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What is Zesting and How To Do It (Even When You Don't Have a Zester)

What is zest?

Zest is the outer peel of a citrus fruit. It is extremely flavorful because it has the fruit’s oils which emit a lot of flavor and aroma. The average lemon yields about 1 tablespoon of zest.

Before you zest

Because you are using the skin of the citrus, you want to make sure that the skin is clean and healthy. Take a look at the skin and make sure it looks good, if possible, try to find citrus that doesn’t have the wax on it. And wash it well before you zest.

How to zest

There are many different ways to zest citrus. No matter which way you use, you want to avoid getting to the pith, which is the white part in between the skin and the fruit itself. Here are a few options:

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Zester: These are literally made to zest.

Microplane: Similar to a zester, the microplane provides fine pieces of zest.

Box grater: Even though a box grater can be used for many different things, if you use the smallest side, you can make great zest using your standard box grater.

Veggie/potato peeler: A peeler like this can help you get the thin part of the skin off the citrus without getting the pith, but you still need to use a knife to cut the strands into smaller pieces.

Knife: This is the most tricky but definitely do-able if you have no other tool to zest. Cut as closely to the top of the skin as possible. If you do catch some pith you can scrape it off before chopping and dicing. Cut the skin into as small pieces as possible.

Storing zest

Zest will stay fresh for about a week in an airtight container in the fridge or for up to a year in the freezer. You don’t need to defrost before use.

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