How to Zest a Citrus Fruit

Опубликовал Admin
30-11-2020, 00:00
The bright, tangy notes of fruits like lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruits lie in their flavorful zest. Once freshly grated, citrus zest can be used to punch up the flavor of everything from cheesecake to steak marinade. Zesting may seem like a tedious task, but with the right tools it’s quick and painless. You can easily grate your favorite festive fruits with a microplane, or use a zester, veggie peeler, or paring knife to remove the peel in neat strips before chopping it by hand.

Washing and Drying the Fruit

  1. Wash the citrus. Before you get started, run the fruit under a stream of cool water, then buff it gently with a clean cloth or paper towel. A light rinse will help remove the natural waxy residue on the outside of the fruit. You can also give the citrus a quick soak in a shallow bowl of water.
    • It’s important to wash citrus fruit any time you’re zesting, since the outside is the part that will actually be going into your food.
    • Be sure to remove any stickers or labels so they that don't end up in the zest.
    • Organic fruits are better, but should still be rinsed to ensure cleanliness.
  2. Dry the fruit thoroughly. After rinsing or soaking the fruit for a few moments, shake off the excess water and pat it with a towel. Make sure the citrus is completely dry—you’ll be holding onto the fruit by hand, and you may slip if the peel is too wet.
    • A microfiber towel will help remove more moisture from the outside of the peel.
  3. Choose the right tool for the job. Graters, peelers, and paring knives will perform the same basic function, but one may produce a zest that’s better suited to your culinary needs than the other. A microplane grater is the way to go if you want a finely shredded zest that blends seamlessly into sauces, desserts, and other recipes. With a peeler, you’ll end up with slivers of a uniform size and thickness. Slicing citrus fruits by hand will result in an irregularly shaped peel, but offer you more control over the depth of your cut.
    • Any knife with a short, sharp blade will work just fine when you don’t have a more expedient zesting tool on hand.
    • When using a peeler or paring knife, you’ll need to go back and chop the peel to an appropriate size later on.

Using a Microplane

  1. Set out a large plate or cutting board. Zesting can get a little messy if you’re not careful. A cutting board or similar surface will help stabilize the microplane while also collecting the loose zest. Make sure you keep the microplane centered over the surface as you work.
    • A shallow bowl will also work, especially if you’re using a small handheld microplane.
    • If you don’t have another suitable surface on hand, lay down a layer of folded paper towels.
  2. Run the fruit along the blades of the microplane. Hold the microplane at a roughly 45 degree angle while you grate, bracing one end against the cutting board. Use smooth, light strokes and turn the fruit after every few passes. The basic idea is to remove only the brightest colored part of the fruit’s exterior.
    • If you’re using a box grater or microplane with multiple blades, use the smallest set of holes to ensure that the zest comes out with a fine texture.
    • Applying too much pressure can cause you to cut down to the tough white pith beneath the peel. Pith has a bitter taste that can throw off the finished flavor of a recipe.
  3. Collect the zest to use in your favorite recipes. Scrape the loose zest into a separate bowl, or transfer it to a plastic bag or airtight container and place it in the freezer for later. It will best when used right away while the oils are at their most potent.
    • Use a sprinkle of finely-grated citrus zest to add tart, zippy notes to cake batter, cookie dough, sauces, or marinades.
    • Store the leftover citrus in the refrigerator until you have use for the fruit or juice.

Using a Zester

  1. Grip the fruit in one hand. Cup the citrus in your palm to expose as much of the outer surface as possible. Squeeze the sides of the fruit with your fingers to hold it steady. To avoid sending the zest flying everywhere, you may find it easiest to start on the underside of the fruit.
    • Be sure to keep your fingers clear of the moving blades of the zester.
    • Holding the fruit yourself, as opposed to placing it on another surface, will give you more control.
  2. Drag the zester along the outside of the citrus. Run the zester lengthwise across the outside of the fruit using short, quick strokes. For best results, hold the fruit away from your body and pull the zester towards you. When forced through the tiny holes of the zester, the peel will curl into thin ribbons, perfect for garnishing desserts or placing around the rim of a cocktail.
    • Position the zester over a cutting board, plate or paper towel to keep the zest shavings together.
    • Only grate the brightest part of the citrus, and stop before you reach the bitter pith.
  3. Turn the fruit as you go. After every few strokes, twist the citrus around and renew your grip. Repeat this process until you’ve gone over the entire peel or gathered as much zest as you need.
    • Don’t try to rotate the fruit as you grate, or you could end up scraping your own fingers.
    • Once you’ve got enough zest, place the leftover citrus in the refrigerator for storage. Alternately, you can go ahead and grate the entire fruit and store the zest if you suspect you’ll use it for other dishes in the near future.

Using a Veggie Peeler or Paring Knife

  1. Make a shallow cut in the peel. Dig into the peel with the blade of the peeler or knife just enough to get it started. You’ll then be able to apply just enough pressure to strip the peel while steering clear of the pith.
    • Slice both ends off of the citrus to give yourself a more convenient starting point.
    • A brief soak in lukewarm water can help soften fruits with tough rinds, such as limes.
  2. Run the knife or peeler down the length of the fruit. If you’re using a peeler, simply pull it towards you to remove the peel one strip at a time. If you’re using a knife, you’ll need to carefully guide the blade around the outer edge of the fruit in a spiral motion. Pause to rotate the citrus after each section of peel you remove.
    • It can be tricky at first to zest a citrus fruit with a veggie peeler. The more times you do it, the better you’ll get at using just the right amount of force.
    • Angle the blade of the knife downward into the fruit to keep from slipping and cutting yourself.
  3. Finish cutting the peel by hand. After peeling the citrus, you’ll be left with a pile of strips of varying sizes. These strips might be a little too unwieldy as-is, but you can easily reduce them to a more usable size by chopping them with a sharp knife. Add the zest to drinks, dinner or dessert while it’s still fresh to get the most out of the potent oils.
    • Slice the strips into long, thin slivers for garnishes, pastry fillings, stir fries, and anything else where you want to highlight the bold flavor of the citrus.
    • Try kicking up the taste of salad dressings, remoulade, and aiolis with a hint of fresh citrus zest.


  • If you plan on using the whole fruit, it will be easier to grate it before slicing or juicing.
  • Store lemons, limes and oranges in the freezer and zest them while they’re still cold. This will make them extra firm, which will help you work around the difficulty of grating fruit that’s too moist.
  • Dehydrate citrus zest by baking it in the oven on a low heat. It can then be kept in dry storage in a jar, making it more convenient to grab a pinch whenever you need it.
  • In addition to its culinary uses, citrus zest can be incorporated into teas, potpourri, homemade moisturizers, and essential oil blends.


  • A little bit of zest goes a long way. Be sure to taste your confections as you go to avoid overdoing it.
  • Handle graters, peelers and knives with caution. Zesting will require you to get up close and personal with the fruit, which could lead to accidents if you’re not careful.

Things You'll Need

  • Microplane
  • Zester
  • Veggie peeler
  • Paring knife
  • Cutting board
  • Large plate
  • Clean, dry cloth or paper towels
  • Plastic bags or containers for storage
Users of Guests are not allowed to comment this publication.