How to Zest and Juice a Lemon

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It’s so easy to zest and juice a lemon and there are so many ways to use it! From desserts to cocktails and even to main courses, this is a kitchen trick you’ll want to have!

a whole lemon and a zester on a wooden cutting board

This is one of those basic kitchen skills that I think everyone should have.

My zester is one of my very favorite kitchen tools because not only does it create the finest little shreds of zest, but it has so many uses!

If you don’t have a zester yet, I highly recommend one! I zest garlic cloves, chocolate for shavings and of course, citrus fruits!

It’s an amazing little workhorse that lasts for years and never seems to need sharpening!

But today, we’re going to focus on the lemon.

I use lemons in cocktails, chicken dishes, appetizers that might need a splash of citrus to balance out flavors and, of course, desserts.

Even when a recipe might not call for it, if lemon is the over-riding flavor, I’ll add some lemon zest. It adds such a zing to a recipe that I never regret it.

How to Zest a Lemon

Before you even start zesting, you want to make sure you start with a clean piece of fruit. Since the outside is what you are saving, you want to make sure you’ve washed it and there’s no residue remaining.

Once it’s clean, make sure it’s very dry. If it’s too wet, it will just clump up as you try to zest it.

Once you’re ready, just gently run the lemon over the length of your zester. You want to rotate it frequently because once you start hitting the white part of the skin, you want to stop.

a wooden cutting board with a lemon that's been zested and a pile of zest sitting beside it

The white part of the lemon is pretty bitter and not something you want to save or use in recipes.

One standard size lemon should give you about 1 tablespoon of lemon zest. Which will actually go a long way since you only need a small amount to really notice it in recipes.

Even if I may only need the juice of a lemon for a recipe, I still zest it first. I never want any of that glorious lemon zest to go to waste and you really can’t zest it anymore once you’ve cut it to juice it.

The best part about lemon zest is that it freezes really well. So always zest those lemons and save it for later.

To freeze it, place parchment paper on a small plate and spread out your lemon zest in a single layer. Flash freeze for about 30 minutes and then transfer your lemon zest to a freezer bag. It should keep in the freezer for about 6 months until you need to use it.

wooden cutting board with a pile of lemon zest and the zester

How to Juice a Lemon

If you have a juice or lemon press, just follow the directions for your little gadget and your good to go.

This is more for the people who don’t have those tools. I cut my lemon in half and then have a small bowl ready to go.

Never squeeze your lemon directly into the batter you’re work3ing with, because you’re guaranteed to have seeds fall in that you’ll have to fish out.

wooden cutting board with a bowl of lemon juice, a pile of lemon zest and a half a lemon that's been juiced

I take my lemon half and just squeeze it over the bowl, and that’s about as high tech as I get.

You can also take a fork and press into the pulp of the lemon to squeeze the juice out.

When you’re done, use the fork to fish out any seeds that escaped before you use the juice in the recipe.

One lemon should yield about 3 tablespoons of lemon juice.

You can also freeze it if you aren’t ready to use it. Just pour into ice cube trays (I do a tablespoon per ice cube since that’s how recipes usually measure it). Once frozen, transfer lemon ice cubes to a freezer bag. They should keep in the freezer for about 3 months.

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