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Kitchen Shears Are a Sharp Purchase

Fine Cooking Issue 55
Photos: Scott Phillips
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In my kitchen, there’s one sure way to tell which tools get the most use—just look in the drying rack. On any given day, you’ll be sure to find a pair of kitchen shears there (okay, or in the sink). I know this because at least once or twice a day I’m looking for them to snip open a package of pasta, butterfly a chicken, or handle some other task for which kitchen shears can be incredibly handy. Kitchen shears are easy to control and sometimes better suited to certain tasks than a knife—especially if your knives are dull or if you find handling a knife to be awkward.

For our rating, we selected twelve widely available kitchen shears under $50 and ran them through a series of tests related to their common uses, including cutting through small poultry bones. While not all kitchen shears are designed to cut through bones, we felt this was an important criterion since so many can do this as well as—and sometimes better than—poultry shears, which often cost more, too. The shears were rated for both function and form: how well they cut and how comfortable they felt in the hand. Since the testing was more subjective than many of our equipment reviews, we had five members of our editorial staff (including one left-hander) test each pair to determine which shears were the overall favorites, as you’ll find listed here in order of preference.

Top pick

Messermeister Take Apart Kitchen Shear

While there are no serrations, the blades are extremely sharp and thus easily cut through even the most slippery of foods, like a chicken, with ease. The angled handle lets you work deep into an object without getting your hand wedged. Narrow but sturdy blades are easy to insert in cramped situations. The smaller thumbhold is just one part of what gives the rubber handles a markedly comfortable grip.

Other features:

  • Stainless-steel notched blades that come apart for easy cleaning.
  • Adjustable rivet for tightening or loosening blade tension.
  • Dishwasher-safe.
  • For right- and left- handers.

Extras: Bottle opener, jar-lid opener, screwdriver.

Runners up (in order of preference )

Wüsthof Come-A-Part Kitchen Shears

What these really have going for them is sheer (no pun intended) sharpness. They proved to be sharper than most of those we tested—no notch for stubborn bones, however. The synthetic handles are conveniently textured for slip resistance but aren’t especially soft to grip.

Other features:

  • High-carbon stainless-steel serrated blades that come apart for easy cleaning.
  • Steel-tooth insets to twist open bottle and jar-caps.
  • For right- and left-handers.

Fiskars Take-Apart Kitchen Scissors

Incredibly comfortable handles with the smaller hole for-the thumb provide an excellent, snug grip. The slightly shorter—but not too short—size also helps provide good leverage (overall length 7-1/2-inches). The blades are moderately sharp, though they could be sharper, and the bolt for the pull-apart mechanism is a bit bulky. Lightweight.

Other features

  • Serrated and notched stainless- steel blades that come apart for easy cleaning.
  • Dishwasher-safe.

Oxo Good Grips Kitchen-Scissors

Not to be confused with Oxo’s swivel scissors (which aren’t meant to cut through bone), these springloaded shears were the only ones in the test with a nontraditional handle shape. For fine cutting jobs, such as trimming pastry or snipping chives, these are extremely comfortable and maneuvered fine. For cutting up a-chicken, the more moderate sharpness of the blade, straight handle, and spring-loaded tension make the task somewhat awkward and forced. And, as one tester noted, “If the spring weakens or dies, these scissors are toast.”

Other features

  • Stainless-steel serrated and notched blades (that don’t come apart).
  • Safety clasp at handles’ end to lock shears shut.
  • Dishwasher-safe.

What to look for in a pair of shears

Like a knife, a pair of kitchen shears is the kind of tool that, ideally, you’d get your hands on to test the fit, feel, and sharpness before you buy. Nonetheless, here are a few general features worth knowing about:

Serrated and notched blade
Many shears have one blade that’s serrated, which helps significantly when gripping slippery items. We found this feature particularly handy for trimming fish or cutting out the back of a chicken. A notch near the fulcrum is also useful for breaking through twigs or small but still difficult-to-break bones.

Break-apart blades
Many shears let you separate the blades at the fulcrum, which is incredibly useful for thorough cleaning and drying. The blades have to be at a wide angle, usually 90 degrees, to be able to separate, so it’s unlikely that they’d come apart during use (we never encountered this problem).

Rounded handles
Too many shears have plastic handles with edges that aren’t rounded, and they can be downright painful to use. Look for rounded edges on the handles.

Snug handles
Hands of all sizes easily slip through those handles with large holes for inserting your fingers. A smaller, circular hole for the thumb is particularly helpful when you need to apply pressure.

Throwing a pair of shears in the dishwasher is particularly convenient if you’ve used them on raw poultry. But, like any sharp knife, the shears’ blades will eventually be damaged in the dishwasher. Even those manufacturers who tout their scissors as dishwasher-safe acknowledge that the practice isn’t recommended.

Many shears now come with bonus features, from can and bottle openers to screwdrivers. While this seems clever, it wasn’t a selling point for us. How often do you need a screwdriver when cooking?

Shear genius

Here are some of our favorite uses for kitchen shears:

  • Cutting a whole chicken into parts (use to cut out the back, clip the wings, and trim the ribs).
  • Trimming the fat from chicken or duck.
  • Snipping slices of bacon into small pieces.
  • Making rounds of parchment to line cake pans.
  • Snipping butcher twine.
  • Chopping up canned whole tomatoes (just leave them in the opened can and snip away).
  • Cutting tender, fresh herbs, especially when you want thin slices of basil.
  • “Mincing” a handful of chives or slicing rounds of-scallions.
  • Snipping off the ends of-fresh green beans or snow-peas.
  • Chopping up tough, large pieces of dried fruit, such as apricots, figs, or mango-slices.
  • Trimming away the tough, outer leaves on fresh artichokes.
  • Trimming the crust from bread slices and cutting the-slices into cubes for croutons.
  • Slicing hot, crusty homemade pizza.
  • Trimming pie dough before-crimping.
  • Cutting slashes into shaped bread dough.


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