Kitchen shears are a handy, versatile tool to have on hand, great for tasks like butterflying or trimming the fat off of chicken breasts, chopping up sun-dried tomatoes or herbs, and opening tough food packages.
There are several good sources that review kitchen shears. The best, which use hands-on testing to assess performance, include Cook's Illustrated and Australian consumer publication Choice (both of which require subscriptions to read the reviews). We also found brief recommendations at Everyday With Rachel Ray magazine, About.com and AmericasTestKitchen.com (part of the Cook's Illustrated media family), none of which indicate whether testing was conducted, as well as user reviews at Amazon.com and Cooking.com.
Experts offer the following tips for choosing the best kitchen shears:
First, look for kitchen shears that can be separated by removing the bolt that joins them. This makes them easier to clean, especially if you've been cutting through raw meat (bits of which can stubbornly cling to the blades, particularly if they're serrated). Effective at gripping and cutting, serrated blades are ideal for cutting meat or slippery objects like oil-soaked sun-dried tomatoes.
Handles are another important consideration. Choice magazine says shears must fit your hand well; a tight fit will compromise your cutting ability. Handles also should be made from nonslip materials like plastic or rubber, they say, so you can keep a firm grasp as you cut. Experts also suggest looking for handles that are designed for either right-handed or left-handed users; editors at one reliable source say they detected a "definite right-hand bias" among the kitchen shears they reviewed.
Lastly, look for straight blades, rather than shears with crescent-shaped blades (these are known as poultry shears). Crescent-blade shears (which often resemble garden shears) are great for cutting chicken or duck, but less effective at other kitchen tasks, one source says. Indeed, nearly all of the reviews we found were for straight-blade shears.
So what are some of the best kitchen shears?
We found several positive reviews for the Messermeister Take-Apart Kitchen Shears DN1070 (*Est. $20). They come highly recommended by one prominent foodie magazine, which praises their "super-sharp" blades. The Messermeister shears are also recommended by Cooking.com, where they are one of three top-rated shears and earn a rating of 4.7 out of five from about 60 users. They also earn an above-average rating from about two dozen users at Amazon.com. Another Messermeister model, the Take-Apart Kitchen Shears DN-2070 (*Est. $15), is recommended by Choice magazine and AmericasTestKitchen.com. Choice magazine editors love these shears so much that in a list of pros and cons, they say there is "nothing" negative to say about them.
It's worth noting that the two Messermeister models differ slightly in design. The DN1070 shears are designed for right-handed users, whereas the DN-2070 shears are ambidextrous. The DN-1070 has angled blades (similar to fabric shears), which makes them ideal for tasks where you slide the shears along a cutting surface (like trimming kitchen parchment or pastry). The DN-2070, meanwhile, has straight blades that come to a fine point and are suitable for trimming fat off of pountry or snipping herbs.
Wusthoff Come-Apart Kitchen Shears (*Est. $15) are another favorite, praised by the Only Cookware Blog, Choice magazine and a prominent foodie magazine. Reviewers love the fact that the handles are ambidextrous, which lefties will appreciate, and say the blades are sharp. Nearly 60 users weigh in at Amazon.com, giving the Wusthoff shears an above-average rating, and more than 30 Cooking.com users give it similar marks. About the worst that can be said about these shears is that a few users find the handles too small. Like the Messermeister DN-2070, the handles are ambidextrous and the shear have straight blades.
Lastly, you might want to consider the Victorinox Kitchen Shears (*Est. $13), which get a nod from Everyday With Rachel Ray and Choice magazines. Both publications also recommend shears by JA Henckels, as does Linda Larsen, About.com's guide for busy cooks, but all three sources recommend different models. (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation.)