Kitchen Shears

Published April 2011

How we tested

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.

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The Results


Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.


Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.


Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.


Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.


Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.


Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.