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Well, this is not just about how to zest a lemon - you can zest any citrus fruit. What is zesting? It's removing the very outer layer of skin from a citrus fruit. Zest is a great way to add extra flavor to cooking and extra oomph to food and drink presentation. :D

You can candy it, preserve it, dry it, grind it with spices, add it to baked goods - almost anything!

In this instructable I'm going to show you how to zest a lemon or any other citrus fruit in three easy ways. Soon you will be the zest master!
 
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Step 1: Weapons of choice

Picture of weapons of choice
There are three good ways to zest any citrus fruit:
  • a paring knife
  • a zester
  • a microplane or grater
I've also heard of people using vegetable peelers, but I'm guessing you need a very fancy and very sharp peeler. I have tried several times and been less than impressed. So I'm gonna say those people are fibbers.

Each will give you entirely different results. Using a paring knife is great for candied lemon or orange peels, using a grater or microplane is great for getting zest into baked goods, salad dressing or other cooking that requires tiny bits of zest, and using a zester is great for decorative zest.

Also, a note about which fruit to buy - your best bet when using zest it to get organic produce! Nearly all conventional produce is coated with wax. The wax can make the zest taste funny sometimes, and it's pretty hard to remove. Can't find organic produce? Scrub the fruit under hot water and that's a start.

I've used conventional lemons, limes and oranges for zest quite a few times and I'm not dead yet and everything still tasted good. :D

Here's one you didn't mention. As a bartender / waiter years ago, I made 'twists' of lemon peel as a regular duty, prepping the garnishes for drinks. Cut both ends off a fresh lemon, a bit into the pulp, so you can see the cross-section of zest / pith / & pulp on each end. Then use a 'bar spoon' (? it works with any spoon, sharper edges are better) to carve out the pulp, including as much pith as you can get, by shoving the spoon along the inside edge of the zest all the way around. You should then be able to push the whole lemon body (pulp, with pith on) out of the remaining peel (zest), which can then be sliced into twists or chopped fine for cooking, etc. Seems easier to me than getting all that stuff off a grater.

PaleoM made it!2 months ago
Just a little to start. Going right into the freezer.
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margit.strout3 months ago

I have an inexpensive vegetable peeler I got at a big box store and use it to zest lemons all the time, I use to use a grater, but have gone to the peeler. I freeze the zest and juice and make lemon curd as I desire.

FaerieQueenT8 months ago

I make my own Lemoncello, which requires you to zest 15+ lemons without any pith. I use a vegetable peeler, as a general rule. You must go shallow, but it is doable, if time consuming.

Thanks for sharing this. How long can the zest be stored in fridge, and can it be frozen?

I'm not sure how long fresh zest can be kept in the fridge -- I would guess a couple of days. I freeze whole lemons and oranges in a resealable plastic bag. I just grab one and use what I need and throw it back in the freezer. After I've used all the zest I use the fruit in smoothies (half a lemon in a green smoothie is amazing!), tea, or lemonade.

Aleta19531 year ago

I'm not fibbing and my veg peddler is inexpensive. I use it to get the zest then I juliane it and chop. Veg peddlers DO work

tclemmo2 years ago
I love your photos, on all of your Instructables.
westfw2 years ago
I've done this "backward." Peel the lemon (pith and all.) Then, starting from the backside, cut/scrape off the pith to leave nothing but the zest. This works well for making candied lemon peel, but I always feel like it's not finely enough grated for recipes that call for "zest."
Oranges, grapefruits, and other orange-like citrus zest MUCH easier with a vegetable peeler. Lemons and limes are definitely better to stick with the micro planer :)
dchall82 years ago
Our microplane will not touch the pith. The pith seems to be too soft to catch on the plane's sharp edges.