The Best Way to Zest Citrus

Citrus zest is the unsung hero of many recipes.

This March, we’re showing you everything you need to know about cooking with one of our favorite fruity treats: citrus. This content was created in partnership with Food52.

From quick breads to cocktails to pastas, it adds just enough brightness to cut through a dense cake or a rich, umami-laden stew. But with such a versatile ingredient, It’s important not to leave any flavor behind. Orange, lemon, lime, or grapefruit, here’s the best way to zest your citrus, no matter which tools you have on hand:

In order not to lose the incredible flavor of the citrus’ oils, zest citrus directly into your mixing bowl, pan, plate, or glass rather than onto a cutting board or a sheet of parchment paper. The oils will get lost on those surfaces, and the zest that makes it into your recipe will ultimately be less potent.

As for tools, a Microplane is arguably the best way to zest your citrus. Its incredibly sharp rasp creates beautiful, fine shavings without penetrating the citrus’ bitter pith. To get the most out of your citrus, zest upwards, with the underside of the Microplane facing you. This way, the grater will trap and collect the shavings, preventing them from falling haphazardly onto countertops or losing their oils along the way. You can use a handheld grater in the same manner, though the blades may not be as fine; just be careful not to shave into the pith.

If you’re fancy enough to have a citrus zester, by all means use it. Zesters typically have fewer holes than handheld graters (about 5 or 6) and are best for making citrus curls for cocktails. On the other hand, if all you’re armed with is a paring knife, use it to peel the zest carefully away from the pith in thin strips, then use a chef’s knife to mince the zest finely.

Live.Love.Lux Tip: To get that ideal golden brown color without drying your cake, you can count on the convection technology in your Electrolux Wall Oven to distribute heat evenly – every time.

zest lemon

Photo by Mark Weinberg

Lemon-Scented Olive Oil Cake

Servings: Makes one 9-inch cake



Butter for pan

1 cup full-fat ricotta

1/3 cup olive oil

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

For glaze:

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup lemon juice


Heat your oven to 350°F, and butter and flour a 9-inch springform.

In a large mixing bowl, combine and whisk the ricotta, oil, sugar, and zest together. Add one egg, whisk well; add the next, whisk again.

Sift all of the dry ingredients directly over the wet ingredients you just whisked together. Mix with a spoon gently until just combined.

Pour the batter into the cake pan, spreading it out evenly as needed, and bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the top is golden brown, the edges are pulling away from the pan, and a cake tester or toothpick comes out of the cake cleanly. Cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes, then turn out to finish cooling on a rack.

Meanwhile, make the glaze: Combine the lemon juice and sugar in a small pan over medium heat, and stir until all the sugar has dissolved. Let cool slightly.

Prick a few holes in the top of the cake with a toothpick, and drizzle a few tablespoons of the syrup over the cake. Let it sink in (this could take a few minutes). Feel free to serve it with more syrup, but it’s best to start out conservatively. (Save the remaining syrup for cocktails — or your next cake; it will keep up to a week in the fridge.)

More Recipes