Whether you received a juicer recently or simply want to get more fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet (who doesn't?), you may be curious about juicing.

(Elizabeth Cecil/Courtesy Food 52)

But shopping for a home juicer and finding juicing recipes that work for you can be daunting. After considering a few important things (how to shop for the right machine, what you need to know to get started, and some basic juice recipes), making fresh fruit and vegetable juice at home can be simple and fun.

Before we dive into recipes and shopping tips, let's review what juicing is: Unlike making a smoothie in a blender, juicing extracts liquid from raw fruits and vegetables rather than pulverizing the whole plant. While juices have less fiber than smoothies, they aid in detoxifying the body with their high amounts of concentrated nutrients.

Here's what to know when buying a juicer and making your first drink.

Buying a juicer

Consider the following factors:

Centrifugal vs. masticating juicers

Centrifugal juicers: These are the most common type of home juicers and are easily found at department stores and kitchen shops. Centrifugal juicers chop your fruits and vegetables up into fine pieces while spinning the bits at very high speed, separating the juice from the pulp. These high-speed machines do generate heat, which affects the enzymes and nutrients in the juice. On the plus side, centrifugal juicers are often less expensive and easier to clean compared to masticating juicers.

Masticating juicers: Also known as "cold press" or "gear" juicers, these machines work by grinding the fruits and vegetables to break them up, then pressing the bits through a strainer. Masticating juicers juice greens much effectively than centrifugal juicers do, and this method of juice extraction preserves the enzymes and nutrients, producing very concentrated and wholesome juice. Most masticating juicers, however, are more expensive than centrifugal juicers.

The type of juice you're planning to make

It is important to consider the variety of produce you want to juice when choosing a machine. Some juicers handle all textures well, while others have trouble with specific types of fruits and vegetables. Centrifugal juicers are great for juicing a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, but have trouble extracting juice from leafy greens, for example. If you're trying to get more greens in your diet through juicing, a masticating juicer, while pricier, will do a better job, as it grinds the produce at a low speed to remove the juice from the pulp.

Clean-up

Juicing is messy business and always leaves loads of pulp behind. While all machines require thoughtful cleaning, some are easier to clean than others. Look for easy to remove parts, dishwasher-safe portions, and an easy reassembly process.

Design details

It's important to consider the machine's design details when finding the best juicer for you. Look at the size of the feed chute, the length of the juice spout, and the shape and size of the catching jug. Does the machine have different speeds based on produce density? What is the noise level like? How much counter and storage space will it take up?

5 essential tools for juicing at home

(James Ransom/Courtesy Food52)

Getting started

The best fruits and vegetables to juice

The following fruits and vegetables produce nicely-flavored juice when run through a juicing machine.

  • Soft fruits: pineapples, tomatoes, berries, citrus, melons, mangos, grapes, peaches, nectarines, plums, kiwis
  • Hard fruits: apples, cranberries, pears, pomegranates
  • Soft vegetables: spinach, kale, chard, mint, cilantro, parsley, cucumber
  • Hard vegetables: cabbage, celery, carrots, beets, ginger root, fennel, sweet potato

And the worst

The following fruits and vegetables either do not contain enough water to be juiced through a machine or produce off-putting, unappetizing juice.

  • Avocado
  • Banana
  • Rhubarb
  • Figs and dried fruits
  • Onions (scallions, leeks, etc.)
  • Eggplant

(Elizabeth Cecil/Courtesy Food 52)

Uses for leftover fruit and vegetable pulp

There is a range of creative ideas for ways to reuse and recycle the leftover pulp from your juicer. Depending on your level of adventure (and your living situation), you might try one of these options:

  • Feed it to your chickens or your neighbor's chickens.
  • Compost it.
  • Toss in a smoothie for added fiber.
  • Work into recipes like pasta sauce, burgers, omelets, or macaroni and cheese.
  • Add to a soup or boil with other ingredients to make a broth.
  • Surf the web for promising pulp cracker and pulp pizza crust recipes

(Elizabeth Cecil/Courtesy Food 52)

Avoid these common mistakes

Juicing is all about experimentation and finding a machine, method, and flavor combination that work best for you. That said, these are the common mistakes that I think can easily be avoided.

  • Making one kind of juice over and over again: Your body wants a variety of enzymes and nutrients so don't get stuck on one blend.
  • Adding too much fruit: Because fruits are packed with sugar, I recommend at least a 2:1 ratio to vegetables.
  • Not drinking it immediately: Fresh juiced is best enjoyed soon after it's made, as the juice separates and the nutrients begin to break down.
  • Not washing produce well: Dirt and pesticides will make it right into your cup if produce is not cleaned properly. I like to start with organic ingredients whenever possible.
  • Replacing a meal with juice: Freshly-made juice is not a meal replacement.
  • Not listening to your body: Pay attention to quantity of juice, the fruit and vegetable combinations that feel best, and what time of day juicing works best for you.

Juicing without a juicer

Yes, you can still juice without a juicer! The four juice recipes included here would work well puréed in a blender and strained through a fine mesh sieve. Whether you're using a blender or juicing machine, the same rules apply when picking produce and building a balanced juice.

How to juice without a juicer

(James Ransom/Courtesy Food52)

Starter pack recipes

Before turning the juicer on, wash, dry, and chop all the produce so that it fits through the juicer's feeding chute.

Juicers often have program settings based on the produce density. If not, it's still best to run the softest produce through the motor first, working your way up to the hardest. After switching on the motor, start by juicing the softest fruits and vegetables (like citrus and cucumbers), then turn up the speed (if the machine has this function) and work your way through to the hardest fruits and vegetables (like beets and carrots).

These recipes all make 1 glass of juice.

This story was originally published on Food52.com: The beginner's guide to making juice.