The easiest way to zest a lemon is using a lemon zester or a microplane. To use a zester, place the holes at the top of the lemon and pull the zester downwards, removing long strips of peel, and repeat all the way around until all the zest is removed.
To use a microplane, move the zester towards you across the surface of the lemon, turning the lemon until all the zest has been removed. The object is to remove the peel only, avoiding the bitter white pith underneath, so avoid pressing down too hard with your zester or your microplane. Both of these methods can also be used to zest oranges and limes.
How to zest a lemon without a zester
If you don’t have a zester, there’s no need to worry. There are plenty of ways to zest a lemon using everyday kitchen utensils, meaning you can add a touch of citrus zing to your cooking without paying out for expensive gadgets. Just follow our simple step-by-step guide, and learn how to make lemon zest using a vegetable peeler, a box grater, or even a kitchen knife.
Preparation - all methods: However you decide to zest your lemons, the first step is always to remove the wax. A lot of retailers will add a layer of wax to fruit to make it look shiny, and while this should be safe to eat, it doesn’t taste great. The easiest way to avoid waxy zest is to buy unwaxed lemons, but if you can’t find any, or you’re not sure if your lemons are waxed or unwaxed, follow these steps:
Place the lemons in a colander.
Boil a pan or kettle of water, and pour over the lemons.
Scrub with a vegetable brush.
How to zest a lemon using a box grater
Place a cutting board underneath the grater to catch the zest.
Place the lemon against the side of the grater with the smallest holes and pull downwards, pressing down lightly.
Turn and repeat until the zest is removed.
How to zest a lemon using a vegetable peeler
With the lemon in one hand, hold the peeler against the top of the lemon and pull downwards, tilting the lemon slightly as you go to help maintain an even pressure.
Repeat until all the zest is removed. You should now have several large pieces of peel.
Place the peels onto a cutting board, and dice them as small as you can, using a sharp knife.
How to zest a lemon using a knife
Cut the top off your lemon, creating a flat end, and place flat-end down on a cutting board.
Holding the lemon in place with one hand, take a sharp knife and slice off a length of peel.
Turn and repeat until the zest is removed. You should now have several large pieces of peel.
Turn the peels over and scrape any pith off with your knife.
Dice the peel as small as you can.
How much zest is in one lemon?
Some recipes measure lemon zest in teaspoons (tsp) or tablespoons (tbps), meaning it can be difficult to know how many lemons to buy. Of course, lemons are not all the same size, but as a rough guide, an average-sized lemon makes approximately one tablespoon (1tbsp) of zest.
To select lemons with the most flavourful zest, you can apply some simple lemon science. As a lemon ripens, it produces substances known as carotene and cryptoxanthin, which are also responsible for its trademark yellow hue. So the ripest, tastiest lemons are always the ones with the brightest yellow skin. For more fun lemon facts, check out our A-Z of interesting things about lemons
Recipe ideas with lemon zest
Lemon zest is a great way of adding fresh, tangy citrus flavour to your cooking, and is equally at home in savoury or sweet dishes.
For a light, healthy supper that’s packed with flavour, try this delicious recipe for poached salmon with dill and lemon zest. Sharp, aromatic lemon zest perfectly complements the savoury bouquet of dill, parsley and bay to bring out the best in this delicately poached fish dish.