Have you ever had a recipe that called for Zest and not known what it is? Zest is the skin of citrus fruits such as lemons, limes, and oranges. It is used as flavoring for baking, cooking and dressings as it has a very intense flavor from the oils contained in the skin.
If a recipe calls for zest then it means it. The problem with using juice instead is that it is adding liquid and acidity to the recipe not just flavoring and while this isn't a huge problem for making things such as dressings, it does cause problems when baking.
The whole idea of zesting is to remove the outer most skin of the fruit, limiting the amount of white pith, which is bitter. There are three ways of zesting:
A zester is a handheld utensil with a handle similar to a vegetable peeler but with a flat metal head with holes along the edge. When pressed firmly against the fruit and dragged it produces long, thin strips of zest. These strips are great for recipes where you want to see the zest. The downside is that there is some wastage as there are gaps between the holes. Zesters are available at grocery stores, kitchen stores and online. They range in price from $7.50.
This is a tool that has grown in popularity over recent years. It's design is similar to that of a rasp used for woodworking but with small razor sharp teeth. It is generally long and thin, sometimes with a handle. When citrus fruit is rubbed across the teeth, it produces a fine grated zest.
Microplanes come in a number of shapes and sizes, some with specific applications in mind. They are available at kitchen specialty stores as well as online, starting at around $12.00 and up.
Unlike the zester, which can only really be used with citrus fruits, the microplane can also be used for grating other ingredients such as chocolate, nuts and garlic.
A regular grater can be used but only as a last resort and with care not to remove too much white pith with the zest. The zest produced from a regular grater has more pith so is slightly more bitter and has a moister consistency. Regular all-purpose graters come in either handheld with one sized grater or box graters with three or four different graters. The majority of graters range in price from $10.00 and can be found at grocery stores, kitchen specialty stores and online.
Make sure you use the side of the grater with the smallest side otherwise, you will have large chunks.