When a recipe calls for lemon or orange or lime zest, which part of the fruit do you need? Let’s differentiate between the zest and the peel. When we talk about citrus fruits, as far as I know, the peel is the entire skin of the fruit, including the white pith, while the zest is the outermost layer of the peel.
When you need the zest, how do you get it from the fruit? First of all, determine how the zest will be used. Will the zest be boiled in liquid and will it need to be fished out before the liquid is used? Will the zest be used for garnish? Or will it be mixed into the food?
The size and shape of the zest that you want determines the tool you will use. No singular tool for all jobs? Sure, you can use a small knife. More work but it’ll do. However, if you’d like your zest to have a little more finesse (important when using it for garnish), you might want to use specialty tools to remove it from the fruit.
We use three tools to remove the zest from citrus fruit. The first is a plain vegetable peeler, the second is a zester and the third is a grater.
When we want the zest to be in large pieces (easy to spot, remove and discard after use), we use the vegetable peeler.
When we want long ribbon-like shreds, we use the zester.
When we want really small pieces that will be indiscernible when when mixed into food (such as cake batter), we use the finest holes in the grater.
That’s a lot of tools and rituals for eating fruit skin — is it even edible?
Oh, yes, citrus fruit is edible. In fact, it can even be dried and made into candy. As an ingredient, the zest contains a lot of essential oils that gives it a wonderful aroma and flavor that you won’t get from the juice and pulp.