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!
Step 1: Weapons of Choice
- a paring knife
- a zester
- a microplane or grater
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
Step 2: Paring Knife
I start by cutting off the top and bottom of the fruit so that I can see where the skin ends and the pith begins.
Place your knife right at the edge of the skin and guide it down and around the curve of the lemon. The amount of pith left on mine is really the most you'll ever want to have, any more than that and it can effect the taste of your zest!
Big strips look the best, but you can always slice off the skin in smaller pieces if it helps you get less pith. Depending on what you're using the zest for, you can leave the zest in big strips, julienne it, or chop it finely.
Step 3: Zester
Place the zester sharp edges down on the skin of the fruit, and pull it along the length. The longer and harder your contact with the skin is, the better your strips of zest will look. I like to make mine as long as possible.
I like to do strips all around the lemon, and you can even do a second pass getting all the grooves of skin left behind since it's so evenly spaced.
And a zester is great for one other reason - it's designed so you don't dig deep enough into the skin to get to the pith. :)
Step 4: Microplane or Grater
Make sure to avoid already zested areas - you'll take off the pith instead and it can be bitter. :)
If you're wanting to add the zest to cooking or baking, do the zesting right over the bowl or pot it'll be going in to! It's easier and you'll get more yummy oils that way.