9 Reasons You Should Have a Microplane Zester in Your Kitchen, According to Our Test Kitchen

This tool is a workhorse for zesting citrus, grating garlic and more.
Megan O. Steintrager
October 02, 2020
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I don’t have a lot of storage space in my kitchen, so I really try to limit the number of gadgets and tools I have cluttering up my drawers and cabinets—no garlic presses or avocado cutters here! But one tool you’d have a hard time prying from my hands is my Microplane zester/grater. I have had the brand’s Premium Classic Series Zester/Grater for years and I find myself reaching for it just about daily. 

The Microplane stands out from other graters and zesters because its blades are super-sharp and spaced close together, making for a finer grate/zest. It’s also faster to use than a knife for many tasks, and it’s sturdy and durable. I spoke to my colleagues in the EatingWell Test Kitchen and everyone agreed that this tool is one you need for all sorts of uses—here are nine ways we use our Microplanes.

9 Ways to Use a Microplane Zester/Grater 

Grating Garlic

If you have a recipe that calls for finely minced garlic, grab that Microplane—it’s much faster and easier than using a knife. Because the tool grates garlic so finely, it’s particularly good to use when you are going to be using the garlic raw, such as in vinaigrettes and other salad dressings. Grated garlic also works well in sauces, stir-fries and other cooked dishes, but EatingWell Test Kitchen manager Breana Killeen notes to be aware of the fact that garlic cooks faster when it’s grated rather than chopped, so keep an eye on it. 

Grating Ginger

“I use it for ginger because it's so much faster than chopping, plus it releases a lot of the flavorful juice at the same time,” says Killeen, adding that she grates ginger 99% of the time she uses it. And EatingWell magazine senior food editor Devon O’Brien has a secret too: “I particularly love it for using ginger because I don't even peel it (gasp!),” she says. “I just grate it all. It's fine enough that it doesn’t bother me to leave the skin on.” Use grated ginger in marinades, dressings, dipping sauces and dishes like Ginger-Orange Chicken Thighs with Baby Bok Choy, and to make ginger tea (simply infuse grated ginger in hot water for an easy brew, or follow a recipe).  

Grating Hard Cheeses Like Parmesan

“I also use my Microplane for Parmesan cheese for finishing plates—a little microplaned fresh Parm on top of pasta? Yes please!” says O’Brien. “Sometimes when I'm feeling lazy I'll even just put the Parm and the microplane on a plate and let everyone DIY cheese grate.” I also use my Microplane for grating Parmesan and Pecorino cheeses and have found that it works so much better than any type of grater I’ve used for grating hard cheeses. As a bonus, a block of Parm or Pecorino lasts much longer than pre-grated cheese, which is great if you are limiting trips to the grocery store but don’t want to do without your grated cheese (key for me since I tend to make pasta topped with cheese at least once a week). Plus, as the tip on this recipe for Lemon-Garlic Chicken notes, shredding hard cheeses with a Microplane gives you about four times the volume you’d get with a regular shredder, which makes for a generous-looking serving of cheese.

Zesting Citrus 

“Zester” is in the name of the tool, so it’s no surprise that a Microplane is great for zesting citrus fruits like lemons, limes and oranges for desserts, pasta, veggies and much more. The tool is particularly good at removing just the zest and leaving behind the bitter-tasting pith. 

Grating Nutmeg & Other Spices

Want to add nutmeg to your rum punch, eggnog, creamed spinach or pumpkin spice latte? You’ll get a much better flavor if you grate the whole spice instead of using the powdered variety. And a Microplane is our favorite tool for the job.( While Microplane makes a separate tool specifically for grating spices, I’ve found that the zester/grater works just fine for spices.) And while it’s a bit tougher than grating nutmeg, you can also grate cinnamon sticks with a Microplane, according to senior digital editor Jaime Milan.

Shaving Chocolate 

For a pretty garnish on desserts, Killeen uses a Microplane to grate chocolate. This trick also works well for hot chocolate and other drinks topped with whipped cream, and really anytime you need a bit of chocolate flavor (like for breakfast). 

Shredding Coconut 

Want to add very finely shredded coconut to savory and sweet dishes? Grab your Microplane, says executive digital editor Penelope Wall. Try it in these Tropical Overnight Oats

Grating Horseradish & Wasabi

While most recipes with horseradish call for prepared horseradish (which contains the root, vinegar and salt), if you find the fresh root, use your Microplane to grate it for dishes like these Crispy Smashed Potatoes with Green Horseradish Sauce. And definitely grab fresh wasabi if you can find it—it will really elevate any dishes you’d use prepared wasabi paste for.  

Shaving Truffles

And finally, just in case you happen to get your hands on some fresh truffles (lucky!), you can get all fancy and use your Microplane to shave them over pasta, risotto and eggs

While truffles are a bit out of my budget, I am considering splurging on a second Microplane zester/grater on the recommendation of Killeen, who keeps two: one for zest, spices and chocolate and one for garlic, ginger and Parmesan cheese, because she feels like the garlic and ginger smell lingers even after washing. 

Did we miss any uses? (And don’t say pedicures! 😝😝😝) Let me know and send all of your questions for the Test Kitchen to testkitchen@eatingwell.com