Out of the innumerable ways to incorporate lemons and other citrus fruits into various recipes, using zest is probably the most fabulous. If you love lemon zest but don’t look forward to the tedious process of zesting your lemons, help is on the way. Zesting lemon or other citrus fruits can be easy-peasy, if done the right way.

While fresh juice is added for a citrusy tang, the zest takes flavors to a whole new level. The outer colored rind contains natural oils that impart subtle but potent flavor to any dish. In the hands of a capable cook, zest can add magic to any simple dish.

Oranges, limes, lemons or grapefruits – you name it. If it’s citrus, then it can be zested to easily harvest its flavor and aroma.

Practice makes perfect was never more apt than it is in this case. The more you practice zesting your limes and lemons, the better your output will be.

Here are four methods that you can use to zest a lemon:

Common Initial Step: Wash and dry the lemon

Wash and dry the lemon

Usually, produce available in the supermarket is coated with wax to increase its shelf life. It is advisable to always wash the produce before consumption.

Wash the lemon thoroughly under plenty of water to remove the outer impurities, then dry it on a paper towel.

Method 1: Using a Grater

Things you’ll need:

Using grater things need

  • Lemon
  • Grater

Step 1. Lightly grate the lemon

Lightly grate the lemon

Hold the lemon in one hand and steady the grater with the other. Move the lemon lightly over the grater, against the grain of the blades. Be sure to keep turning the lemon as you go to keep from grating the white pith that lines the peel along with the zest. Separating grated zest and pith is quite impossible, so take care accordingly while grating.

Using grater final

Method 2: Using a Zester

Things you’ll need:


  • Lemon
  • Zester

Step 1. Slide the zester over the rind

Slide the zester over the rind

If you own a zester, your troubles with zesting will be virtually non-existent. A zester is specifically designed to apply minimal pressure to the lemon rind and extract only the zest. Here you won’t have to worry about getting the bitter white pith along with the zest.

Just slide the blade of the zester over the lemon rind to get long curls of lemon zest. These gorgeous curls can easily be used for garnishing various dishes or cocktails. You can also mince them and incorporate them into batters and dough.

Using zester final

Method 3: Using a Paring Knife

Things you’ll need:

Using paring knife things need

  • Lemon
  • Paring knife

Step 1. Lightly peel the rind

Lightly peel the rind

Using a sharp paring knife, lightly peel the rind. Use a light hand to get as little pith as possible.

Step 2. Scrape off the pith

Scrape off the pith

Unless you’re a pro, peeling usually brings some pith along with the rind. Turn a peel pith-side up and scrape the pith away with the paring knife, leaving only the zest behind. Repeat with all the peels.

Step 3. Julienne the zest

Julienne the zest

After removing the pith, you can use the zest as it is if you wish to make preserves and such. If you need smaller pieces, you can julienne (cut into thin strips) the zest with the paring knife. Cut the zest into thin strands and use it in your recipes accordingly.

Using paring final

Method 4: Using a Peeler

Things you’ll need:

Using peeler things need

  • Lemon
  • Peeler
  • Paring knife

Step 1. Peel the rind

Peel the rind

A vegetable peeler is one of the readily available tools that you can use to zest your lemons. If you apply light pressure, your lemon peels should have little pith on them. Citruses like oranges that have thicker peels can be zested without getting any pith.

Peel the rind of your lemon lightly with a vegetable peeler.

Step 2. Scrape off the pith

Scrape off the pith

Scrape the lingering pith off the zest with a paring knife.

Step 3. Julienne the zest

Julienne the zest

Julienne (cut into thin strips) the zest with a paring knife and incorporate it in your recipes accordingly.

Using peeler final

Within a few minutes, you should have enough zest to work into your recipes.

Zested lemon final

Additional Tips

  • The size of the grater should vary with the amount of zest that you need. For superfine zest, use a microplane.
  • If you need fine zest for dough or batter and you don’t have a microplane, you can mince the zest and use it accordingly.
  • You can store your zest in a freezer for future use. Wrap it in cling wrap to prevent it from drying out.
  • If you don’t want wax-coated lemons for zesting, look for organic produce in your supermarket.
  • Hot water may be used to wash the wax off the lemon skin.
  • When using zest in a recipe, stick to the specified quantity, however small it may seem. With zest, a little goes a long way.