Lemon zest adds a bright spark to a dish. There are lots of tools for zesting a lemon — zester, a knife — but it’s hard to go wrong with a fine grater (such as the popular Microplane version), which makes a beautiful light zest that melds into a dish and gives great flavor.
To zest with the Microplane, just rub the lemon in one direction against the little blades. Turn the lemon as you go so you remove only the yellow part — the zest. You don’t want the white pith just beneath — it’s bitter.
If you use a traditional zester, which makes long, thin strands of zest, or a knife, be sure to finely chop the strands with a knife. The finer shrivels of zest will permeate the dish better than the strands.
To get the most flavor out of lemon zest, add it toward the end of cooking.