How to use a lemon zester

Hands down, one of the worst household chores is washing up a cheese grater. If you’ve only used the side with the big holes, it’s a breeze. But if you’ve you’ve grated something with the little holes – or even worse, the pointy ones – you’re in for the long haul. They’re impossible to get completely clean. Scouring pads simply get shredded, along with your fingertips.

Unfortunately, any recipe that calls for lemon zest (and there are a lot of them) means that face-off with the cheese grater is inevitable. Unless you use a Zyliss 2 in 1 Zester.

Yes, there is another way. Lemon zesters make it painless to finely peel or shred lemon skin in seconds. Big baker? Fan of foreign cuisine? A lemon zester is a must. It’ll save your sanity – and the washing up.

What is the pith of a lemon?

A lemon is made up of three parts: pith, peel and pulp. The pith of a lemon is the white bit between the yellow outer skin and the inner flesh of the fruit. It’s usually quite stringy and bitter-tasting: not what you want in your cooking.

For that reason, most recipes that include lemon only require the zest (peel) and juice (pulp). The zest is the yellow top layer that has all the citrus oils in it. It’s great for adding vibrant colour and fragrant flavour to your dishes.

It can be difficult to properly separate the pith from the zest, though. You can try graters, knives and potato peelers, but they tend to be quite clunky tools. They’ll get the zest off, but they’ll usually bring quite a bit of pith with it. That can ruin the flavour and texture of your food.

What can you use lemon zest for?

Lemons are one of those go-to ingredients it’s always good to keep around your kitchen. If you do manage to separate your zest properly, it’ll work wonders across a wide variety of recipes. Baked into cakes, sprinkled across savoury dishes or as the sophisticated finishing touch in a cocktail, lemon zest is a real all-rounder. 

If you’ve got a couple of lemons going spare and don’t know what to do with them, a classic lemon drizzle cake could be a good place to start. Lemon zest is stirred through the cake mix before baking to create a zingy family favourite. Once it’s out of the oven, you can sprinkle some lemon zest over the top for a little extra flair. Remember, presentation is everything!

Don’t have much of a sweet tooth? Lemons and lemon zest are a common ingredient in lots of Moroccan recipes, too. And they’re easier to make than you think. For a quick crowd-pleaser, try a simple chicken tagine. Some liberally applied lemon zest will add depth to the flavour and have everyone thinking you spent hours over the stove.

If you have any left over, hang onto it. Lemon zest can be combined with a variety of other spices (like garlic, salt and paprika) to make dry rubs that you can massage into meat and veg before grilling.

Quick lemon zesting tips 

Not sure how to use a lemon zester? Good news: a lemon zester is quicker, cleaner and easier to use than a grater or peeler – and will get much better results. Wash your fruit first to soften some of the wax. Then, for perfectly peeled zest (and no pith), pull the zester gently towards you. Don’t press too hard: although you’ll need to apply a little pressure to cut through the wax, too much will mean you end up digging into the pith. 

You can use a zester to make long ribbons of lemon peel, or finely grated zest for garnishes. Remember to hang onto the rest of the fruit, too – the juice can be used for salad dressings, smoothies and soups.

And of course, a zester can be used on more than just lemons. When you’re ready to get really creative, try zesting limes, grapefruits and other citrus fruits. You’ll be surprised at the fresh flavour profiles you’re able to produce. Once you’re done, zesters are easy to clean (without the risk of slicing off a finger).

When it comes to really good food, those finishing touches make all the difference. Try the Zyliss 2 in 1 Zester to up-level your cakes, bakes and cocktails – and never touch the cheese grater again.


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