In this jam-packed article, I will show you 3 foolproof methods for how to zest an orange. I can guarantee that you will be able to at least use one of these methods to extract the deliciously fresh, citrusy, zesty skin.
And, if you are looking for recipes to use orange zest in, take a look at my delicious fresh Carrot And Orange Juice Recipe as well as this Orange Cake. Adding a little bit of zest will help enhance the floral flavors even more!
What Is Orange Zest?
Chances are that you’ve likely come across this interesting ingredient before. Well, it’s not really an ingredient. It’s more of a by-product of an ingredient.
Orange zest is the outside-colored portion of an orange peel. It is an extremely thin layer. Once it is removed, the remaining orange peel is completely white.
Orange zest adds a very prominent and pungent citrusy flavor and floral aroma. It’s as intense as orange essence and will also add a little bit of texture.
So, if you ever read a recipe that calls for lemon zest, lime zest, grapefruit zest, and of course, orange zest, it’s all the same concept. And, for all of these citrus fruits, the same techniques apply to removing them. They have similar uses, functions, shelf lives, and storage techniques.
How To Zest An Orange
Now that you have a better understanding of what orange zest is, let’s take a look at how to make orange zest.
First, you will need to choose fresh oranges.
Fresh oranges have a firmer texture, which makes it much easier to get the zest off without misshaping the flesh or bruising the skin.
Furthermore, if you need orange zest and juice, always zest the orange first. Trying to remove the zest from a cut orange is extremely difficult. The orange is too soft and pliable to work with. You won’t effectively remove as much zest as you need.
Then, you will also need a measuring spoon. A lot of recipes with orange zest require x amounts of teaspoons or tablespoons. You will need to accurately measure this, obviously. Some recipes only ask for “zest of 1 orange.” In this case, just ensure that you properly zest every part of the orange.
Using A Zester
A Microplane is a brand of graters that specifically designs citrus zesters. Their zester for citrus is a long, narrow grater with a comfortable, sturdy handle.
The long grater allows you to roll the citrus fruit over the “teeth” to remove as much as you can with every stroke.
There are cheaper brands and zesters out there. But I highly recommend investing in this specific brand. They are well-established, used in professional kitchens, and will really last you a lifetime. I’ve had my zester for over 10 years, and it still looks brand new!
So, how does it work? It’s really simple. Just glide the citrus over the teeth and let them remove the zest. Hold the grater over a chopping board or bowl so the zest can fall directly into/onto it.
Don’t press too hard. Remember, you only want to remove the thin outer, colored layer. Not the actual pith (white part).
Orange Zest Grater
If you have a box grater at home, take it out and have a look at it. On one of the four sides, you will see a fine-grater section. That’s the part you can use to make orange zest without any special tools.
Every box grater has this. If you don’t have a box grater at home and would like to invest in one, I personally prefer the ones that fit over a container. It makes it easy to prepare items neatly and store them easily.
Use A Vegetable Peeler
This is definitely a far more labor-intensive option. However, it’s effective.
First, you need a vegetable peeler. When peeling the orange, try to work with a light hand so you don’t remove too much of the white pith. But even if you do, don’t worry. It’s easy to get rid of.
Once the peel is removed, place the pieces on a flat work surface with the colored (outside) facing downwards. Then, carefully slice any white pieces off of the skin. It helps if your knife is very sharp and the blade is super thin.
Once you have removed the white pith pieces, it’s time to finely shred the remaining peel. You can decide how finely you want the pieces to be. Personally, I don’t make them very coarse. Zest is thin and not extremely long.
Now, you may be wondering why it’s necessary to remove the white pieces. Isn’t it just making extra work? Well, no. It’s extra work, but that’s because you don’t want the bitter, tart flavor of the white pieces.
Orange zest has a very citrusy flavor. It’s not bitter or tart. If you leave the pith on, it’s basically pointless using the orange zest.
How Much Zest From 1 Orange?
This obviously depends on the size of the orange, which in turn can also depend on the type of orange you have.
When we look at averages, I would say that 1 large orange can give you about 1 tablespoon of zest.
Keep in mind, the finer the zest, the less (in terms of volume) you will get.
How To Store Orange Zest
So, now that you know how to make orange zest, how do you actually store it?
The best method you can use is wrapping the zest in damp paper towel. If you keep them damp, you are preventing their essence and aromas from evaporating. It is still always best to use fresh orange zest. But if you have no other choice, this is how I store mine. Keep the damp paper towel and zest in an airtight container.
You can also freeze zest. Place the zest in an airtight container. Then, wrap it with foil as well to protect the zest from freezer burn.