The Best Kitchen Shears for All of Your Cooking Needs
The best kitchen shears are game-changers. While many home cooks overlook these essential tools, opting instead to struggle with a chef’s knife in every cutting task, in truth, every kitchen should be outfitted with a good pair.
Kitchen shears uses run the gamut. They deftly cut through delicate herbs and small vegetables, yet still give the necessary leverage to get through more resistant foods like a whole chicken. A tough piece of beef before or after it goes onto the grill is no problem for the best kitchen shears.
Kitchen shears are great for cutting things that aren’t food, too: parchment paper, vacuum-sealed packages, bouquets of flowers — you name it! Just remember, many non-food items feature tacky substances (tape adhesive, sap from flowers), or just aren’t up to a kitchen’s cleanliness standards. Because of this, we recommend keeping a separate pair on hand for these specific tasks.
We’re big fans of tools that make a slew of tasks that much easier, and the fact that kitchen shears accomplish this with such a small, simple frame is a dream. Though many knife sets come with a pair of shears, it’s worth understanding the other types of kitchen shears available for purchase so that you can make sure to outfit your kitchen appropriately.
First off, we should address the kitchen shears vs. scissors point of confusion. Both kitchen shears and kitchen scissors have two blades and handles that operate the opening and closing of those blades. The differences between the two are the shape and size of the handles, and the length of the blades.
Scissors have handles that are equally sized with symmetrical loops, while shears have a bottom handle (the hole not meant for your thumb) that is larger and more oblong in shape. Scissors have blades that are typically about 6 inches or less. Shears usually have longer blades.
The fulcrum, or blade pivot point, on shears is farther from the handle, allowing the shears to give you more leverage. This, along with their long, grippable bottom loop, makes kitchen shears operate with more force, which comes in handy when you’re trying to cut very thick, tough or slippery foods.
When selecting a good pair of kitchen shears, here are some features to look for:
- The aforementioned low fulcrum, which will give you greater leverage and significantly increase the shears’ effectiveness.
- Look for good balance. You can assess this by placing a pair on the tips of your pointer and middle fingers. If they don’t waver, you’ve got a good pair. If they are unsteady, keep looking. The absence of good balance implies that the handles may be flimsy and prone to break.
- The best of the best have an adjustable pivot screw. This feature is meant to extend the lifespan of a pair of kitchen shears, because a set without an adjustable screw can grow loose at the pivot point after one too many trying bouts of exertion.
- A pair of kitchen shears with an adjustable pivot screw is not quite as commonplace as a pair that comes apart easily. At the very least, you need this for easy cleaning. Ability to pull apart blades also resolves the question of how to sharpen kitchen scissors.
- And on the construction front, while you should angle for a pair that comes apart, you only want a single point of dismantling. The best kitchen shears will have a single-piece blade and handle, to prevent the handles from breaking or twisting off.
- As is the case with all of your kitchenware, material is extremely important. The best kitchen shears are made of carbon steel, or steel with a higher concentration of carbon than stainless steel. This gives you a blade that is sturdier and easier to sharpen. You won’t get the luster you expect from stainless steel with a carbon steel option, but that’s an aesthetic feature you can do without when it comes to kitchen shears. Because carbon does rust and some folks do covet that shine, manufacturers have developed special stainless steels to mirror, if not surpass, the sharpness retention of carbon steel. These are a fairly pricey option, however.
- Different sorts of kitchen shears have different blade textures, but for your standard set, we recommend a serration on one of the edges for better gripping.
- Find a pair with comfortable handles. If handles make your fingers ache, you won’t use the shears as often, or will use them but will find you have trouble getting a good grip. Kitchen shears with a slightly padded grip will be more comfortable, most notably when handling tough materials, and will help you grip the tool with greater certainty.
- Handles that are sized appropriately are important, too. Many of the best kitchen shears are made with hand size in mind. Find a pair that fits your hand and allows for plenty of room around your fingers in case you need to stick two hands into a single handle to manage anything especially resistant.
- Make sure your pair’s handles are non-slip material or are made of plastic that has a pattern designed to improve grip.
- Are you or someone in your household a lefty? If so, make sure to get a set that is designed for ambidextrous use. Many are these days!
Beyond your standard multipurpose pair, a home cook can arm themselves with shears developed with specific tasks in mind. Here are categories of shears that deserve a spot in your kitchen:
- Herb scissors: These are sometimes referred to as kitchen snips. They are generally 4 to 5 inches long and have a rivet closer to the blade to help exert optimum force. This is vital when you’re handling herbs because of their tendency to bruise when cutting – you need a tool that will power right through any reed-thin substance. These sometimes come with a spring-loaded hinge that makes cutting extra snappy.
- Poultry shears: These are a necessity for anyone who is regularly spatchcoking large birds. While some standard shears can handle cracking the backbone of a smaller bird, these are designed to give you optimal leverage. Poultry shears are super sharp to take on a bird’s bones while also masterfully trimming fat and skin. Using a pair is much safer than opting for a knife, which can slip around a bird’s skin. The blades are also curved and tapered to help you access tough to reach spots around joints.
- Meat scissors: These are similar to kitchen shears but possess the traits of scissors we laid out above. They stand up to pieces of raw meat and make for easy portioning without requiring a cutting board.
- Seafood scissors: Designed with small, curved blades, these are especially adept at removing seafood shells without damaging the meat within. These are your go-to’s when cooking lobster, shrimp or crab.
- Pizza scissors: While you can portion out a pizza with a traditional slicer, shears help get you through the crisp crust. Standard kitchen shears can be used to accomplish this, but you can now find pizza shears that have a bottom blade outfitted with a flat plastic base, which snuggles under the pizza, ensuring an even snip and helps pick up a piece after it is cut — a great assist for handling molten cheese!
When it comes to keeping your kitchen shears in shape, we recommend always hand-washing. This will keep the blades sharp and resistant to rust. If you have a pair made of carbon, you should oil them occasionally by rubbing them with a lightly oiled cloth – oiling the screw, too, will keep them pivoting smoothly. Any food-safe oil (olive, canola, grapeseed, etc) works for this.
Not only do you need to be mindful of keeping your kitchen shears clean and bacteria-free, but you also need to understand how to sharpen kitchen scissors. If your pair has non-serrated blades, you can use a whetstone, honing steel rod or a more advanced knife sharpening tool. Just pull the blades apart at the joint. If your blades don’t come apart, try sharpening by cutting a piece of aluminum. It’s an impressive hack!
For blades with serrated edges, you may need to turn to a professional who can also handle your non-serrated blades if you’d prefer to outsource the job. Each serration needs individual care. This is a task that can be done with an awl-like tool, but it requires lots of effort, time and precision. Many kitchen supply stores, hardware stores and even farmers markets offer this service.
Follow these tips and you’re sure to have the best kitchen shears on hand. Keep them sharp and at the ready day in and day out and watch them cut down your kitchen prep time in a flash.