How to Zest a Lemon
If you’re reading a recipe that calls for lemon zest and don’t know how to zest a lemon – don’t worry. It’s pretty simple with the right tool and just a bit of practice.
What you’re after is the very outside layer of skin off of a lemon – or an orange, lime, key lime, grapefruit – any kind of citrus. If you look at the photographs closely, you’ll see that there is the bright yellow outer layer, which is really rather thin, then a white thicker layer to the lemon rind. You really only want that very thin outer layer – that’s the zest. You do NOT want the inner white layer – that’s the pith, and it’s very bitter. There are LOADS of incredibly flavorful essential oils in this thin outer layer – it’s culinary gold, and can be used in a remarkable number of both sweet and savory dishes, and is the magic potion for lots of cocktail recipes.
There are two very simple tools you can use to zest the lemon. The first is with a lemon zester – a s
The second tool you can use is a microplane grater. A few years ago you had to go find these at hardware stores in the tools section, but in the past decade they’ve found their way to main stream kitchen supply and big box stores. I personally like the microplane grater better of the two options. The end result is a very, very fine grate, like in the picture below. I use this 99% of the time in recipes that call for lemon zest. With pieces this tiny, it really gets well incorporated into the recipe, and there’s very little chance of biting into a large bit of zest, which can be very intense. Alternately, if you’re in a pinch, and you happen to have a box grater, most of them have a side with a very tiny grater size. You can always just use that, although the zest does tend to clump up badly in the grater, and can be terribly difficult to use. Neither a lemon zester or a microplane grater are very expensive, so it’s worth the couple of dollars just to save the hassle factor.