Become a lemon zest expert with this guide that includes methods for zesting and ideas for using lemon zest.
A kick of lemon perks up everything from saucy pastas to slow-cooked meats to decadent cakes. One of the easiest and most delicious ways to get that kick is with lemon zest. Let’s explore how to zest a lemon–with or without a zester–and the best ways to use and store lemon zest.
What Is Lemon Zest?
Lemon zest is the bright yellow outer layer of a lemon’s peel. The zest is full of natural oils, which give it its intense citrus flavor and fragrance.
How Is Lemon Zest Used?
The zest is typically used to infuse a dish with lemon flavor. Its oils absorb into other ingredients, making a little zest go a long lemony way. You can stir it into savory dishes, like shrimp scampi, or sweet treats like cheesecake alike.
Lemon zest can also be used as an edible garnish, as a sprinkle over steak tartare or pasta primavera, combined with salt and sugar to rim a margarita glass, or as a channel knife-curled twist over a cocktail.
For more ideas on using lemon zest, check out this How To Use Lemon Zest article on COOKtheSTORY.
Why Is Zest Sometimes Used Instead Of Lemon Juice?
Lemon juice is, of course, another excellent way to incorporate lemon flavor into a dish, but it also adds moisture. Lemon zest allows you to bring in the taste of lemon without additional moisture.
Also, the zest of a lemon has more concentrated flavor than its juice, so you might choose zest when you’re looking for a more pronounced lemoniness.
How To Store Lemon Zest
If you’re not planning to use the lemon zest as soon as you grate or peel it, your best bet to preserve its flavor potency is to freeze it.
To freeze lemon zest, arrange it in a single layer on a plate or parchment-lined baking sheet and set it in the freezer. Once the zest is frozen, transfer it to a resealable freezer bag and return it to the freezer for up to 3 months.
How To Zest A Lemon
The easiest way to zest a lemon is with a rasp-style zester, such as a Microplane. It’s specifically designed for this purpose and is easy to handle and clean. To zest a lemon with a zester, all you have to do is:
- Wash your lemon.
- Hold your zester over a small bowl or a cutting board to catch the zest.
- Slide the lemon up and down the zester, taking care to zest only the outer yellow peel layer (the inner white layer is bitter).
How To Zest A Lemon Without A Zester
If you don’t have a zester, that’s okay; there are many other ways to zest a lemon. Among them:
- Box grater: Carefully grate the yellow outer peel layer on the smallest holes.
- Vegetable peeler: Starting at one end of the lemon, use the peeler to carefully cut downward into the skin and remove the yellow outer peel layer in strips, then mince the strips into small pieces.
- Paring knife: Similarly to with the vegetable peeler, carefully remove the yellow outer peel layer in strips, then mince the strips into small pieces.