How to Zest a Lemon

Want to add some zest to a cocktail, a sauce, or a pie filling? Here's how to find the right tool for the job.

illo-zest-tools
Photo by The Ellaphant in the Room

The aromatic oils that lie in the skins of citrus fruits are the secret ingredient in countless dishes, from pastas to cakes (like our Mandarin Olive Oil Cake). Zest adds bold flavor without the extra acidity you get in the juice. The key is removing the outer skin while leaving behind the bitter white pith. Depending on what type of zest you need, one of these tools will do the trick.



Y-Peeler: Use a vegetable peeler to create long, 1-inch-wide strips; cut away any white pith. Toss the peels into braises or martinis—anywhere you want flavor but not a mouthful of grated citrus.

Zester: This tool makes narrow, curly strips that add an assertive bite to pastas and sauces or that can be used as a garnish. (You can also create julienne strips by thinly slicing a larger piece of peel.)

Microplane: You’ll get fine shavings, with little chance of unwanted pith, that disappear into dressings, cookies, cakes, and pie fillings.