How to zest an orange like a master chef? Zesting an orange shouldn’t be a daunting task at all. In fact, it’s very easy and relaxing. Yes, relaxing… and I mean it. And not only is zesting oranges enjoyable to do, but you’ll also be surprised at how orange zest will elevate the taste of your dishes and drinks!
How to Zest an Orange - 4 Easy Ways
I mean, have you ever tasted your food, thinking that it lacked oomph? If yes, there’s a chance that you’ve been missing orange zest this whole time. Orange zest is responsible for making a lot of food taste better and brighter!
What is Orange Zest?
Orange zest is the outermost rind of the orange. It's that thin, orange layer found on every orange skin. It’s arguably the best part of an orange and is where you will find the fragrant and flavorful citrus oil.
How to Zest an Orange - 4 Ways
Before we learn how to zest an orange, let’s prep our beautiful fruit.
- WASH & DRY – Don’t forget to wash your orange under running water to remove all the dirt and dust sticking on it. You want to make sure your orang zest is both tasty and clean. Then, dry the orange with paper towel.
- DON’T CUT – Don’t cut your orange just yet! It’s so much easier to zest a whole orange instead of a sliced or wedged orange. Right after you finish zesting the orange, you can start cutting and squeezing all the lovely juice out of it.
- BE GENTLE – The key to getting the perfect orange zest is to not go too deep into the orange skin. You see, under that zest, there’s a white and bitter layer. It’s the pith. And trust me, you don’t want any of the pith in your dish. The pith can ruin the whole dish with its unpleasant taste. So remember, be gentle with the zesting. Just enjoy the process.
How to Zest an Orange with a Knife
Zesting an orange with a knife is pretty simple. You just need to be careful. All you need to do is peel the outer part of the orange with a downward stroke of the knife. Make sure that you don’t peel too deep into the pith layer. Once you've removed a few orange peels, make sure that they’re pith-free. If there’s some pith still attached, even the tiniest bit, it’s best to trim it off with a paring knife. Once you have perfectly translucent orange peels, you can start chopping them as fine as you want.
How to Zest an Orange with a Peeler
Zesting an orange with a peeler is almost as easy as peeling potatoes. It's also safer and faster compared to zesting an orange with a knife. To peel your orange with a peeler drag the blade down the orange skin, creating strips of orange peel. After making sure that there’s no pith on them, place them nice and flat on your chopping board and dice them into tiny pieces. It’s that simple!
How to Zest an Orange with a Zester
A citrus zester is a handy tool to make fine orange ribbons, perfect to decorate your cakes, pies, and even drinks. This gadget is definitely worth having if you love making fancy-looking dishes and cocktails!
To zest an orange with a zester, hold the orange in your non-dominant hand with the orange facing up. With your dominant hand, hold the zester with the sharp blades facing down. Gently pull down to shave across the fruit, scraping off the gorgeous orange zest. Repeat the process until you have the amount of orange zest you need. Zesting an orange with a zester results in curly orange zest ribbons that you can directly use. However, if you want finer zest, you can simply chop them into tiny pieces.
How to Zest an Orange with a Grater
How to Zest an Orange with a Microplane Grater
This is the easiest and most efficient method to zest an orange. A microplane grater produces fine zest instantly.
Hold the orange in your non-dominant hand, and the grater in your dominant hand with the blades facing down. Push the orange in the opposite direction of the blades. Remember, you only need the orange part of the skin. So, if the surface you grate starts to show some white spots, move to another area of the orange. Once you finish grating your whole orange, lightly tap your grater on a bowl or flat surface to release the orange zest that might be stuck.
How to Zest an Orange with a Box Grater
You can also zest an orange with a classic box grater. Simply place your grater on a flat and sturdy surface and hold it with your non-dominant hand, and hold the orange with your dominant hand. Gently push and drag the orange with a vertical motion onto the finest blades to scrape the zest off. Keep rotating the orange to avoid grating into the pith layer. Once you have all the zest you need, gently tap the grater to release any orange zest that is stuck in the blades.
