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3 Ways to Zest an Orange, Plus Tips, Tricks, and Recipes

VirginiaLynne has been experimenting in the kitchen for almost 50 years. She loves to share her recipes, cooking tips, and reviews.

Learn all of the amazing things you can make using orange zest.

Learn all of the amazing things you can make using orange zest.

What Is Orange Zest?

Zest is strips of the colored part of orange peel that you make with a special tool called a microplaner, a grater, or a small knife.

Zest is used for flavoring and decorations.

Zest is used for flavoring and decorations.

Three Methods to Make Zest

  1. Microplane: The best way to make zest is using a special kitchen tool called a microplane. You pull along the orange across the microplane to scrape off thin strips of the colored peel. The advantage of this method is that the strips of peel are longer and thinner. This is not an expensive kitchen tool; however, using this method takes longer and is a little bit harder to do. This method looks best when decorating a cake, drinks, candy, or other food.
  2. Grater: If you need a lot, or are using peel in cooking, this is the fastest and easiest method. All you need is a grater with small holes, which you probably have as part of your cheese grater. Just push the orange down the grater the way you would cheese. Be sure to turn the orange as you go and try not to get too much of the white part of the peel, which is more bitter and has less flavor.
  3. Paring Knife: In a pinch, you can make zest from any citrus fruit by using a paring knife or potato peeler. Carefully cut off thin slices of the top of the peel. Then cut those slices into strips. This method also works if you want longer, larger, or thicker zest, or peel cut into different shapes.
Grating method to make orange zest.

Grating method to make orange zest.

Orange zest for decoration

Orange zest for decoration

Substitutes

When you need orange flavor, your best choice is fresh zest or juice. However, in a pinch you can try one of these substitutes, which are all the same as 1 teaspoon freshly grated zest:

  • 2 tablespoons fresh juice
  • 2 teaspoons concentrated juice
  • 1 teaspoon dried zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon extract
  • 2 teaspoons grated candied peel

Storage

Fresh zest can be stored in a Ziplock bag or other airtight container:

  • In the refrigerator for 1 week.
  • In the freezer for a month.
Store remaining leftovers in a Ziplock bag in the refrigerator for 3-4 days, or in the freezer for a month.  Or dry your n the oven and store indefinitely.  Or use it to make orange sugar.

Store remaining leftovers in a Ziplock bag in the refrigerator for 3-4 days, or in the freezer for a month. Or dry your n the oven and store indefinitely. Or use it to make orange sugar.

Drying

Is it all right to use dried peel? Does it taste any good? Sure! Dried may not have quite the flavor punch, but it works just fine in a pinch, especially if you are adding it to baked goods.

Where do you find dried? I usually buy it from Amazon because it is cheaper, but you can sometimes find it in the spice section of a supermarket. Dried doesn't look as nice as a garnish, but it is a lot easier to have some in your cupboard that you just pull out and use.

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Make Your Own!

Generally, I store what I make in the freezer because I know I'll use it within a month and buy the dried to have in a pinch or to use in baked goods. However, if you want to save money or have a lot of fruit available, you might just want to make your own dried zest. Here is how to do it:

How to Grate or Microplane Your Oranges

  1. Put the peel on parchment on a baking sheet.
  2. Spread it out so that the pieces don't clump.
  3. Put in an oven at 250 degrees for 30 minutes or until dry (or just turn on the oven, let it heat up and then turn it off and leave overnight).

If you have a dehydrator, that works too. Put some in a small fancy jar with a ribbon on top and you have a very nice gift!

Ways to Use Orange Zest

Lots of products use orange for cleaning or as an insect repellent. Here are some ways you can use it:

In Cooking use Zest forHousehold use Peel forOutside use Peel for

baked goods

for shining wood

repelling insects

flavoring for marinade

removing water stains from metal

keeping garbage cans smelling better

topping drinks

mixed with vinegar for cleaner

fire starters

Interesting Facts

"Zest" is an excellent word for grated orange peelings because it adds a distinctive flavor and smell to foods. Here are some facts to know:

  1. The colored part of the rind is less bitter than the white.
  2. Citrus rinds have more oil in them than juice, so they actually add more flavor than juice to recipes.
  3. You need to be careful to add it lightly because too much can make your recipe bitter.
  4. Usually, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon is enough. Start with that and add more if you want more flavor.
  5. Add last to most recipes, especially frostings.

Fun Orange Facts Quiz

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Oranges were bred from which two fruits?
    • lemon and mandarin
    • pomelo and mandarin
    • grapefruit and mandarin
  2. Which two states in the U.S. grow the most oranges?
    • Florida and California
    • Florida and Texas
    • Florida and South Carolina
  3. Oranges grow in the wild.
    • only in California
    • only outside the United States
    • false, they are a domesticated crop.
  4. Which of the following is made from orange rinds?
    • Marmalade
    • Orange Zest
    • Candied Orange peel
    • All of the above
  5. How many varieties of oranges are there worldwide?
    • 150
    • 349
    • 467
    • over 600
  6. How many segments are inside most oranges?
    • five
    • six
    • eight
    • ten
    • twelve
  7. Why did sailors plant orange trees along trade routes?
    • They liked the taste of oranges.
    • They knew oranges prevented scurvy on voyages.
    • The orange seeds were easy to plant.
  8. Brazil grows over 30% of the world's oranges
    • true
    • false
  9. What is true about the orange blossoms?
    • They are white.
    • It is the Florida State flower.
    • The blossom is very fragrant.
    • All of the above.
    • None of the above.

Answer Key

  1. pomelo and mandarin
  2. Florida and California
  3. false, they are a domesticated crop.
  4. All of the above
  5. over 600
  6. ten
  7. They knew oranges prevented scurvy on voyages.
  8. true
  9. All of the above.

Orange Sugar Recipe

Orange Sugar

Orange Sugar

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1-2 TB orange zest

Instructions

  1. Mix 1-2 TB of zest with sugar. Put in covered container and store in a cool place
  2. .Use as a topping for fruits and desserts. Use to flavor teas, coffee or other drinks.

Questions & Answers

Question: What about zesting orange, lemon, and lime peels?

Answer: You can zest lime and lemon peels in the same way. For full instructions, you can see my article on How to Zest a Lime and How to Zest a lemon.

Question: Can orange essential oil be substituted for orange zest?

Answer: Most essential oils are not food-grade and should not be used in baking. If you do have an essential oil that is food grade, you could possibly substitute it for orange zest but it really wouldn't have quite the same taste in most recipes because the zest adds texture as well as flavor and smell.

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