How To Zest Citrus (4 Ways)
How to Zest a Lemon
Your poor ancestors had to skin the hide of the might lemon with nothing but stone knives. Nowadays there are many kitchen tools that can do the job, and even one woodworking tool that found accidental success with chefs: the microplane.A grater or vegetable peeler will get the job done as well, or you can pick up a paring knife and learn how grandpa did it in the savannah.
Zesting with a Microplane or Grater
Rinse the lemon.Cleaning fruit is especially important when you plan on eating the peel. Scrub vigorously under hot, soap water with your fingers or a clean sponge.
Set your tool over a cutting board.A microplane produces a very fine zest, perfect for baking and cooking. If you don't have this tool, use the smallest holes on an ordinary grater. Position it as follows:
- Microplane or flat grater: Hold the handle closest to you, with the end set against the cutting board at a 45º angle. If the flat grater is unstable, grate over a bowl with the grater resting against the edge.
- Box grater: Place it flat over the cutting board, with the finest side facing the hand holding the lemon. Push down on the handle to prevent sliding.
Grate the yellow skin only.Grate just enough to get through the yellow skin, avoiding the bitter white pith underneath. Many graters can pierce through this layer in a single movement. Be gentle if you are not using a microplane.
- Graters will only grate in one direction. Microplanes can grate in either, but it's usually easier to push down, then lift the lemon back to the top.
Rotate the lemon and repeat.Once the white pith is exposed, rotate the lemon and zest the next strip of peel. Repeat until most of the peel is removed, or until you have enough zest for your recipe.
- There's no need to get every bit from the ends or from flecks of remaining yellow.
Zesting with a Cocktail Zester
Use a traditional zester for spiral cocktail garnishes.The original "zester" looks like a small claw with tin teeth or sharp holes. This creates thin strips of peel for garnishing drinks.
- When a recipe calls for zest, it means finely minced or grated peel instead. You can use this tool, but you'll need to chop the peel finely afterward.
- A traditional lemon twist is actually easier to make with a vegetable peeler, as described below.
Wash the lemon.Scrub the lemon surface with hot, soapy water. Use an untreated, unwaxed lemon if you can. The wax is usually harmless (and regulated in the US and EU), but it can affect the taste of the drink.
Run the zester across the lemon in long strips.Press the teeth of the zester against the skin and drag it across the lemon. For decorative, extra long strips, rotate the lemon as you go.
Zesting with a Vegetable Peeler
Wash the lemon.As always, wash your fruit thoroughly with soapy water. You'll be eating this peel, so you don't want any pests or pesticides on it.
Create zest for recipes.This tools is not ideal if you want the zest for recipes, but it will work if you have no other options. Drag the vegetable peeler slowly and gently over the upper surface of the peel. Try to get as little of the white peel as possible. Once a strip of peel is removed, mince it as finely as you can to create zest.
- This zest will be less flavorful than grated zest, and especially microplaned zest. You may want to use more to make up for this, but keep in mind the pieces will also be more noticeable and less attractive.
Create lemon twists for cocktails.Remove a short, wide strip of zest as described above. Hold the strip with the peel side down over the drink, then twist it with your thumbs and forefingers to release oils onto the drink. Rub the strip against the glass rim for additional flavor, then drop it onto the drink surface.
- The bitter white pith will be especially noticeable in a cocktail. The underside of the strip should have several pores where the yellow skin is visible. If there's a thick white layer instead, carefully scrape off some of the pith with a paring knife.
Zesting with a Paring Knife
Choose a sharp, small paring knife.The paring knife is probably the most difficult tool for this job, but it has its benefits. You don't have to clog your kitchen with a one-use tool, and a sharp knife makes clean, dry cuts compared to the wet, sticky clumps other methods can produce. Keep reading to learn the technique.
Cut off both ends of a clean lemon.After washing the lemon, cut off both ends where they begin to taper. Rest a cut surface flat on the cutting board.
Slice off a thin strip of zest.Cut off a strip of rind from the side of the lemon, right where it meets the white pith. It may be easiest to start near the center of the lemon, where it bulges outward.
Remove the white pith.Hold the strip flat against the board with one hand, yellow side down. Press the knife blade flat on top of the strip, with the blade pointing away from your hand. Scrape the top of the strip at a slight angle, removing most of the white pith.
Julienne the strip.All this means is "cut it into thin strips." To avoid poking your fingers, hold the lemon peel in place with your fingers curled down into a "claw" shape. In this position, your knuckles are closer to the blade than your fingertips. As long as you keep the sharp edge of the knife below the level of your knuckles, you are unlikely to hurt yourself even if the knife slips.
Dice the peel.Gather the thin strips in a tight row, than rotate them 90º. Cut the other way using the same technique as above. Try to make the zest pieces as small as possible.
QuestionCan lemon zest be frozen?Top AnswererYes, that's an easy way to store it. Just make sure it is relatively dry when freezing.Thanks!
QuestionAll of the zest stays in the grater when I use it. What am I doing wrong?Top AnswererIt's natural for the zest to stick, but you can use a bit of oil on the grater to prevent sticking. Otherwise, just keep grating until you have enough zest or the grater is clogged, then dislodge the zest by hitting the grater against a side of a bowl.Thanks!
QuestionShould lemon zest be toasted before going into a dessert?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt depends on what you're making and how you're making it. If you are making a custard, you don't have to toast the zest because it gives the custard a natural taste and creamy consistency, but you may want to toast the zest for desserts like pies because it can add a nice crunchy texture.Thanks!
To zest a lemon, start by cleaning it thoroughly with soap and hot water. Then, hold a grater over a bowl and gently run the lemon down it. If you don't have a grater, you can use a knife or vegetable peeler to cut off the outer yellow skin from the fruit. Then, dice up the skin into small pieces before adding it to your recipe.
Things You'll Need
Soap and water
Grater, vegetable peeler, knife or microplane
- To get the best zest out of a lemon, choose a lemon with a rough, thick rind. Keeping the lemon cold will also make it easier to obtain a good zest.
- If possible, buy organic or untreated lemons when planning on using the zest.
- The lemon flavor in your dish will be stronger if you use finely grated zest, since this zest has the greatest surface area.
- Use the zest as soon as possible after removing it, since it loses flavor with time.
- If you mainly use lemons for zest, keep them in the freezer. You can zest frozen lemons easily, and they'll keep much longer than on the counter.
- Graters can be a pain to wash — so don't! There are two ways to avoid this:
- Before zesting, cover that side of the grater with plastic wrap.You may need to use a sturdy plastic wrap to avoid tearing.
- Grate as normal, then leave the grater in a warm, dry place with plenty of air. Wait until the stuck bits of peel dry and shrivel up. Wipe them off with a clean, dry cloth, and your grater is ready to go.
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Video: How to Zest a Lemon 4 Ways
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