Essentials: How to Use a Zester

As you have probably guessed, I have a little bit of an addiction to countertop appliances, gadgets and pretty much anything else that can be used in a kitchen. I actually purchased a membership to Amazon Prime in order to feed this addiction and in turn justify my purchases with free shipping.

I get a bunch of emails from readers asking for specific product recommendations for everything from toasters and ice cream scoops to major appliances like stoves and dishwashers. Although my kitchen is well-equipped, I am certainly not the end all be all in this arena. However, I thought is would be fun to introduce a new series to My Baking Addiction called Essentials. Basically, I will feature many of the products that I use daily in my kitchen.

For the first Essentials post, I thought I would introduce you to a zester also referred to in the culinary world as a Microplane or a rasp. A zester is essentially a tool that allows you to remove the zest from citrus. It also comes in handy for a variety of other uses which makes it multifunctional. In my opinion, there is no better way to remove the zest from citrus fruits while leaving behind the bitter pith. If you don’t have a zester, I suggest you pick one up because it is definitely an essential item for your kitchen gadget collection.

Ways to Use a Zester

Remove the Zest from Citrus Fruits: Gently run the citrus fruit along the zester to remove fine shreds of the zest. Be careful not to remove any of the white pith, that’s the bitter part of the fruit and will certainly impart a bitter taste to your recipe.
Grate Whole Spices: Carefully rub whole spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom along the zester to create  freshly ground spices. Freshly ground spices are much more intense than the ground spices you purchase at the market, so practice a bit of restraint and be sure to taste as you go.
Grating Fresh Ginger: If you love homemade Asian food as much I do, you have probably been faced with the task of mincing fresh ginger. This is not my idea of a good time and can be a little labor intensive when minced the traditional way. Once you peel a piece of fresh ginger, simply rub it across your zester and you’ll end up with beautifully minced ginger in no time flat.
Mincing Fresh Garlic: I love me some garlic, but there is nothing I hate more than chomping into a giant piece that was not adequately minced before being added into a recipe. If you use a zester to grate your garlic, you’ll be left with a glorious garlic paste that can easily be incorporated to your favorite dishes and no fancy knife skills are required!
Grating Hard Cheeses: It’s easy to quickly grate hard cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano onto your favorite pastas and salads. Rub a piece of cheese over the zester and like magic, you’ll have finely grated cheese that melts like a dream.
Chocolate Shavings: Looking to jazz up your desserts, but no time to make fancy chocolate curls? Simply run your favorite chocolate over the zester to create chocolate shavings.

26 Responses to “Essentials: How to Use a Zester”

  1. naomi — February 27, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    this is one of my fav tools in the kitchen! love how you broke down its uses.

  2. Mirjana — February 27, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    Thanks for sharing this. I didn’t know it had that many uses on it. I was always afraid to buy one, but I think that I’m going to have to. We put garlic in almost everything.

  3. Ryan @ Ryan's Baking Blog — February 27, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    I could not live without my zester!

  4. Hailey @ nakedcupcakes — February 27, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    I love my zester too! Such a simple and amazing tool!

  5. Debbie C — February 27, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    I can’t wait to see more posts. I don’t have a zester yet, but it is on my “list” of need to have’s.

  6. gina — February 27, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    Is it crazy that I can remember clearly the day I traveled two hours to Williams Sonoma to purchase my Microplane zester?

    • Jamie — February 27th, 2011 at 9:22 pm

      That is totally something I would do!

  7. Vanessa — February 27, 2011 at 9:09 pm

    I have 5 microplanes believe it or not!!! I love that thing… I think way too much. <3

    • Jamie — February 27th, 2011 at 9:22 pm

      I have a few myself…LOVE them!

  8. Sara — February 27, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    You forgot to mention chocolate :) Chocolate ‘curls’ – freeze the chocolate a bit – keep in mind this will be very small in size – I use the smaller curls for dessert ‘toppers’ (cupcake icing, whipped cream on hot chocolate, pots du creme and the like).

    • Jamie — February 27th, 2011 at 9:38 pm

      Thanks, I’ll add that now.

  9. Liddy — February 27, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    Your article definitely has me planning to go out and buy a zester this week! :) A question about garlic: do you prefer using a zester over using a garlic press?

    • Jamie — February 27th, 2011 at 9:37 pm

      I prefer the zester for garlic when I am preparing it for recipes like salad dressings and sauces when a fine grate is necessary. I still have and use my press on a regular basis.

  10. Betty @ scrambled hen fruit — February 27, 2011 at 11:46 pm

    I love love love my microplane zester. I use it almost every day. :)

  11. Lindsey — February 28, 2011 at 12:05 am

    I’m a big fan of how-to posts like this one. Keep it up!

  12. notyet100 — February 28, 2011 at 1:37 am

    this is so cool,so mny ways,,

  13. Katrina — February 28, 2011 at 8:47 am

    Thanks for the tips! Zesting has never been a friend of mine.

  14. Jill @ Dulce Dough — February 28, 2011 at 11:27 am

    The Edgeware zesters look really nice! I like the storage container and the squeegee that they have! I have a couple of Microplanes that I use way more than I thought I would. I also have a regular zester but the microplanes seem to do a much better job at not getting any of the white pith.

  15. Becky — February 28, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    I love my Zester! I use it for so many things and love the way it grates Parmesan cheese. No better way to get it perfectly shaved for the tops of dishes. I never thought of using it for chocolate before. I will definitely bust it out the next time I am making dessert! Thanks for the idea!

  16. Happy When Not Hungry — February 28, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    I love my zester! Definitely makes things so much easier. Thanks for sharing!

  17. Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen — February 28, 2011 at 7:17 pm

    I adore my microplane zester! I can’t imagine not having one, I use it for everything.

  18. bridget {bake at 350} — March 1, 2011 at 7:13 am

    Love this list! :)

  19. Liddy — March 2, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    This article got me so enthusiastic about the idea of using a zester, that today I treated myself to one! I’m excited about getting to use it this week for a couple of recipes that call for using a zester! :) I wouldn’t have been sure which brand to buy, but since I saw the Microplane Zester spoken so highly of here, that’s what I bought. I had a 20% off Bed Bath & Beyond coupon, so got it at a nice discount. Can’t wait to use it! :)

  20. Pearl (Crunch and Chew) — March 20, 2011 at 12:24 am

    My zester definitely gets taken out daily. I’ve got a microplane and it works like a charm!

  21. Nadia — March 20, 2011 at 11:45 pm

    Don’t forget about grating nuts. Nothing is better than freshly grated almonds over a salad. You can get that nutty flavor without having the overwhelming texture of the nuts. Grated nuts are also grate over delicate desserts like creme brulee.

  22. Scary Mary — January 7, 2016 at 12:52 am

    For big jobs, try a “Cheesegrater,” purchased at an auto body supply store. For real. Bet this is one gadget you don’t have yet, Jamie!

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