The Zesting Shortcut For When You Don't Have A Fancy Microplane

Zesting a lemon is a great way to add bright, zippy flavor to all kinds of dishes, from baked goods to salads to marinades. While many home cooks reach for a microplane to get the job done, not everyone has one on hand. Fortunately, there is another common kitchen tool that you can use instead to get the job done.

For those who are unfamiliar, a microplane is a long, narrow metal plane with small raised blades — much like a smaller version of the finest side of a box grater. The fine blades slice tiny pieces of lemon peel from the citrus to make zest. They are very handy in the kitchen for grating a variety of ingredients very finely, but not everyone has one since there are a number of other grating tools that will give you a similar — albeit not-as-finely-grated — result. 

If you need to zest lemons without a microplane, another easy option is a vegetable peeler. You'll want to avoid the bitter pith and just take off the top layer of zest — just as you would with a microplane. Use the peeler to make wide strips of lemon peel, then use a sharp knife to slice the strips into thin, finely chopped pieces.

Chop or process the zest for finer results

While you can use a vegetable peeler to cut thin, but large pieces of lemon peel and then chop the peel into small enough pieces for any recipe, there's another faster, easier way to achieve the same results. If you have a food processor, you can use that to finely mince the lemon peel. 

Just toss the lemon peels into the food processor and pulse until the peel is finely chopped. This is a great option if you need a lot of zest for a recipe or if you don't want to spend too much time hand-chopping. In fact, this method is so effective that Ina Garten uses and recommends this technique from time to time.

So, if you don't have a microplane, don't worry. A vegetable peeler paired with a knife or even the assistance of a food processor will do the trick. With careful carving, time, and a little elbow grease, you can create fine lemon zest without any special tools.