Microplane: The best grating tool ever

Posted on Nov 17, 2015 by Jack McCann
Tags: tools article

In our continuing series about kitchen tools for cooking, today we learn a little bit more about the  microplane.  Perhaps the best grating tool ever.

There are a few things where this tool really shines and totally make it worth the $15-$20 investment.

1) Lemon/citrus

Zesting any citrus really requires organic produce.  The amount of chemicals used on conventional citrus is pretty impressive and lots of that winds up in the rind. So make sure you have organic fruit and use a microplane. The microplane makes short work and does a much better job than dedicated tools like the official 'testers'.

2) Garlic / Ginger

I personally prefer to reduce the chopping of garlic by pre-roasting bulbs at a time and storing in the fridge. However, using a microplane to grate your garlic and ginger really saves a lot of time and hassle. Both of these spices are best when chopped small and are a lot less work when using a microplane. 

3) Nutmeg

If you don't use nutmeg, you're missing out. It is an essential spice to a number of great recipes.  We love it in a classic quiche and obviously egg nog (which is amazing with our eggs). The problem with nutmeg is that the pre-ground stuff is pretty much useless or worse.  You need whole nutmegs and a microplane to really understand what this spice is about. 

4) Parmesan (or any hard cheese)

If you get your parmesan in a green can, you have no idea what you're missing. Real parmesan is expensive in comparison and finding an organic version is pretty tough. Even if you've splurged on the good stuff, you're missing the boat if you're using a wheel grater or worse the small holes on a stand-up 'box' graters. The texture from a microplane-grated parmesan makes the dish.  If you're melting it, sure that doesn't matter, but the fluffy goodness you'll add on top of the recipe with a microplane is divine. 

5) Chocolate

Not that we should eat lots of desserts, but we do... at least lots in comparison to what we ought to be doing. The way we eat much less than we used to is that we always make really good desserts. We teach our kids that mama's cookies are WAY better than anything they can buy in the store or eat at a friends' house... they know they get the better end of the deal by eating fewer, but REALLY good deserts.  Being able to shave chocolate quickly makes for a nice presentation to solidify this effect.

6) Salads

Fresh beets or carrots can overpower a salad with their tough texture and strong flavor -- so you either have to exclude them or spend forever chopping. If you use a microplane, you can quickly grate them and get a nice flavor accent to a basic salad without winding up with a bowl full of hard raw veggies and dressing at the end of your salad. Same goes for nuts on a salad...


History

The microplane has a cool history. It was originally invented as a new woodworking tool and was quite popular in a small group of people because of how well it worked on wood. Someone employed her husband's woodworking tool to make an orange cake and it worked wonders.  The company later changed their marketing to gear towards kitchen use and the business exploded. 

They have a few difference series and types of tools. We have only ever used the classic style and frankly the others seem a bit unnecessary unless you're using them a lot. 

Care and Use

Always store your microplane with its cover on. The blades are super sharp and delicate, so you don't want it banging around with other tools or they will dull quickly. It will last a long time even when grating hard spices, but not so much if you let it get beat up in your drawer.

There are a few things you should always rinse off right after using and the microplane is one of them, so just take a moment to clean it up right after each use.

Which one to buy?

Microplane has a number of different series, and frankly it is a bit confusing. You can't go wrong with the classic style. If you're just getting one grater, choose this one or the fine version of the elite. There isn't really a different price between the various choices. So when comparing, you want to think more about the way you'll be holding the tool instead of if one is 50 cents more than the other.

I can see a lot of value in a dedicated zester, I might rank a course grater as third.  I didn't bother listing the specialty spice grater because the 'classic' works just fine for that and is a better all around tool. 

I've recommended either the classic or the 'elite' series here, I think those are the two best lines to consider. 


This is the classic style. This one is the all around model that is most commonly associated with Microplane. Every kitchen should either have this or the elite fine version linked below. 

Microplane 46020 Premium Black Zester/Grater

Their 'elite' series has a wider and shorter base and doesn't really cost any different.  It seems to work better, especially with a nice integrated catch/cover so you can grate cheeses and have up to 1 cup to sprinkle out after. The 'fine' version works best for super fluffy cheese, garlic, ginger, etc. 

Microplane Elite Series Black Fine Grater

The course or extra course version of the elite series would work well for grating larger quantity of cheese, or even potatoes and fruit. 

Microplane Elite Series Black Handheld Extra Coarse Grater
Microplane Elite Series Black Coarse Grater

If you find yourself zesting fruits on a regular basis, I think it is worth having a dedicated zester. Otherwise the 'fine' one above of the 'classic' works great. 

Microplane Elite Zester, Black

If you have any other tips, recommendations or favorite ways to use your microplane, please share with others in the comments.


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