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How to Zest a Lemon When You Don't Have a Zester

Lemon zest is used in all sorts of cooking. It can be used in baking things like lemon bars, lemon flavor treats, or in salad dressing. Zested lemons even show up when a recipe calls for them in cupcakes and cakes. But how do you zest lemons? Let's take a look at how to zest a fresh lemon with a zester as well as with other tools.

With a Zester

Zesting the citrus fruit with a lemon zester is pretty easy because it's literally what they're made for.

First, make sure to take the wax off the lemon if it's not organic and clearly has a wax coating. Then, put the sharp-edged holes on one end of the fruit, push it slightly in, and pull it down to the other end. Continue doing this until the whole citrus zest is done and you've got your garnish or ingredient ready to go!

You can also zest with a Microplane, which is basically a tiny handheld cheese grater. This gadget is infamous for the brand that makes it (Microplane), but can be found in other brands as well. Some people swear by these little graters and mince away with them.

If you're looking for something a little less cumbersome, you can also use a Japanese copper grater, which allows you to zest your lemon with a little bit of help from the counter.

Just be careful not to cut into the bitter pith of the lemon — the white part underneath the yellow part or peel. You're not going to get the citrus flavor you want with that. Most lemon zest calls for the outside part of the rind, as few recipes have a need for the white pith.

What Else Can You Use to Zest a Lemon?

If you need to know how to zest a lemon with another kitchen tool, there are a few other options.

You can use a cheese grater or box grater with sharp edges on the holes to achieve basically the same thing as a citrus zester, and it will act the way it does with a block of cheese. You can also use a sharp knife like a paring knife or chef's knife if you're very careful, or a vegetable peeler if you'd like to try that. Just have a cutting board beneath each of the objects to collect those bits of lemon peel and you're good to go!

Lemon zesters can also be used to make orange zest or lime zest, as well as other fruit zests your recipe may call for. If you feel like you'll use it enough, it might be worth grabbing a lemon zester off of Amazon or at your local kitchen supply store.

Watch: Lemon Drop Moonshine