Buying Guide to Zesters & Graters
6 Things to Know Before You Buy
With their ability to transform whole foods into strips and shavings, zesters and graters add intense flavors and varying textures to home cooked foods. Whether it is the salty tang of Parmesan cheese on pasta or the sweet and sour zip of orange zest in pumpkin bread, many dishes wouldn't be what they are without the use of these simple kitchen tools.
Discovering what's available in zesters and graters and what comprises quality in these culinary tools will guide you in choosing the best types for your kitchen.
Fact #1: Graters
Several types of graters exist. Which type you choose depends on what you cook.
Box graters are four-sided and feature varying size grating holes on each side, which enables you to grate a wide variety of foods, including potatoes for hash browns and various cheeses. There is also a slicing side that does a good job of creating slivers of vegetables like carrots. Box graters work especially well when you need to grate a large volume of food.
Flat handheld graters, sometimes called rasps, consist of one flat grating board, which usually has medium to small-sized grating holes. Mandolin graters are another flat type that has changeable blades.
Rotary graters feature a basket that sits on a circular grater. You place the food to be grated in the basket and then use a hand crank to rotate the basket, which grates the food. These are especially popular for grating small amounts of hard cheeses, and they work well for chocolate shavings and for grinding nuts. They tend to crush softer items and only hold a small amount of food.
First-rate zesters and graters possess many of the same features, including the following qualities:
Fact #2: Zesters
Zesters are used to create extra fine shavings of a wide variety of aromatic foods, which are filled with concentrated flavors, such as citrus rind, ginger, garlic, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, chocolate and cloves, as well as hard cheese like Parmesan Reggiano.
Traditional zesters feature a handheld tool with a metal head that has several small shredding holes. These holes are cut at just the right angle so they lightly penetrate whatever they shred, producing thin shavings. Such zester types work well when you desire delicate, curled strips.
For a very fine zest of citrus, chocolate or spices like ginger or garlic, a handheld microplane zester is ideal. This newer type of zester is designed based on a woodworking tool and is also handheld. It features a wand covered in very small razor sharp holes. You rub the food you're zesting up and down on the wand.
Fact #3: Top-notch Materials and Workmanship
The best graters and zesters are made from thin, surgical grade stainless steel, which is long lasting and creates extra sharp blades. It is such razor-like cutting precision that allows a good zester to make extra fine shavings and remove only the colored part of citrus fruit, rather than including the bitter white pith found underneath.
Fact #4: Ergonomic Design
Ideal graters possess comfortable handles for easy gripping, and box graters feature a non-skid bottom to prevent sliding. Box and mandolin graters also have V-notch blades, which are the most efficient at slicing and shredding.
Fact #5: Large Grater Areas
The bigger the grater area, the more you can grate and zest, and the faster you can cook.
Fact #6: Easy to Clean and Store
Top quality graters and zesters are generally dishwasher safe, although hand washing is often preferable to prevent spotting. Some types, such as the mandolin, come with a container for storing the various blades.