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.
Kershaw Taskmaster Shears / Shun Multi-Purpose Shears
Thanks to 9-inch, very sharp blades (one with fine micro-serrations; the other deeply grooved ones), breaking down a chicken felt effortless. Large, rubbery handles were comfy, and blades were symmetrical for right- and left-handed use. They come with a lifetime guarantee. Note: The Kershaw 1120 is also co-branded as Shun DM7300. Kershaw shears and Shun shears are produced at the same factory. The Kershaw shears are the exact same between model numbers 1120M (Shears w/Magnetic Sheath) and the 1120 (Shears only).
J. A. Henckels International Kitchen Shears—Take Apart
Cutting through branches of fresh rosemary or poultry bones felt effortless with these solid, sharp shears. Fine serrations on one side helped blades stay in place when breaking down a chicken. But the handles fit only three fingers, and the blade tension is not adjustable.
Messermeister 8-Inch Take-Apart Kitchen Shears
The short blades on this ambidextrous model lack serrations, so they sometimes slid on slippery poultry bones and rosemary branches. Their separable blades fell apart unexpectedly when opened to as little as 90 degrees. Still, the rubbery handles are roomy and symmetrical, and thus suited to a variety of hand types.
Wüsthof Come-Apart Kitchen Shears
Thanks to their heft and sharpness, these pricey shears butchered a chicken with powerful, sure strokes. A notch and serrated edge on one blade got a grip on bigger bones. But their weight (nearly a half pound) and blade-heavy balance wore some testers out, and tight stainless-steel handles felt slippery in greasy hands.
Messermeister Take-Apart Shears
These sharp, slim shears (our old favorite) felt secure in our hands thanks to rubber-wrapped handles for a comfortable, sure grip. Our gripes? The nonserrated blades sometimes slipped, and left-handed testers found them unsatisfying, if not impossible, to use.
Kuhn Rikon Household Shears
These colorful, lightweight shears cleaved poultry bones easily thanks to ultra-fine, barely visible serrations on one blade. However, the hard plastic-wrapped handles proved uncomfortable, the thumbhole pinched, and the tension (which is not adjustable) loosened slightly over the course of testing.
Kuhn Rikon 8-Inch Kitchen Shears
These shears are spring-loaded: The cutting action only involves squeezing them closed. Testers with large, strong hands found them liberating (no holes to shove your fingers into), but smaller, weaker testers struggled. A plastic safety sheath is necessary to keep them closed.