Essential Kitchen Gadgets: The Microplane

 

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The microplane is such a useful tool in the kitchen that it almost seems insulting to call it a gadget. We probably use ours every day, for fine grating and zesting everything from garlic cloves to nutmeg. Microplane  is actually a trademarked name of Grace Manufacturing Inc, an American company that specializes in steel tools for etching and grinding and woodworking, so it makes sense that they would come up with this indispensable tool.

The microplane is like a shark; with row upon row of razor sharp teeth it’s perfect. No further evolution needed. Sleek, strong and sturdy, it can charm the zest off an overripe clementine or turn a hard chunk of parmesan into billowy light snowdrifts. Just over an inch wide and a foot long (about four inches of it is a hard plastic handle), it is light and compact, occupying minimal space in the junk drawer and it is one of the tools I want with me on the dessert island of my dreams.

 

This has been relegated to a lower station in my junk drawer

This has been relegated to a lower station in my junk drawer

 

On your typical box grater there is a side that presumably is for grating nutmeg and perhaps zesting citrus rind, but the little star shaped holes always get clogged. Leave the box grater for prepping coleslaw. Typical zesters have 5 holes, and produce longer, curled zest which may have a certain visual appeal, as it were. The microplane has 47 rows (I counted) of 7 “teeth” along its eight inch blade surface for a total of 329 teeth, so a few passes with the lemon of your choice and the fruit will be totally zested finer and fluffier and faster, and perfect for immersion into your recipe or as a garnish.

 

eep!

meh

Don’t bother with those ostentatious whirling cheese graters. Also they’re annoying to clean and have a large footprint on your shelf or drawer. The microplane cleans in about 10 seconds. As far as grating spices, the microplane is perfect for nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon and you only need grate as much as you need at a time. And the aroma? Heavenly. No more tin boxes of inert, sad spices from 1987 collecting dust in your pantry. For grinding larger amounts of spices like cloves, pepper and cardamom etc, you would likely want to use a spice grinder/coffee mill, but for a few teaspoons or less the microplane is perfect.

I worked in professional kitchens for years, and can chop garlic with the best of them, but with the odd exception (sometimes I like the garlic in larger chunks) I use the microplane for garlic. A few swipes down the plane and all you have left is soft, perfectly shredded garlic, and a little woody fibrous bit that doesn’t make it through the holes to discard And fresh ginger is a joy to work with, so much so that for the most part it has replaced dried ginger altogether; in recipes that call for ¼ teaspoon of dried, powdered ginger substitute a tablespoon of fresh grated. Wow.

Dark chocolate and white chocolate become ethereal when microplaned, even at room temperature. Plane it directly on top of your next cappuccino or hot chocolate, or fold some just grated white chocolate into your next batch of whipped cream. The microplane will also devour your next fresh coconut like a snowblower going through your driveway, leaving succulent, tender little piles.

 

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clockwise from the top: almond, pistachio, ginger, garlic, parmesan,lemon, lime, clementine, Brazil nut. In the middle, dark and white chocolate

 

But I think my favourite surprise with the microplane is how it transforms nuts. Brazil nuts, almonds and pistachios are transformed into little nut clouds; essence of Brazil nut anyone? Folded into desserts, sprinkled onto whipped cream, on top of cereals or incorporated into recipes like banana bread and coffee cakes…the list goes on and on. Never has the prefix “micro” occupied such a large place in my heart. Up until now.

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