What Is Zesting?

Many South Beach Diet recipes call for the zest of citrus fruits. But if you're a cooking novice, you may not be familiar with this food preparation technique. Zest is the colorful, outermost rind of fruits like lemons and limes (both okay on Phase 1), and oranges (oranges are a Phase 2 fruit, but the zest is fine on Phase 1). Aromatic and tangy, citrus zest is a popular addition to both savory and sweet dishes. It also makes an elegant garnish. Check out our guide to zesting below:

Zesting 101

You can remove the zest of a citrus fruit using a paring knife, a vegetable peeler, a grater, or a special tool called a zester. One of the best tools for creating fine zest is the Microplane zester/grater (which looks like a refashioned woodworking rasp). Buy one with a handle for quick, less messy work! A smaller, more traditional handheld zester has five tiny holes in its metal end and creates small strips of the flavorful zest when pulled across the rind. A box grater can be used to get either large strips or fine particles of zest, and a vegetable peeler or paring knife also gives you wider strips for citrus curls for garnishes. The tool you use will depend on the recipe you are making.

A few things to keep in mind when zesting citrus fruits:

  • Wash the fruit before zesting to remove any dirt and possible pesticides.
  • Avoid stripping off the white inner membrane (pith) along with the colorful rind. The pith is bitter and fairly inedible.
  • Always remember to zest fruit before juicing it. It will be almost impossible to zest afterward.
  • To get the best zest, buy fruit that is firm and brightly colored with no soft spots.
  • Use zest immediately, since it will lose its flavor over time.


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