Something I Love: Microplane

I recently read an article where a chef was asked her favorite tool/utensil in the kitchen.  I don’t recall the answer and it wasn’t the first time I’d seen that question asked of someone.  I just kept thinking there’s no way I could answer because I couldn’t do what I do in the kitchen without the assistance of several things.  I suppose my chef’s knife would come close since it’s something I use almost every time I cook… I dunno.

What I’d rather tell you about is Something I Love.  I started this series an ingredient that I love, Snowville milk/cream.  This time, I’m going to focus on a utensil I love, my microplane.

Growing up in a subsistence-only kitchen we never had fancy tools or anything I’d really consider gourmet.  We didn’t even have a garlic press for crying out loud–mostly because my mom cooked with jarred chopped garlic.  No wonder she hates garlic!  It’s amazing the clarity that reflection brings.  …I digress…

Old school
Old school

We had a box grater–one of those supposed “multi-taskers” that lets you grate on one side, finely shred on another, slice on the third and heaven only knows what that silly side with the little sharp stars was supposed to do.  I think it’s supposed to be for zesting, but for me that was always an effort in futility as it would remove zest from the fruit, but then you had to basically beg it to come off of the little stars of death, which often claimed more then their fair share of my knuckles.

Enter the microplane.  Oh, how I could sing its praises.  I don’t really know why it took me so long to buy one–maybe it was the fact that I already had a fine grater and I didn’t think I needed anything else.  I mean, you can score a perfectly respectable microplane for $15.  My guess is I didn’t know what all I could do with it so I thought of it as a lemon zester only.

Don’t get me wrong, it does a fantastic job with lemon zest!  In fact, it’s quite a workhorse when I make limoncello or these beautiful, love-spreading cookies.  I also used it when making marmalade from the mountains of Temple oranges my husband recently bought me.  It also helped get just the outer layer of zest from a couple grapefruits, which sat in a Ball jar with some American gin recently–that was quite a treat!

Lemon zest dispatched with quickly by the microplane
Lemon zest dispatched with quickly by the microplane
Nutmeg for a molasses cake
Nutmeg for a molasses cake

Beyond zesting citrus the microplane is great at blitzing through nutmeg, ginger, chocolate, blocks of hard cheese (Asiago, Parmesan, etc.) and my personal favorite garlic & shallots–all in record time.  It’s so much faster than mincing and I just toss the tiny nub that’s left over from the garlic/shallot into my stock bag in the freezer.

Some quick tips about microplanes, then I want to hear from you.

  1. A microplane is so efficient because it has about 300 mini blades.  Use caution and watch what you’re doing. I’ve not been injured by the microplane because I treat it like I would a knife.
  2. For longer lasting sharpness, don’t forget to use the entire length of the tool.
  3. I usually grate any garnishes (dusting of nutmeg/cheese/chocolate on top of a dish) with the section of the microplane closest to the handle because that allows for better control of where the ingredient falls.

I’d love to know what your favorite piece of kitchen equipment is, and why.  Can you narrow it down to one or do you have several?

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