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Best Way to Zest a Lime or Lemon

I always seem to avoid dishes that require zest of lemon or lime because it seems arduous to me - and I have difficulty getting only the colored portion. But I have recently started making a key lime pie (aka Mexican lime pie) which is so easy and everyone loves it. So -- any suggestions for the most efficient way to zest a lime? I will be in NY for Thanksgiving and will have my semi-annual chance to shop for kitchen tools. Thanks.

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  1. Microplane. Nothing else even comes close.

    1. Use a microplane. If you're shopping for kitchen tools, buy two of them (for those times when one is in the dishwasher). Lightly rasp the microplane on the citrus and you'll get very fine ribbons of zest with no pith. I often don't even chop the zest anylonger.

      1. Absolutely a microplane. I also use it for grating cloves of garlic, rather than mincing with a knife, and also for grating ginger!

        1. I third the Microplane. You will no longer be intimidated by zest if you invest in this simple tool! Trust us!

          1. 5 out of 5 chowhounds recommend microplanes for zesting!

            1 Reply
            1. re: Bigley9

              Mike it 6 our of 6.

            2. I vote for the ubiquitos vegetable peeler. Don't dig deep, but if you want the most zest for the least work, just use a peeler. Microplanes are nice if you want zest-dust, IMHO, and are a lot of work. If you want a microplane but balk at Kitchen shop prices, go to Home Depot or a store like that and look at the ShureForm Rasps. Same thing, without a "Restaurant/Kitchen price tag. Most of the chefs I know who are using a microplane shop at Home Depot!

              4 Replies
              1. re: KiltedCook

                wow - zest dust? I get almost inch long shreds of zest.

                1. re: Bigley9

                  I think what he's talking about is the thickness of the zest. In the "before times" where there were no microplanes for the kitchen, zesters and veggie peelers were used to peel off really thick slices of the zest, often taking pith with it. It required a lot of hand control and muscle (especially when the zester would get dull) to get peel without pith. Sometimes I want thicker zest, like when I'm baking gingerbread and want larger pieces of candied orange zest, but most of the time I prefer the convienience of the microplane over the added value of larger zest pieces. Sometimes, I just want zest dust.

                  1. re: jazzy77

                    Right - I use the microplane when I need lots of grated zest. If I want nice long curls, I use my zester (works great on carrots by the way too), and sometimes I use the vegetable peeler to peel off slices and then julienne or chop them.

                    1. re: MMRuth

                      That's EXACTLY what I do. I don't like many things that serve only one purpose, but I DO have a zester for longer pieces and, of course, the microplanes are indispensable.

              2. Japanese ginger grater!!

                2 Replies
                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  A ginger grater would be horrid for zesting - you are talking about one of those porcelian thingees with the tiny bumps?

                  1. re: grant.cook

                    No. They're tin rectangular devices that have lots of double rows of very small raised teeth and no holes. Grated ginger and juice or zest collects at a collector at the bottom. There is a smaller similar grater with smaller teeth at the top handle part which is good but slower.

                2. As the previous posters mostly said, microplane is the way to go.

                  A tip I learned on this very board some months back is to pull the microplane across the top of citrus fruit. For some reason it works better, or is easier to get the zest out of the grater, than when you hold the microplane business side up in the non-dominant hand and rub the citrus fruit across the top of the plane with dominant hand. It sounds weird that it would make a difference but it really does.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: janniecooks

                    You know, I thought I was the only one that thought this to be a superior method....

                    1. re: jazzy77

                      Jazzy, I see that I missed that tip in your original post. It ought to be one of the Chow "You're Doing it all Wrong!" Videos. If they can do a video on how to chop an onion.....

                      1. re: jazzy77

                        Oh no!!!!!!!!!!!!! My husband always uses the microplane that way and I always make fun of him :) Guess I'll have to share this with him. Or not?

                        1. re: c oliver

                          The microplane was adapted from the woodworking rasp, and a rasp is used by drawing it across the object, not the other way around, which might be why your husband does it that way.

                          It really does work better that way (I learned it here, too: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/372416), and the curve of the microplane catches the zest. Seriously, there's nothing better then a microplane for zesting -- it's just so much faster, neater and easier than any other implement.

                    2. roll it from top to bottom in one motion across a microplane

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: bw2082

                        Thank you all sooo much. What a great resource CH is. I will buy myself a microplane in NY for sure - but not two. No dishwasher in my humble casa in Baja Sur.