The Best Kitchen Shears for Cooking and Utility

Far from being just another pair of scissors, kitchen shears are heavy-duty tools that perform a range of household tasks.

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The Best Kitchen Shears Options

Photo: amazon.com

Many households have a pair of scissors that lives in the kitchen, but these everyday shears can fall short of the work. To fully reap the benefits of functional cooking scissors, having a pair of dedicated kitchen shears is necessary. Thicker, stronger handles and blades compared to all-purpose scissors make kitchen shears more serious tools.

The best kitchen shears are multitaskers: they can cut utilitarian items like paper, box tape, and string, deal with lightweight tasks like cutting up fresh herbs or pizza, while also tackling tougher jobs like cutting apart meat and bones. These tasks require strong, sharp blades with ergonomic handles. It’s also important to consider whether or not the shears can be taken apart and sharpened or washed. We narrowed down the top choices for kitchen shears on the market, to save you time and effort.

Shears vs. Scissors

The terms ‘shears’ and ‘scissors’ are sometimes used interchangeably, but the names describe two very different tools. While their form is similar—two blades designed so that their sharp edges pivot against each other and a fulcrum to cut, controlled by two handles—their weight, build, and functions differ.

Scissors are multipurpose cutting tools. Traditionally, scissors had equally-sized finger holes and blades of less than 6 inches. They are used for light-duty cutting: paper, twine, light fabric, thread, tape, and foil, for example. Most scissors are designated as right- or left-handed because of the blade angles, and some aren’t even particularly sharp—it’s the movement of the closely-set blades that makes the cut.

Shears, on the other hand, are larger and heavier than scissors. The handles are either offset, with one finger hole large enough for several fingers and a smaller thumb hole, or two large handles for better grip. The handles are often padded or rubberized to cushion the user’s hands during heavy work. The blades on shears are usually longer than 6 inches, although there are some specialty shears where that is not the case. Shears are used for heavier cutting than scissors, such as heavy fabric, cardboard, or, in the kitchen, cutting apart meat and bones or tough vegetables, and they do a great job on pizza. Shears can often be taken apart by unscrewing the nut in the center of the pivot for cleaning and sterilizing.

Features to Consider When Buying Kitchen Shears

Since kitchen shears have functions beyond the scissors, there are some additional elements to consider when shopping for them.

Size

Most kitchen shears are between 8 and 9 inches long. This size is large enough to provide leverage for some of the heavier cutting tasks kitchen shears can perform, but not so large and long that the user cannot manage them. Finding the right balance between your hand size and strength, and the material you plan to cut, may mean you seek out shears that are longer or shorter, but the 8- to 9-inch length is the most common.

Material

Kitchen shears need to be strong enough to power tough material and able to resist corrosion. The kitchen environment is humid and shears will need to be washed often, so corrosion and rust are real threats. Stainless or carbon steel is the material of choice. Some steel is treated to be corrosion resistant, so that is a great feature to watch for when selecting shears.

Cleaning

Handwashing shears is preferable: it protects the blade edges from the damage that can be caused by harsh dishwasher detergents and prevents rust. Most kitchen shears can be taken apart to make cleaning easier. However, if you’re planning to use the shears to cut apart meats and poultry, the occasional spin through the dishwasher won’t cause any harm, as long as the manufacturer says the shears are dishwasher safe. The most important step, whether you’ve handwashed or dishwashed your shears, is to thoroughly dry them immediately.

Handle Comfort

Shears do big jobs, so the user has to exert a fair amount of pressure on the handles. Handles that are slippery when wet, have sharp seams or edges, or have openings that are not large enough can make using the shears quite painful or even dangerous—these are sharp tools, and a handle that slips while you’re trying to cut through something isn’t safe. Look for ergonomically-shaped handles with a rubberized or textured handle that adds some cushion and grip.

Separable Blades

Some shears come apart at the pivot, usually by removing a large screw. This is helpful for thorough cleaning and drying, and also for sharpening the blades if they become dull. It’s not a necessary feature, but it does make maintaining the shears easier!

Right- and Left-Hand Specific

Many shears are ambidextrous—designed to work for both right- and left-handed users—but not all. Because the blades are angled to make contact with each other as they overlap, the blades are not symmetric, so designing shears that work in both directions requires more engineering. Some shears are specific to handedness, so if this is the case with the shears you’ve chosen, check that they’ll work for the cooks in your kitchen.

