Adding zest from fresh citrus is one of the easiest and best ways to brighten up the flavor of a dish, or to infuse an extra burst into some baked goods. For years, however, getting the zest – the brightly colored outer part of the rind – from citrus was a tricky business. Your options were to either peel the fruit as best you could and add thin slices of zest into a recipe, or, if you were lucky, to use a regular zester to scrape long slices of zest from the citrus’ skin. These days, all you need is a microplane and adding zest to a recipe becomes easier than you could imagine.
A microplane is a rasp-like grater, developed by the Microplane Company, that hit the market in the 1990s. It is based on the design for a woodworking rasp, and has a long metal shaft covered with small, sharp metal teeth. These teeth don’t cut down far into the fruit, just far enough into the rind to get the flavorful zest off, shredding it into very fine ribbons that easily incorporate into any recipe. Microplanes are extremely efficient, and once you have used one, you’ll never go back to any other method of zesting fruit.
For those interested in multipurpose kitchen products, a microplane can also be used to grate hard cheeses, like Parmesan, and to grate spices, like nutmeg. The teeth are extremely sharp, even though they are small, so be careful if you choose to grate smaller spices (or other things) with the microplane so that you don’t accidentally grate a fingertip or two!