Fall is coming and grilling and cook-outs may be at an end, but the zest for tasty meals, never ends. But who wants to sit there with one of those old fashioned graters and deal with the mess (not to mention, sliced fingers)? I’ll bet that you have at least one grater in your kitchen. It might be one of those flat graters with several different (and somewhat scary) looking raised pieces, or perhaps it is a standing grater with three or four sides. But savvy cooks who really want to get the most out of of a grater, will use a more specialized implement called a Microplane.
For a long time, I thought microplanes were really just for professional chefs. But then I started seeing all sorts of microplanes cropping up in stores for regular consumer. So I wondered, what exactly is a microplane, what does it do, and why should I try them? The people at Microplane(R) hand-held graters sent me a basic set of microplanes to try. If you’re wondering why you need a set of these, read on:
First of all, microplanes are rasp-like graters, developed by the Microplane Company in the 1990s. When you look at the traditional mircoplane shape which is long and thin, with a handle, it really is a sister to the design of a woodworking rasp — a long metal shaft covered with small, sharp metal teeth. More modern microplanes are paddle shaped graters that are flatter and wider, with handles that keep the teeth safely away from your fingers. These teeth don’t cut down far into the fruit (or other food), just far enough into the rind to get the flavorful zest off, shredding it into very fine ribbons that easily incorporate into any recipe. Microplanes are extremely efficient for zesting fruit peel for everything from a garnish to cocktails, to cooking.
But microplanes can also be used for so much more. The method is the same for all of these uses. Just rub whatever it is you want to grate along the top of the microplane, then tap the metal end against a hard surface and rub any excess from the bottom to release all little prices into a bowl or onto a chopping board. It is easy to clean a microplane. To do it safely, first remove trapped particles from the non-sharp side whenever possible by soaking the microplane in warm water. Then use a cleaning brush to stroke in the same direction as the teeth.
A traditional grater basically shreds things in different thicknesses, but a microplane can grate hard cheeses, like Parmesan, and spices, like nutmeg (you can’t do that with a traditional grater). The right size microplane can also grate garlic or make chocolate shavings. It can make freshly shredded coconut, and you can grate a fresh piece of ginger into a fine pulp after you’ve removed the skin.
Microplane graters come in a variety of sizes ranging from fine to course with different uses for each.
Fine – for grating foods like nutmeg, cinnamon, or chocolate and finely shaving citrus zest. The resulting appearance will be powdery *cinnamon stick is really yummy on hot chocolate or on a cappuccino.
Medium – shaves garlic and ginger for stir-fries, hard cheese like Parmesan and Romano, and citrus zest – makes whispy flakes of whatever it is you are grating.
Coarse – for larger, ribbon-like shavings of foods such as chocolate, coconut, and cheese. *add some shaved chocolate on your cream pie or ice-cream.
A good microplane will have a substantial handle for you to grip, but the microplane teeth can be extremely sharp, even though they are small, so be careful if you choose to grate smaller spices (or other things) with the microplane so that you don’t accidentally grate a fingertip or two! Try holding small pieces with a specialized holder, or with a fork.
The Microplane Home Series 5 Piece Set ($57.95) offers a world of options in a perfect set of modern microplanes: 44001 Microplane® Home Series Coarse Grater for hard cheeses like parmesan; 44002 Microplane® Home Series Fine Grater for zesting citrus and grating spices; 44009 Microplane® Home Series Medium Ribbon Grater for nuts, and chocolate; 44038 Microplane® Home Series Extra Coarse Grater for cheeses and cabbage; and you also get the 35057 Microplane® Home Series Grater Attachment for finger protection and the ability to grate small pieces of food you can’t grip well
I love this feature. Just slide the holder onto the paddle, drop a piece of food into the attachment hopper, put the top on it, and great, easily and safely. The set comes in black or red, with wide, comfortable,. rubberized handles that you can hold securely without fear of slipping. And it comes with a finger protector too.
Microplane also makes Professional and Elite graters as well in various colors. The Elite series is sleeker and come in red and black and two new colors: green and purple. Unique to Microplane graters, the Elite series includes a transparent cover that doubles as a grating catch feature and measuring cup with generous 1-cup capacity. Available in Fine, Ribbon, Coarse, Extra Coarse, and Star for $16.95 as individual items, or as a gift set ($59.95) on the Microplane Web Site: http://us.microplane.com
Just to inspire you, here’s a delicious recipe for Lemon Mousse from Cooks.com, where a fine grater makes all the difference in texture and taste:
Rind of 1 lemon, removed with a fine grater:
2/3 c. fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp. fresh orange juice
1 env. of unflavored gelatin
4 lg. eggs, separated
2/3 c. sugar
1 c. whipping cream, chilled
1 c. fresh raspberries
Put rind in 1 1/2 cup bowl. Add lemon and orange juice. Sprinkle gelatin over. Let stand until softened.
Off heat in top of double boiler, beat egg yolks and sugar until thick and light colored. Place pan over gently simmering water. Cook just until heated through and smooth, stirring constantly.
Add gelatin mixture, stirring until completely dissolved. Refrigerate until it begins to thicken but
has not gelled, stirring often.
Beat egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Fold into lemon mixture. Beat cream until lightly whipped. Gently fold in. Spoon into six clear goblets. Use paper towel to clean any smears. Cover each tightly with plastic wrap.
Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. To serve, garnish each with raspberries.
Microplanes are really fun to experiment with. But shredding, is addictive! If you find yourself shredding chocolate, cheese and coconuts far more than you really need to, don’t blame me! A set of microplanes also makes a fabulous gift. Follow Microplane at Twitter: @microplane and like Microplane onFacebook: http://www.facebook.com/microplane. Also check out our review of the Microplane 7-in-one Ultimate Bar Tool!