Want to know which culinary tools the Southern Living Foods staff can't live without? Read on.
Microplane Grater

People who cook for a living can be pretty particular when it comes to kitchen equipment. Our staff of Foods editors and Test Kitchens chefs is no exception. We asked them to name their favorite tools of the trade. Here are their choices.

A good cutting board: This ranked at the top of the list among our staff. Portable cutting boards usually are made from wood or polyethylene, a soft but rigid plastic. Carefully clean after each use, and store away from heat.

Food processor: "I couldn't live without a good food processor," says Test Kitchens staffer Vanessa McNeil. "It dices, liquefies, grates, slices, and makes life much easier."

Zester: Margaret Monroe Dickey, our Test Kitchens Director, thinks the Microplane Zester is the "greatest gadget." The idea for this grater began when a hardware-store owner's wife realized that a wood planer removed citrus zest with ease. The new stainless steel version is popular with cooks for zesting and grating chocolate. "It's a lot easier to use than other zesters available, and I even use it to grate cheese," Margaret says.

Parchment paper: Recipe Development Director Mary Allen Perry, who creates many of our special cakes, says her favorite kitchen tool is parchment paper. She lines pans with it for pizza, cookies, biscuits, or anything else she might prepare on a baking sheet. "This saves on cleanup, and you can reuse it, which saves money," Mary Allen says.

Immersion blender: Jan Moon of the Test Kitchens favors the Cuisinart Quick Prep handheld blender for its convenience. "It saves you from preparing a recipe in portions because you can now blend large amounts in the same container," she says. The immersion blender makes it easier to chop ice, mince vegetables, and purée soups--no more precariously pouring hot soup into a blender.

Digital thermometer: Vicki Poellnitz, our Foods Editorial Assistant, thinks a digital thermometer is a must for grilling or roasting meats. Our staff prefers instant-read thermometers because they're more accurate and make a smaller hole in the meat, releasing fewer juices. When you want to test for doneness, insert the thermometer in the center of a piece of meat or roast, or into the thickest part of the thigh of a bird. Make sure it doesn't touch the bone, and remove it immediately after reading.

Kitchen scissors: Every kitchen should have at least one pair of scissors for cutting poultry, herbs, fruit, parchment paper, kitchen string, cheesecloth, etc. We especially like the performance of the dishwasher-safe Joyce Chen brand.

Kitchen tongs: Lyda Jones, our Assistant Test Kitchens Director, finds these indispensable. "This tool makes it easy to turn meats without piercing them and losing their juices," she says. She also uses the tongs for tossing salads, checking pasta for doneness, and arranging food on the plate.

Chef's knife: When our Foods staffers were asked to name their all-time favorite kitchen knife, Wüsthof's 8-inch-blade Cook's Knife was the answer. It's made with high-carbon, stain-resistant steel, and the handle is easy to hold. All Wüsthof knives are guaranteed for life.