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March 24, 2011

Tools of the soup maker's trade: Microplane® graters

Microplane graters

Sometimes, it's one final flourish that takes a soup from good to great. A bit of chopped cilantro or parsley, a few pepitas, a dollop of creme fraiche -- all make an ordinary soup extraordinary. One indispensable tool for creating the wow comes from the hardware store: a Microplane® grater. Or, in my kitchen, two graters, one for each of my favorite soup finishers: lemon zest, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

A Microplane is nothing more than a rasp, the exact same kind your dad might keep in his toolbox to use in woodworking. It's a thin strip of metal with a sharp, perforated surface.

I don't know who was the first chef to discover that rasps make ideal tools for grating cheese or lemon zest, but that person was a genius. Microplane already manufactured rasps, so it was a short hop from the woodshop to the kitchen. They added some cook-friendly handles, and offered rasps in three different perforation sizes, perfect for everything from chocolate to Cheddar. Smaller perforations create a fluffy grating, and the largest holes yield small shards -- lovely for a topping of cheese on a bowl of soup.

Most good cookware stores sell Microplane graters now, for $11-14. They're a bit less expensive in the hardware store, but it's worth an extra dollar or two to get a grater with a comfortable handle. I'm sure that we all grated things before Microplanes came along, but I can't remember how we did it.

Do you have a Microplane (or more than one)? Do you love it?


Posted by: girlfriendlifeline | March 24, 2011 at 05:03 PM

I do love my microplane! I use it for cheese and chocolate like you mentioned, but I also find it is terrific for grating garlic - instead of going to the trouble of mincing it!

Posted by: susan from food blogga | March 24, 2011 at 07:06 PM

I have two of them but only ever use the large one which I feel is easier to handle. Love it for citrus zest, fresh nutmeg, and chocolate. But I still usually use my larger grater for cheese. I guess I just like the bigger pieces.

Posted by: Lydia | March 25, 2011 at 07:55 AM

Girlfriendlifeline, I've never thought to use mine for garlic, but that's such a great idea! Thanks for the tip.

Susan, I do use both sizes. I love the small size for lemon zest, especially in baking, when I don't want to get the texture of the zest but just the flavor. (Or maybe this is my excuse for having more than one Microplane!)

Posted by: Sue | March 25, 2011 at 08:05 AM

How do you microplane parsley?

Posted by: Heidi | March 25, 2011 at 09:14 AM

I love my three microplanes. They are pictured here:

I keep the little one with the whole nutmeg.

I've had them for years and they've been through the dishwasher numerous times with no ill effects.

I can't imagine zesting lemons or grating ginger without them.

Posted by: Lydia | March 25, 2011 at 02:53 PM

Sue, carefully! Only kidding -- I don't use it for parsley, of course, but for cheese and lemon zest.

Heidi, glad to know I'm not the only one who has more than one Microplane!

Posted by: susan g | March 26, 2011 at 08:45 PM

Mine is the small one you show above (small holes, powerful tool...), and it's revolutionized citrus zesting. (I have a bona fide citrus zester, which is more trouble than it's worth, so I would make too little; now maybe I make too much.) Now, tell me about ginger: it doesn't seem to do more that graze the ginger; advice?

Posted by: Colleen | March 28, 2011 at 09:22 AM

I have two microplaners, and don't know what I did before they came along! My family loves the way the smaller one grates parmesan!! I haven't used it for parsley or cilantro, but have for garlic and citrus zest.

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  • I'm Lydia Walshin, a longtime food writer who lives and cooks in a real log house. If I could, I'd eat Chinese noodles, grapes, ice cream and soup every day.
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