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Test Kitchen tips: Zesting citrus

August 10, 2011 | 12:51 pm


When a recipe calls for zest, it's referring to the outermost layer of a citrus fruit -- that colored part of the skin that gives oranges, lemons and limes their vibrant colors. It's the zest that contains those rich, fragrant oils that give so much flavor to a dish or recipe.

Orangezestirisschneider There are many ways to zest a fruit, whether using a citrus zester (pictured above), a grater, a microplane or rasp, vegetable peeler or even a good old-fashioned paring knife.  Simple as it may be, there are still some tips to keep in mind:

  • Make sure you remove only the outermost layer of colored zest, leaving the white pith behind. The pith is bitter, and that bitterness can overpower the flavor of the zest, affecting the final recipe.
  • Zest your citrus first, before juicing or using any other part of the fruit in a recipe. It's easier -- zesting a juiced fruit is like trying to zest a flat tire.
  • Choose your method of zesting based on how the zest will be used in a recipe. If the zest is strictly for flavor, I prefer a rasp or grater -- I find the blades don't cut quite as "clean" as a zester or knife, slightly bruising the zest as it's removed to release more oils for flavor. If I'm using the zest as a garnish (candying it to top a cake, or using it to complete a cocktail), a zester, peeler or knife work best. A zester will give you nice, consistent strips of zest.  A peeler or knife enable you to remove large pieces of zest, which you can cut or chop to use as desired.

If you have any kitchen tips or questions you'd like me to explore, leave a comment below or email me at noelle.carter@latimes.com.


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-- Noelle Carter

Photo credits, from top: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times; Iris Schneider / Los Angeles Times