How to Zest a Lemon or Lime

Tangerine Panna Cotta RecipeWith just a few movements of the grater, you can add lots of flavor with citrus peel (lemon, lime, orange or tangerine), also called zest, to your batter. It's the essential oils in the peel that gives the fragrant flavor. Key limes are not good for zesting because the skins are so thin, but regular limes are. Always zest before you squeeze juice from any citrus fruit.
SARAH SAYS: And, zest the fruit straight out of the refrigerator, then pop them into the microwave for 10 to 15 seconds before juicing. It's because room-temperature citrus yields more juice, but cold citrus is easier to zest.

We use this how to baking technique with the Tangerine Panna Cotta Recipe.

Flavored citrus or candy oils can be used to substitute, and I recommend them highly. I often substitute a total of 1/4 teaspoon pure citrus oil PER recipe (you can always add more after tasting)--the citrus oils actually have a more intense flavor than the fresh zest. The oils are very strong, so do not overdo it! You can store them in the refrigerator for a long time.

SARAH SAYS: If you have any fresh citrus zest left-over, place it into ice cube trays, then fill with citrus juice. Once frozen, transfer the cubes to freezer bags. Defrost as many cubes as you need for a burst of flavor. Or, divide the freshly grated zest in small portions (about 1 teaspoon) on a small piece of plastic wrap, and wrap tightly into little pouches, making sure you push out all of the air. Place in a resealble freezer bag and freeze for up to three months.


Citrus Fruit Yields
LEMON: One lemon yields approximately 1 tablespoon of zest.

LIME: A yield of a lime is hard to predict because the thickness of the skin varies so much. Key limes, because of their thin skins, do not zest well. Use a regular lime, instead.

ORANGE: One large orange yields approximately 2 tablespoons of zest.

TANGERINE: 2 - 3 tablespoons tangerine zest obtained from 12 - 13 tangerines

Be sure to use only the colored part of the peel; don't grate or cut into the bitter white pith underneath. Choose pebbly-textured (not smooth) and thick-skinned fruit, and then wash and dry it carefully before zesting. Zest are best grated and used immediately. Extra zest can be dried as a garnish or immersed in a light sugar syrup and kept for a day or two, well-covered.

There are a couple of different ways to zest:

1. An easy way is to use a grater with small holes and grate the peel off the fruit over a bowl or a piece of waxed paper to catch it. Use a dry pastry brush or fingertips to remove any zest that cleans to the grater;

2. With a microplane, which is my very favorite kitchen tool (it once was a hardware tool called a rasp), grate the zest. Hold the microplane over a piece of waxed paper with the fruit on top, grater side up beneath it, and let the peels fall below; or,

Hold the fruit and rest it on a flat surface. Turn the microplane upside down so the teeth face down with the fruit underneath. Holding the fruit still, move it back and forth so it shaves the peel. The shavings collect right in the trough.

3. Use a zesting tool which peels off thin strips of peel, that can be chopped finer, if desired. You can also use paring knife or vegetable peeler to remove the zest; then scrape as much of the bitter white pith off it as possible. Make sure the peel is yellow on both sides; you don't want the white part or the pith. Chop into small pieces.

Margarita Cupcakes RecipeSARAH SAYS: Fancy sculpted garnishes can be made with a whole lemon, lime or orange. So instead of wedges, you can garnish with fancy lemon wheels and twists. It requires an inexpensive grooving knife called a canelle. It's used on citrus, mushrooms and cucumbers to make decorative channels (canals). With your canelle, cut equally spaced vertical grooves in the lemon.

You can cut the limes or lemons into 1/8 - 1/4-inch slices. You can use the slices as garnish or take it one step further to make lime or lemon twists. Take a wheel and make one cut (rind to center). Then twist the ends in opposite directions. This is used with our Margarita Cupcakes Recipe.

Go to Candied Citrus Peel Recipe

Prepare the zest garnish:
1. Zest the tangerines or citrus fruit until you get about 2 - 3 tablespoons. We are using a microplane.

2. Place the tangerine zest on a paper towel, on a microwaveable plate, and microwave it at half power, in 2 minute increments, until it is dry.
Set dried zest aside, to use for garnish.

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