I have a deep fondness for cooking gadgets that you might think have no business being in my tiny New York kitchen. A spiralizer? Yes, please! A mandolin? Don’t mind if I do. An immersion blender? You bet. They take up space that I don’t have, and yes I could make do with a chef’s knife instead, but I use all of these incredibly specific kitchen devices. They’re fun, they make my life easier, and they encourage me to attempt making things I might not otherwise. But there’s one piece of gear in particular that I am an unabashed evangelist for. I use it nearly every day; I talk about it with a fondness usually reserved for people I love; and I feel confident that my life would not be so great without it. That item is the Microplane.
Microplanes usually consist of a plastic handle and metal plate with fine grating blades: Imagine your typical cheese grater, but with smaller teeth. The company that makes Microplanes, Grace Manufacturing, got its start making woodworking instruments, and reluctantly found itself in the kitchenware space. In a 2011 interview with the New York Times, Richard Grace described learning of the use of his rasp—a metal tool used to scrape down pieces of wood—in the kitchen as “frankly a personal disappointment.” But the Microplane’s popularity has skyrocketed as it has become a staple in chef’s knife kits and cooking shows.
I don’t remember exactly when I got my first Microplane, but I think it was around the time I moved into my first apartment. My first one had a red and black handle and I quickly learned how much I could use it for: I dusted my eggs with pecorino romano. I zested lemons to include in quick breads and scones. I grated knobs of ginger for sauces and tea. The Microplane, I learned, is like a culinary magic wand to make anything I want to eat just a little fancier, a touch more sophisticated.
There’s something to this magic, too: The smaller shreds—compared to what you get from a box grater or, unless you have much better knife skills than me, your own knife—allow whatever you Microplane’d to almost, but not quite, disappear into the batters or pastas you whip up, so you’re never biting through anything. You just get to experience the flavor
My last roommate accidentally cracked our Microplane in half while going HAM on some parmesan for her spaghetti—a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, you know?—so this past Christmas, my mom very kindly replaced it with this bright yellow guy. Don’t let the citrus designation deter you: this still grates cheese, ginger, garlic, and chocolate—just for starters—beautifully.
Feeling a little bit like a witch while you make breakfast pasta doesn’t hurt either.