Other Kitchen Functions

Bones are rounded, which makes getting a good grip on them difficult. While many shears have some serration on their blades to help you hold on to a bone, it’s not always enough to keep the bone from sliding out of the blades. Some shears have what is called a bone notch: a divot in the lower blade designed to hold a bone in place, with just enough edge to prevent it from sliding away as the top blade presses down. If you plan to use your shears to debone meat or cut apart whole chickens or racks of ribs, the bone notch is a very handy feature.

Some shears include a nutcracker in their blades—a toothed hollow near the fulcrum where a nut can be placed and held while the user squeezes the handles to crack the shell. This isn’t a replacement for a regular nutcracker, but if you just need to shell a couple of quick nuts for a recipe, it’s great to not have to dig around for another tool.

Finally, many shears have incorporated bottle and jar openers. The bottle opener is often in the handle or off the side of one of the handle loops, and the jar opener consists of toothed ridges (similar to the nutcracker, but between the handles instead of the blades) that will grip the edge of a recalcitrant jar lid and help you twist it off.

Our Top Picks

Easily cut through heavy meats and bones as easily as cardboard and string with these top-performing shears.

BEST OVERALL

The Best Kitchen Shears Option: OXO Good Grips Multi-Purpose Kitchen Scissors
Photo: amazon.com

The OXO Good Grips Multi-Purpose Kitchen Scissors are workhorses, with hardened stainless steel blades that slice cleanly through paper and food products. The blades are micro-serrated, which gives them a better grip on wet or slippery foods, ensuring a clean cut and the cook’s safety. These OXO kitchen shears can be taken apart for easier, safer, and more thorough cleaning. The scissors’ shaped handles are lightly cushioned for comfort. Just between the handles and the blades, the OXO scissors feature two herb strippers to peel the leaves off of fresh herbs without hurting the cook’s fingers. With high utility and a safety-conscious design at a fair price, the OXO Kitchen Scissors are our top selection.

BEST ULTRA-SHARP

The Best Kitchen Shears Option: Mairico Kitchen Shears
Photo: amazon.com

These Kitchen Shears from Mairico are exceptionally light and sharp. Their nonslip handles and corrosion-resistant stainless steel blades make quick work of spatchcocking poultry or cutting thick pieces of meat, without demanding significant force from the cook. The sharpness of the blades also allows for precision cutting, so fine herbs can also be snipped into tiny pieces. Despite its usefulness for delicate work, the Mairico Shears also have an integrated nutcracker and bottle opener to save cooks time. While these shears are technically dishwasher safe, hand washing is recommended to preserve the ultra-sharp cutting edges.

EASIEST TO CLEAN

The Best Kitchen Shears Option: J.A. Henckels International Take-Apart Kitchen Shears
Photo: amazon.com

Made from high quality, corrosion-resistant stainless steel, these J.A. Henckels Kitchen Shears are great for all kitchen tasks. The micro-serrated blades offer a solid grip on heavier or slippery tasks, protecting the user from injury. The shears have a built-in bottle cap remover and notched areas in the handle will crack nuts or pop open stuck bottles. These scissors come apart easily to clean or sharpen. Unlike many other separable shears, the Henckels fit tightly back together after reassembly, so there’s no danger of them snapping apart while in use. Henckels is so certain of their shears’ durability that they offer a lifetime warranty.

BEST UPGRADE

The Best Kitchen Shears Option: Shun Stainless Steel Kitchen Shears
Photo: amazon.com

Shun’s Stainless Steel Kitchen Shears are manufactured in Japan from Shun’s signature high-carbon, molybdenum-vanadium steel, which enhances the sharpness of the blade and its ability to maintain this edge. A notch in the blade allows users to snip stems or small bones easily without slipping, and the blades separate for cleaning and sharpening. A unique feature of the Shun Shears is the interlock screw holding the blades together: turning the screw allows users to customize the tension between the blades to support slower, torqued cutting for heavy jobs and a lighter, effortless slice for paper. The offset handles are made from the same steel as the blades, but are coated in a thick rubberized grip material for safety and comfort. Slightly more costly than most shears, the Shuns are durable and strong and add an element of elegance to everyday jobs.

BEST FOR LEFT-HANDED COOKS

The Best Kitchen Shears Option: Wusthof Kitchen Shears
Photo: amazon.com

Lefties are often not considered by kitchen tool designers, but Wusthof kept them in mind when building their Kitchen Shears. The shears have symmetrical ergonomic handles, so whichever hand the cook chooses to use, the Wusthofs will fit comfortably and provide well-balanced cutting action. The handle also includes a steel tooth insert for opening jars and bottles. Wusthof forged the blades of high carbon stainless steel for durability and strength. The shears include a bone notch on one blade for easy meat preparation, with cleaning and sharpening made simple by the separable blades.

BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK

The Best Kitchen Shears Option: KitchenAid Shears with Soft Grip Handles
Photo: amazon.com

The KitchenAid Shears with Soft Handle Grips are a highly versatile and functional utensil to have in any kitchen. These shears come in five different colors, allowing cooks to color code in order to prevent cross contamination. The micro-serrated blades are stainless steel, strong and resistant to corrosion. An ergonomically-shaped, soft-coated handle resists slipping and makes the shears comfortable to use for long stretches. Though the shears are dishwasher safe, handwashing is preferred. The cost is low enough to pick up more than one pair for around the house, without making a huge investment.

Advantages of Using Shears in Your Kitchen

Kitchen shears can tackle a lot of jobs in the kitchen that you might not think of—jobs that you may be using knives for right now in a way that is probably unsafe.

Cutting food apart is the most likely use. Cutting bones out of chicken parts, separating ribs, snipping herbs, and cutting pizza into slices are just some examples of tasks that shears perform better and more safely than knives. Using shears to cut apart meat is also a cost-saver: whole chickens are much less expensive than parts, and with a sharp pair of shears you can use all the parts of the chicken easily.

Quite a few pairs of shears have holes or lightly toothed openings in the blades intended to help strip the leaves off of woody herbs before adding them to a recipe. This is much more efficient than cutting the leaves off with a knife—just poke the end of the stalk through the hole and pull firmly.

The simple task of opening food packaging is one that many cooks are guilty of using the closest knife to accomplish, and many emergency room visits have resulted. Shears make this job easier and safer.

Beyond the obvious kitchen jobs, there are some other functions shears can perform that you may not have thought of:

  • Removing glued-on jar lids and bottle caps. Many shears have a toothed grip like pliers on their inner handles. Squeezing the handles around the jar gives you a stronger grip and better leverage, and allows you to wrench jars open that otherwise seemed stuck.
  • Cracking nuts or shellfish. A toothed indent between the blades near the handle of the shears is shaped to hold nuts for cracking, but also works exceptionally well for cracking lobster or crab shells while you cook.
  • Bottle opener. An angled opening on the side or blade of many shears can open bottles.
  • Screwdriver. Many kitchen shears have a flat screwdriver extending from one handle.

Kitchen Shears Care and Maintenance

Because they perform so many tasks, it is critical to wash your shears often to prevent bacteria from cross-contaminating your kitchen. You don’t want to grab a handy pair of shears to quickly cut a gift-wrap ribbon that you previously used to cut apart pieces of raw chicken. Kitchen shears that come apart make this easier, but all shears can be quickly handwashed in hot soapy water and dried immediately to prevent rust or corrosion.

Shears should be kept in a knife block, in their own spot in a drawer, or magnetized to the side of your fridge. If your shears came with a blade guard, use it—the guard will protect the blades and your finger.

Eventually, even the best shears will lose their sharp edge and need to be honed or sharpened. This can be achieved with a sharpening file or stone, a knife sharpener, or at a local kitchen or hardware store. Again, separable blades make it easier to sharpen your shears.

FAQs About Your New Kitchen Shears

Q: Are kitchen shears dishwasher safe?

A: Most kitchen shears are expected to be in moist conditions and are corrosion-resistant, but eventually water will seep into a crevice you can’t dry and build up. This is more likely with a dishwasher, so even if the manufacturer suggests that the shears are dishwasher safe, handwashing is preferred. In addition, the detergents used in dishwashers are very abrasive and will eventually cause pitting in the blades. If you’ve used your shears for a task you feel requires the heavy sterilization of the dishwasher and the manufacturer says it’s ok, you can run them through a light wash on the top rack and dry thoroughly immediately.

Q: Are there different shears for cutting different foods?

A: While kitchen shears are generally multi-task, there are some specialty versions worth checking out if you have a particular need. There are dedicated poultry shears, for example, or shears designed specifically to chop herbs with fewer snips. But generally you can find features on common kitchen shears that will perform these tasks just as well—if you use a lot of fresh herbs, look for shears that feature an herb stripper. Cooks who cut up a lot of meat should seek out a pair with a toothed bone notch. Serrated edges give you a better grip on wet foods.

Q: Are there any options for left handed people?

A: Some shears have been designed so that they can be used by left and right-handed people. They are symmetrical and will work regardless of the angle at which they are held. If your kitchen includes right- and left-handed cooks, these are ideal. There are some shears that are left-hand specific, but they tend to be in a higher price range, so the ambidextrous shears are more practical.