around.

Optional steps:

  • If there are seeds in the segments you may want to remove them.
  • You may want to put your segments in a bowl and squeeze the juice left in the pith/peel pieces over them. Extra juice!

This is a great technique to use if you are entertaining and want to keep your citrus fruits looking (and tasting) nice and clean - say for a fruit plate or a fruit salad. It’s not a very difficult technique, but it requires some skill and careful attention as you cut away the segments. Give it a try!