Citrus fruits are delicious all by themselves and their zest can add a touch of magic to your dishes. If you would like to zest your citrus fruits but find yourself lacking a zester for it, there are other tools that can help you get the job done. Read to know how to zest citrus without a zester.
The art of zesting citrus fruits such as lemon, lime, or orange adds a zingy punch to all sorts of recipes. You would be surprised to find that a sprinkle of lemon zest can go a long way in turning a dish from basic to outstanding. This holds true in baking where a plethora of lemon recipes ranging from tart to sweet, the simple zest from the citrus can add brightness and freshness to the dishes with the right balance of acidity. It is the secret (not anymore) ingredient that makes citrus desserts incredibly enticing. And just as it does wonders for baking, the same could be said for their role in culinary as well…
Knowing this, you can make use of a zester to get the best out of your citrus fruits. But just how do you capture this flavorful citrus zest without a zester? In this article, we will show you just how to zest citrus without a zester.
What Is Zest?
If you are not too familiar with including citrus in baking or cooking, zest might seem something unusual for you. To put it succinctly, the outer peel of citrus fruits such as lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits, and such, is the zest. It is fully loaded with citrus oil, where plenty of the aroma and flavor of the citrus is concentrated. Having filled with the citrus’s potent natural oils, it is no surprise how much punch a zest can pack.
Just have a lemon skin pierced, you should see a small spray of what resembles lemon juice to come out from its peel, that is the oil. Meanwhile, the white part underneath its yellow skin is called the pith. Unlike the zest, the pith is rather bitter in taste and does not contain much lemon flavor. You would want to avoid mixing it with your zest.
How to Zest a Lemon without a Zester
Now you might think if it is worth all the effort for some zest in your dish, and we are telling you, it is! First impressions, zesting a citrus may seem like huge effort for a little payoff, but know that even a small amount of it can be significant to a dish. In fact, there are variety of recipes ranging from meats, seafood, desserts, and beverages that call for zest. It is worth the effort.
So, what do you do if you want to zest a lemon, but do not have a zester in hand? Fret not, because no one said it was compulsory for you to own one. You can do simply fine without a zester! Let us explore some of the methods here:
Using a Box Grater
If you are one of those that keep a few more tools in their kitchen, a box grater would do the trick for you so you can still get the citrus zest you need. Just take out your box grater and grate the citrus fruits. The fine holes (or the sharp grater teeth) help to shave the zest from the citruses. As you are doing so, you also want to turn the citrus fruit as you go so you do not end up shaving the fibrous white pith and have it mixed with your shaved zest. While the zest is not going to be as fine as it would be if you were going to use something like a zester, it still works in a pinch and avoids you having to go out and buy something specific.
Some cheese graters will have finer holes for zesting, but if you find that you still need to give the peel a rough chop before using it, make sure your knife is sharp. A good barometer of sharpness is the tomato test. If you cannot run your knife over it and at least score the tomato, your knife is not sharp enough. If you can easily cut a tomato using the back or middle part of the blade, you have passed the test.
Using a Vegetable Peeler
No zester, no box grater too? Your everyday vegetable peeler gets the job done too. With the vegetable peeler, you can use its blade to cut away the citrus fruit’s outer rind. While you will not get finer zests as compared to using a box grater and get larger zest strips instead, these larger strips of zest are great as cocktail garnishes. If you want some finer pieces of zest, you could always get a sharp knife to cut the peels into finer strips.
Your everyday vegetable peeler can also be used to zest lemons. Use the blade to cut away the outer rind of the fruit. Larger strips of zest like this are ideal for garnishing cocktails, like a martini with a twist. You might get some of that white pith underneath, but you can always use a spoon to scrape it off. Once you have got rid of the pith, for finer pieces of zest, use a sharp knife to either chiffonade the peel or chop it finely. Breaking the peel down into smaller pieces makes it easier to extract the flavor from them all more quickly. The reason is that with each cut, the peel becomes more exposed to the air, and that air breaks down the citrus peel itself to get more oil to come out.
Using a (Serrated) Knife
Another option is to use a knife to zest your lemon or citrus. While a chef’s knife or a paring knife will suffice, a serrated knife is preferred because it will help to agitate the citrus skin and release the oil. Abrasion or scratching is particularly important in the zesting process because that is what releases all the oil.
If you do not own a serrated knife, you can still remove the rind with a paring or chef’s knife. Just be careful not to pulverise the peel when you mince it. When chopping, you do not want your cutting board to become too wet, which means you are just smashing the peel and losing a lot of flavour onto the board. If your board is still wet after you have finished, it means that most of the flavour is on the board rather than in the peel. Do not worry—there is no need to scrap and start over in this situation. You can still use the zest; just try to scrape any oil that drips onto your board back into the bowl or pan.
Lemon Zest Tips
How do you store lemon zest?
Lemon zest can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about a week. It can also be frozen for up to a year in an airtight container or zip-top bag. There is no need to defrost it before using it in your lemon dessert batters. And never throw away a lemon rind! If you are only going to use the juice, save the peel in a container for later use.
Also, in another article, read the Simple Steps to Store Herbs for them to last longer.
How much zest does a lemon have?
The zest of a typical lemon yields about 1 tablespoon. Keep this in mind as you read recipes that call for such measurements (though a little extra zest never hurts a dish, especially these lemon-basil recipes).
Can you substitute other ingredients for lemon zest?
Sometimes you swear you have a lemon in the refrigerator, only to discover that the drawer is empty. Fret not, there are plenty of good lemon zest substitutes. Other citrus fruit zests are one option. A small amount of lemon extract or dried lemon peel could also be used. Some recipes call for lemon juice, but depending on what you are making, you may need to balance the tartness with a bit of sugar. Lemon juice also adds extra liquid to baking that you may not want, so it is best used as a lemon zest substitute in recipes that already contain liquid, such as lemon curd.
More Citrus Zesting Tips
This zest will not be as fine as zest obtained with a zester, so it will impart the same delicious flavour but may also make your finished dish more textured. You can cook with the zest in recipes like curd, custard, and posset and strain it out for a smooth texture if desired. Remember to wash your fruit before zesting it. Before juicing your citrus, zest it first. If you have already juiced your lemons, flatten the remaining skin on the chopping board to make it easier to cut.
What Recipes to Enhance with Citrus Zest
Extra zest can be combined with butter to make a compound butter for grilling, or it can be combined with sea salt to make a tasty finishing salt. You can also use it to decorate cakes, dips, marinades, and desserts.
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