Learn how to cut an orange to make wedges, segments, and wheels. Plus, I’ll also show you easy ways to peel the skin. These simple cutting techniques will enhance the presentation of your next breakfast, salad, entree, or dessert!
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Oranges are the perfect quick healthy snack as they provide antioxidants like beta carotene vitamin C and macronutrients like fiber. I learned a few interesting knife cutting techniques in culinary school that I want to share with you. The first step is to remove the peel with a knife, then cut the orange into segments or wheels. If you want a quick snack, I’ll show you ways to prepare that too.
Sweet oranges (Citrus sinensis) and sour oranges (Citrus aurantium) grow on trees of the Rutaceau family. And because of the various growing regions, you can typically find them year-round. However, the most popular varieties like Valencia, navel, or blood oranges are prominently available in the winter.
The outer peel can contain dirt and bacteria during harvesting and transportation. Rinse with cool running water to remove debris and scrub as needed then dry with a paper towel. Washing also prevents any contamination from coming in contact with the flesh when cutting.
Now, there are two options moving forward:
- Remove the peel – make segments or wheels
- Keep the peel on – make wedges
Method A) Remove the Peel
There are two ways that I peel an orange, depending on whether it’s to separate the segments still inside the membrane or cut them into discs or segments, also called supreme.
Option 1 – Hand peeled segments
Grab a sharp paring knife and cut a shallow circle around the top and bottom. Then score the skin down the sides, about 1-inch apart. Be sure to only cut down into the white pith and not into the flesh. Once you remove the circled areas, it will be easy to see the separation between the pith and the segments. Just pull off the sides to reveal the whole orange inside.
From here, use your fingers to separate in half, then into pieces. I do this when grabbing a quick snack. I like how the parts keep the juice inside the membrane, so it’s less messy when eating with your hands. This is the easiest method to remove the peel quickly, and it works best for thick-skinned varieties like Navel.
Option 2 – Peel with a knife
Use a chef’s knife to cut off the top and bottom of the peel, then down the sides. The goal is to keep as much of the meat intact and in a round shape. It takes a little practice, but the process is fast once you get the hang of it!
This process removes the bitter white pith and the fibrous membranes that hold the segments together. This option gives a cleaner cut with just the sweet juicy flesh.
Cut into segments
Once peeled, hold the orange in your hand. Look for the white membrane separating each segment, then carefully use a paring knife to cut them out. This technique, to supreme an orange, is one of the first knife cuts I learned in culinary school to make fancy presentations for salads and desserts.
There will be a lot of pulp and juice leftover in the membrane. You can squeeze that out to drink or use in a dressing or sauce.
Cut into wheels
For larger disc-shaped pieces, cut the peeled orange into wheels. They make a beautiful layer on cakes, decorations on a fresh fruit tart, or in a fruit salad.
Method B) Keep the Peel On
The quickest cut of all, orange wedges are a popular treat, especially for half-time at kid’s sports events. Leave the peel on, and cut crosswise to make halves. From here, cut into smaller wedges or rounds to use as a garnish for cocktails and smoothies.
This technique is great for thinner-skinned varieties like Valencia, which may be harder to peel by hand. You can cut in between the skin and the flesh if you like, leaving a small area connected. This also makes it a bit easier to eat and doesn’t make a juicy mess.
To select them, pick one up and check to see if it feels heavy for its size, signaling a juicy fruit. The peel should feel firm, with no soft spots or cuts. Oranges are available year-round due to the various growing regions.
They thrive in subtropical climates like Florida, California, and Texas. Locations where the optimal temperature is between 55 to 64ºF (13 to 18ºC) in the winter and up to 95ºF (35ºC) in the summer [source]. Starting in November, keep an eye out, extending until September, as different varieties mature at various times.
Like watermelons, oranges don’t rip after picking, so they are harvested when they mature. If transported far distances, they still may have some green patches and be treated with ethylene gas to deepen the orange color. Therefore, the best tasting ones are in season and local.
If eating within a week, store whole oranges on the counter at room temperature out of direct sunlight. The flesh is juicier when not chilled. If you’re like me and enjoy refreshing, cold pieces, store them in the produce drawer for about two to three weeks. A temperature range of 38 to 48ºF (3 to 9ºC) is optimal.
I find that storing oranges too long in the refrigerator dries them out, and they lose some of their characteristic taste, as the flavor compounds in the skin and flesh are incredibly volatile. Make sure they have enough air circulation. Otherwise, they will mold easily, especially if left somewhere warm and humid for too long. Cut orange slices can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 1 to 2 days for the best taste.
Ways to use oranges
- Add the leftover juice after cutting to use in fruit popsicles
- Cut segments to make a pretty fruit salad
- Add sliced rounds to a fennel salad or apple salad
- Add wedges to a broccoli salad
Navel oranges are the easiest to peel by hand because they have thick skin and rind. Plus, they are seedless and one of the sweetest! Thinner-skinned varieties like Valencia are great for juicing or can be peeled with a knife.
Gently roll the orange on its side, lightly pressing it down. This action will release some of the segment’s sides from the peel. On the stem-end, use your thumbnail to puncture the skin until you hit the pith, then pull off that top piece. Continue using your fingers to pull off the remaining peel. A spoon can also help to release the fruit before starting to peel.
Yes, the surface of the orange, also called the rind or zest, is packed with aromatic citrus oils and volatile flavor compounds. It’s often candied or grated to add into desserts, sauces, and dressings. The inner white pith is edible, but it has a bitter flavor.
Why cooking reduces the orange flavor
You can smell a freshly peeled orange from across the room. That’s because the skin and juice contain a mixture of volatile aroma compounds like terpenes, alcohols, ketones, esters, and aldehydes. When heated in a pan, a good portion of those flavor compounds are lost. The juice will provide a base flavor for sauces. However, squeeze a little back in or add zest at the end of cooking to enhance the flavor soluble citrus oil and add aromatics to the dish.
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How to Cut an Orange
- 1 orange
- Rinse the orange under cool running water, scrubbing if needed to remove any dirt. Dry with a clean towel.
Method A) Remove the Peel
- Option 1 – Hand Peeled (For Segments): Using a paring knife, cut a shallow circle about 2-inches in diameter around the top stem and bottom. Only cut through until you reach the white pith. Make shallow scores lengthwise down the side about 1-inch apart that connect the circle cuts. Use your fingers to pull off the peel and separate the orange in half, then pull it apart into individual segments.
- Option 2 – Knife Peeled: Use a chef's knife to cut off the top and bottom portions, just until you can see the flesh, about ¼-inch. Place the orange on a cutting board, cut-side down.For Segments: Starting from the top, run the knife down lengthwise, following the natural curvature to remove the peel. Work all the way around, trimming any of the white portions off. Hold the orange with the segments running lengthwise. Use a paring knife to cut out the segments that are between the white membrane. Rotate until all the segments are removed.For Wheels: Place the peeled orange on its side. Cut into rounds, about ¼ to ½-inch thick.
Method B) Keep the Peel On
- For Wedges: Place the orange on its side on a cutting board. Use a chef’s knife to cut the fruit in half crosswise. Cut each half into smaller wedges, about ½ to ¾-inch thick.
- Serving Size: Based on about 1 medium orange (about 140g), about 1 cup slices per serving.
- Storing: Oranges can be stored on the countertop for about 1 week, or in the refrigerator in the produce drawer for 2 to 3 weeks. Refrigerate cut pieces in an airtight container for 1 to 2 days.
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