Published April 1, 2011. From Cook's Country.
Sharp, comfortable shears are a kitchen essential. But do you need to spend $75 for a good pair?
Don’t ignore your kitchen shears. They’re the best all-around tool on the counter, useful for butterflying or quartering chicken, trimming pie dough, shaping parchment to line cake pans, snipping herbs, or cutting lengths of kitchen twine. We set out to find a pair that aced all of these tasks, with powerful, sharp, easy-to-maneuver blades; slip-resistant, comfortable handles; and no-hassle cleanup. We also wanted shears that would work for most cooks whatever their hand size or strength—and preferred a design that would also work for lefties.
We gathered seven promising pairs priced from $9.95 to $75—including the favorite from our 2006 testing as well as an ambidextrous model—and started snipping. Our testers cut whole raw chickens, twine, parchment, woody fresh rosemary stems, and tender pie dough. They scissored away with hands both large and small, and included a left-handed tester.
Some shears sacrifice comfort for style, with snazzy-looking handles that made our hands ache or slipped once they got wet or greasy. Two models had cramped handles made of uncomfortably hard material. Also, we didn’t feel safe with pull-apart blades unless we knew they wouldn’t separate spontaneously, as happened with the ambidextrous model and another pair, which both fell apart when spread just 90 degrees. Nor should it take Herculean strength to open and close the shears. Testers with weaker or smaller hands were fatigued by a model with spring-loaded handles, which kept threatening to pop out of our grasp, making precision work difficult.
Also critical to comfort and precision was the tension of the shears. If the tension was too tight, cutting became halting and laborious; if too loose, the shears felt flimsy. We preferred models that allowed us to adjust the tension at the stud fastening the blades. One pair of shears, which began with ideal calibration, felt looser by the end of testing, but since the model wasn’t adjustable we could do nothing about it. Blade length and overall balance proved important as well. Longer shears meant fewer strokes; our top-ranked pair was a full inch longer than most in the lineup, yet it felt balanced in the hand.
The shears we considered all stayed perfectly sharp throughout testing. This was not entirely surprising, since many are made of the same high-carbon stainless steel used in chef’s knives. But what made the most difference to cutting performance was the presence of micro-serrations. They anchor the blades to what you are cutting, helping the scissor action glide effortlessly without slipping and sliding off target. Most pairs had them on one or both blades, but only two models offered dual serrations, with fine teeth along one blade and deeper grooves along the other. These really prevented slippage—it felt like they had a death grip on slippery raw poultry bones and stems of rosemary.
We have a new favorite pair of shears. Testers praised them for their precision and economy of motion. While they separate for cleaning, the blades stayed together until opened to 120 degrees. They work for both right- and left-handed users and feel sturdy and well engineered. Although these shears aren’t cheap, their lifetime guarantee salves some of the sting.