Orange zest is used to give that pop of citrus flavor that a recipe needs. The process of zesting citrus is very easy to do.
In this post we will cover how to zest and orange 3 different ways. You really get a huge amount of flavor from such a small part of the peel.
What is orange zest
Orange zest is the color part of the orange peel. Orange zest is a great way to add vibrant citrus flavors to your cooking. Before you zest I would read how to tell if an orange is bad.
Adding orange zest to your homemade dressing or marinades will brighten the flavors of your dish! I love to add a little orange zest to my glaze when I am making a dessert.
Its a great way to add a fresh citrus taste to whatever recipe to need a little zing added.
How to zest an orange
You can zest an orange in a few different ways. The thing is you don’t have to have a zester!
The best way I feel to zest an orange or any citrus fruit for that matter is using a Microplane! This is a great kitchen gadget that makes zesting any citrus fruit easy!
You want to gently scrape the orange along the Microplane only getting the orange off from the peel. Getting the white pith of the peel will give you a bitter taste and you don’t want that in your recipe.
If you don’t have a Microplane don’t worry! I am going to show you 2 other ways you can get a good orange zest. One uses a box grater and the other uses a vegetable peeler for when you are really in a bind.
If you are not sure what to do with the rest of the orange then check out how to cut an orange.
1. Wash the orange
Always wash your oranges or any citrus fruit before you use it, even when you are not using the peel.
You want to make sure you run it under cool water rubbing it gently to get off any chemicals or bacteria that might be on the peel from the farm or transport.
Some people don’t think it is not necessary if you are just going to cut it and not use the outside but the truth is when you cut it into the skin you are just dragging those bacteria into the fruit. So it is best to always wash them or use a vegetable spray before you start.
2. Zest the orange with a Microplane
The best way to zest your orange is with a Microplane. They are easy to use and help you get just the orange off and not get into the white pith.
When using a Microplane you want to hold the handle and stand it on on your cutting board with the flat edge as your base. Simply take your orange with your other hand and slide it down the metal plate on the front.
These small sharp holes will slice the orange peel just right giving you the perfect orange zest.
Make sure you keep turning the orange slightly so that you aren’t zesting the same spot twice.
Alternative: Zesting with a box grader
Box graters are great for zesting oranges. Box graters usually have 4 sides to them. You want the side with the smallest grating holes or you can also use the rough rasp side too. Both sides will give you a great orange zest.
Using the small grater side you want to slide the orange down the grater with light pressure and turn your orange a little with each swipe. Make sure you keep your fingers and knuckles out of the way so that you don’t end up getting cut.
The rough rasp side is a little tougher to use because it grabs at the orange peel and you have to push a little harder to get a good scrape while not pushing too hard so that you don’t zest the white pith.
The same idea as the small grater side though, just slide it down the rasp and slightly turn the orange with every sweep.
Alternative: Zesting your orange with a vegetable peeler
If you are in a jam and need to zest an orange without a Microplane or a grater you can use a vegetable peeler! It is a little harder to stay away from the orange pith and you have to chop it after but you will end up getting the same results.
You want to gently slice away at the orange part of the peel, making sure to not get the white of the peel.
Continue to turn the orange and don’t slice on the same spot twice.
Once you have all of your zest you want to chop it up as fine as you can. I like to stack it up and slice the pile into strips and then cross in the other direction.
I then take my knife and rock it back and forth until I have tiny pieces. Now it is ready to add to your recipe.
What to use the orange zest for
There are all kinds of things that orange zest is used for.
Using citrus zest enhances the flavor of whatever you are making. A lot of times when you use the juice from your citrus fruit the flavor gets dull when it is cooking. Adding the zest to your dish makes sure that the flavor you are trying to get stays in the dish.
Types of zesters
A Microplane is much like a grater except that it shaves much finer than a grater. It is held with a handle on one end and a flat edge on the other end standing on the cutting board.
There is a metal plate in the middle with small sharp holes which slices the orange perfectly and consistently.
Using one hand to keep it standing up while you hold the fruit with the other hand gently slide it downward with light pressure.
Box graters are commonly known for grating cheese. They stand on their own and usually have four different greater surfaces, one on each side.
One side has larger holes for grating cheese, a slicer for slicing cheese on the other side, smaller wholes for finer grated cheese or zesting, and a rough, raspy side for tougher things like ginger root, citrus zest or nutmeg when you want really small pieces.
When you are using a box grater be careful to keep your fingers out of the way. You can easily slice your fingers if you hold the orange too close.
Vegetable peelers are often used for peeling the skin off carrots, potatoes, cucumbers and so much more.
These peelers are handheld with a blade on the top for peeling. There are many different varieties of vegetable peelers. Some peelers are just a handle and the blade across the top, some have the blade along the side, and there are even options that slide onto your finger so that you can swipe over what you are peeling.
Tips for orange zest
A great tip for orange zest is to make sure you are only getting the orange part of the peel. The white of the peel or the “pith” is very bitter and you won’t achieve the citrus flavor you want.
Orange Zest | How to Zest an Orange
- Box Grater
- Vegetable Peeler
- 1 Orange
How to zest an orange with a mircoplane
- Wash your orange under cold water or you can also use vegetable wash and then pat dry
- Holding the microplane with one hand and the orange in the other, sweep the orange downward across the blades.Continue to turn the orange making sure you are only zesting in the same spot once.
Alternative: Box grater
- You want to slide the orange down the side of the grater with the smallest holes. Be sure to watch your fingers so you don't cut yourself as you are sliding the orange down the sharp holes.Turn the orange with every swipe making sure to only zest the orange part of the peel.
Alternative: Vegetable peeler
- Slide the blade over the orange peel taking small pieces only taking the orange part off from the peel. Rotate with every swipe so that you don't get down to the white bitter part of the peel.
- Once you have all of your little slices, pile them up and chop them into a mince.