How to Zest an Orange - Tips & Tricks
Orange Zest vs Orange Peel
Orange and other citrus fruits have two layers of skin. The outermost orange layer is the orange zest and the white layer beneath it is the pith. Zest is the outermost part only, the colorful part. Whereas, the peel consists of both the colorful part and the white pith. People usually go with the zest instead of the peel to add fresh flavor to dishes. It’s sweet and bright.
On the other hand, orange peel has quite a strong and bitter taste. Many people might say that it’s unpleasant. That being said, orange peel is used in some dishes that require quite a long time to cook. This can help break down and mellow the bitterness of the peel. Think of marmalade or a South Indian Karnataka style curry.
Can You Buy Orange Zest?
Though it might not be as common as lemon or lime zest, some select grocery stores do sell orange zest. Alternatively, you can buy it online easily. Grabbing ready-made orange zest is undoubtedly less time-consuming however the product is not as tasty and aromatic as the real deal. Usually, prepackaged orange zest is sold dried, so it loses a lot of its citrusy aroma and flavor. I’d say it’s better to zest your own orange. It’s healthier and tastier. And not to mention that how to zest an orange is not complicated at all.
How to Store Orange Zest
I always zest my oranges before I cut and juice them, even if the recipe doesn’t require orange zest. You see, you can easily store your unused orange zest so that you always have some on hand when you need it. How convenient! Simply place the orange zest in a small sealed plastic bag or an airtight container, and place it in the freezer. Orange zest can be stored for up to 6 months in the freezer. However, its flavor and aroma will start to fade after a few weeks.
How to Zest an Orange Substitutes
You don't have any oranges laying on your counter? Don’t worry, you can substitute orange zest with the zest of other citrus fruits such as lemon and lime. Use lemon zest for a bright acidic taste or lime zest for a tart flavor profile.
But if you’re looking for that specific orange flavor, substitute 1 teaspoon of orange zest with ½ teaspoon of orange extract or 2 teaspoons of orange juice (store-bought is fine). Although it might not be 100% the same, it’s pretty close.
How Much Zest is There in One Orange?
One medium-sized orange usually gives you around two tablespoons of zest. And since orange zest is packed with flavor, a little really goes a long way!
How to Zest an Orange - Uses in Food
Orange zest is great to elevate many dishes, baked goods, drinks, and desserts! Sprinkle it over your cakes or add it to your simple oatmeal cookies, chocolate brownies recipe or brighten up this delicious chocolate ganache. Scatter it on your Aglio olio pasta or salads. Add some to your afternoon tea or cocktail. Mix it with your store-bought mayonnaise. Literally, you can add orange zest to almost anything… Cheesecake, apple pie, chicken wings marinade, you name it.
How to Zest an Orange - Tea
This is my favorite way to enjoy orange zest, a must-try! What’s better than enjoying a good cup of orange-y and cinnamon-y tea while reading your favorite book? Ah, and have I mentioned that it’s so easy to make?
Add 1 tablespoon of black tea leaves, ½ teaspoon of orange zest, ½ stick of cinnamon, and 2 cups of boiling water to a small teapot. You can add up to 1 teaspoon of orange zest if you want more kick. But go easy with the cinnamon. It should just give a slight warmth to the tea.
Let the tea, orange zest, and cinnamon infuse for 5 minutes, then strain. You can add 1 tablespoon of honey for sweetness and 1 wedge of orange for added flavor.
- 1 tablespoon black tea leaves
- ½ teaspoon orange zest
- ½ stick cinammon
- 2 cups boiling water
- 1 wedge orange optional
- 1 teaspoon honey optional
- Add the tea leaves, orange zest, cinnamon stick and boiling water to a small teapot
- Let it infuse for 5 minutes
- Strain and serve
- Add the honey if you would like to add some sweetness
- Add the orange wedge for some extra taste
How to Zest an Orange - Conclusion
Now you know how to zest an orange four different ways! Now off you go, zest that orange and make delicious, memorable food for your friends and family!