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What is Orange Zest?

Updated on March 13, 2017
VirginiaLynne profile image

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

Grater Method

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Grating works good for cooking.Small grater, orange and bowl.Hold grater at an angle and rub downward until peel grates off.  You can do just the outside or also use the inner white surface (with a bit more bitter flavor). This orange was so fresh, I grated down to the fruit.
Grating works good for cooking.
Grating works good for cooking. | Source
Small grater, orange and bowl.
Small grater, orange and bowl. | Source
Hold grater at an angle and rub downward until peel grates off.  You can do just the outside or also use the inner white surface (with a bit more bitter flavor).
Hold grater at an angle and rub downward until peel grates off. You can do just the outside or also use the inner white surface (with a bit more bitter flavor). | Source
 This orange was so fresh, I grated down to the fruit.
This orange was so fresh, I grated down to the fruit. | Source

Orange Peel vs. Orange Zest

Zest is thin strips of the outside peel of an orange and is what is used in most recipes.

Orange Peel is the whole outside part including the more bitter white rind. Usually cut into strips, it is used for decoration and in marmalade.

3 Ways to Zest an Orange

Microplane: You can buy a special tool called a micro plane which you pull along the orange to scrape off thin strips of the colored peel. This is not an expensive kitchen tool and an advantage of microplane zesting is the strips are longer and darker in color. However, it takes longer and is a little bit harder to do. This method looks the best when decorating a cake, drinks, candy or other food.

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 grate the orange the way you would cheese, moving it around so you mostly get the colored part.

Paring Knife: In a pinch, you can make zest from oranges, lemons or limes 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 peel slices or orange peel cut into different shapes.

Zest 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 orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons concentrated orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon dried grated orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange extract
  • 2 teaspoons grated candied orange peel

Drying Zest

Is it all right to use dried orange zest? Does it taste any good? Sure! Dried may not have quite the orange 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.

Make your own. Let zested peels dry out and then put them in a jar. However, I generally find the zest is better if I put the extra in a Ziplock bag and put it in the freezer.

Facts and Tips

"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:

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

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. | Source

Storage

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

  • In the refrigerator for 1 week.
  • In the freezer for a month.

Or dry y and you can store in your cupboard indefinitely. To dry, spread out on a baking sheet and put in the oven:

  • At 250 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until dry (often I shut off the oven and just leave overnight).

Uses

In Cooking use Zest for
Household use Peel for
Outside 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
Orange Zest Sugar on French Toast
Orange Zest Sugar on French Toast | Source

Orange Zest Sugar

5 stars from 2 ratings of orange zest flavored sugar

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Fun Orange Facts Quiz


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    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 2 years ago from Germany

      I love using orange zest for baking cakes. Thanks for sharing this very informative hub. Well done.

    • DonnaCaprio profile image

      Donna Caprio Quinlan 3 years ago from Newburyport, MA

      Great information on using orange zest. I will grate some zest from my oranges for a recipe occasionally. I did not realize that it could be stored in the refrigerator or freezer for later use. Thanks!

    • VioletteRose profile image

      VioletteRose 3 years ago from Chicago

      This is very useful information, thank you!

    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 3 years ago

      Thanks for the different ways on how to zest an orange and the meaning behind zesting an orange. Very useful when it comes to cooking. Voted up.

    • VirginiaLynne profile image
      Author

      Virginia Kearney 3 years ago from United States

      You can buy this in the spice section of the store where dried zest is sometimes available. Or you can make your own using oranges in one of the ways I show in this article.

    • profile image

      Toni booker 3 years ago

      Where can I find orange zest

    • sarahbyers profile image

      sarahbyers 4 years ago from waco tx

      Great to know. The complete explanations made it easy to follow. Ideas and possibilities are boundless.

    • VirginiaLynne profile image
      Author

      Virginia Kearney 4 years ago from United States

      Thanks prairieprincess--you know since I've done this Hub I'm using orange zest more too!

    • profile image

      Rachel 4 years ago

      I knew nothing about orange zest but I like to bake, so this could come in handy some day. This is interesting to me because i like learning about food and learning different ways to use it.

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 4 years ago from Canada

      Virginia, this is wonderful! I did not know any of this about orange zest, and never thought of using it an a recipe. Now my brain is going, thinking of ways I might be able to use it in a recipe. Voted up and everything but useful, and shared.

    • VirginiaLynne profile image
      Author

      Virginia Kearney 4 years ago from United States

      Ashley--I always enjoy writing about something specific like orange zest because I learn new things. Before writing this Hub, I didn't know orange zest could substitute for juice or extract.

    • VirginiaLynne profile image
      Author

      Virginia Kearney 4 years ago from United States

      SethPipkin--Orange zest is a pretty specialized ingredient, but at least you'll know what it is if you run across it in cooking!

    • ashleybperkins profile image

      ashleybperkins 4 years ago

      I thought this article was eye-catching because I did not know what orange zest was. I had only previous knowledge that the peel was bitter and had always thrown it out. This relates to my own experience because I thought that the peel was inedible so would never eaten it before, but thought that was funny because I have previously eaten orange zest. I find orange zest interesting because of the flavor it can give to some foods.

    • SethPipkin profile image

      Seth Pipkin 4 years ago

      I don't use oranges much for anything but eating but i was fascinated by the ways you can use orange zest and what it is in general.

    • VirginiaLynne profile image
      Author

      Virginia Kearney 4 years ago from United States

      Thanks Cyndi--I'm going to try that with lemon for ice tea this weekend.

    • Cyndi10 profile image

      Cynthia B Turner 4 years ago from Georgia

      Great instructions. I like the idea of the orange zest and the sugar mix. Never tried that before. Thanks for the info.

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 4 years ago

      I love cooking with orange zest. I add it to a lot of my recipes. I even added it to my home made bread and it tastes oh so yummy. Great hub. Thanks for the refrigerator tip, I hadn't thought of that.

    • VirginiaLynne profile image
      Author

      Virginia Kearney 4 years ago from United States

      Thanks Heather--As the Mom of 5 I'm always trying to cut down on tasks. I've got my zest in the refrigerator and I think I'll use it in some sugar cookies--yum.

    • Heather63 profile image

      Heather Adams 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Hi Virginia - I really learned a lot from this. The step-by-step illustrations always help me understand a process better. And I'd never thought about storing zest to use later - great idea!

    • VirginiaLynne profile image
      Author

      Virginia Kearney 4 years ago from United States

      Thanks Carol--I had not realized until I researched the Hub how zest can be used in place of extract and juice. The Orange honey butter I made using the zest is absolutely terrific and wouldn't work well with juice.

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

      Well done hub. I never thought about how versatile orange zest can be. Why not use the whole orange. I have done this with lemon..now I will try orange. Enjoyed this hub a lot.

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