If you’re like me you like to add lemon, lime, or other citrus zest to lots of different kinds of recipes. To zest a citrus fruit is an exercise in frustration without the proper tool. The zest is the outermost surface of the peel and underneath it is the pith, a white bitter part. The zest adds a bright concentrated citrus flavor of the fruit you are zesting but the pith must be avoided at all costs. To do a large amount of zesting without a zester? Forget about it. Yet the citrus zester is still an inefficient tool for the job! It still takes forever to do a large amount and the zest comes off in long strips, which you may still have to chop fine. And it is still possible to go too deep and get some pith, making precision an attribute in a good zesting tool.
Then, of course, there is the problem of having a bunch of tools in the kitchen that do only one thing. You want your tools to be multipurpose, otherwise you’ll be constantly searching through a cluttered “junk” drawer. What if you could zest quickly and perfectly, getting fine little zest grates with no pith, but with a tool that could be put to many other uses?
Well, you can. Some genius decided, years ago (where have you been, pardner?) that a common woodworking tool could also be put to use in the kitchen. To help shape wood, woodworkers sometimes use a plane, which is traditionally a tool with a flat surface and an angled blade stet along its surface at an angle. However, a newer type of plane is called a microplane or a microplane rasp. This type of plane is more like a very sharp grater, with every a very fine grate. It’s sharp enough to shape wood. So why not put it to work in the kitchen?
A microplane is the perfect zester, you’ll throw away your traditional zester, unless you sometimes want little curls of zest. But a microplane is also great for finely grating all sorts of hard things, including ginger and Parmesan cheese. You know what a pain in the butt it is to grate hard cheeses on the back of your box grater. A microplane makes it a breeze. Another great thing about a microplane grater is that its precision and ease of handling allows you to great things right into the pot very easily without getting it everywhere.
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Microplane is actually a registered trademark of Grace Manufacturing, Inc. They make a number of different microplaning tools for both woodworking and the kitchen. The basic types they make are three, a zester grater, a ribbon grater, and an extra course grater. These are all part of the “classic series.” For the jobs I’ve listed above, you’ll want the Microplane model 40020 Classic Zester Grater.
The 40021 Classic Ribbon Grater is for grating chocolate, carrots, and semi-soft cheeses; and the model 40022 Classic Extra Course grater is for potatoes, apples, and soft cheeses. The company also makes a spice grater for nutmeg and cinnamon, which has a curled blade rather than a flat one, as well as many other products, which are variations on the general microplane theme. I have two classic microplanes, and one spice grater, that I have been using for years. They are still as sharp as the day I bought them, after grating quarts of parmesan cheese, and countless lemons and limes, not to mention a goodly amount of ginger.