Kitchen Shears Buying Guide
Kitchen shears come in a large variety of sizes, shapes, and styles. They are made for a variety of purposes – many are multipurpose. Many people aren’t quite sure what they are looking for in a pair of kitchen shears, so they simply purchase the most basic and easy-to-find style of shears in their local department store or they snap up the most expensive pair they can find, assuming that they cannot possibly go wrong that way.
The truth is, though, that what you will need depends greatly upon your own hands and how you intend to use your shears. For example, if you do not plan to use them often or only intend to use them for basic kitchen needs (such as removing butcher’s twine from a roast) you may not need top-quality shears. On the other hand, if you intend to use them frequently and for a variety of different kitchen tasks, you may want to look into purchasing something stronger, sturdier, more versatile, and, probably, more expensive.
In this article, we will explore the complicated world of kitchen shears. I bet you didn’t realize that kitchen shears could actually have a world of their own or that such a world could be complicated but, trust me, there is one and it is rather complex. I hope that when you have finished reading this article you will have a better idea of what you are looking for. You may want to break out your pen and paper for this one.
Curved Versus Straight
You may have noticed, as you have searched around in various department stores and websites, that kitchen shear blades come in two basic shapes – curved and straight. I want to quickly point out the difference between these two types of kitchen shears so that you can be sure you purchase the right kind for your needs. Put quite simply, curved blades are used for cutting poultry (and sometimes other types of meat), whereas straight blades are more multipurpose. Although it is easier to cut poultry with curved blades, you can cut poultry and other types of meat with straight blades. On the other hand, cutting vegetables and herbs can be quite difficult with curved blades. Therefore, if you are planning to use your shears for anything other than cutting meat, I highly suggest purchasing a pair with rather straight blades.
Sharp Edges Are Important
It should go without saying that you want to find yourself a pair of kitchen shears with very sharp edges. Equally important, you want to find yourself a pair whose edges will be easy to sharpen once they begin to grow dull. Let’s be honest, you are going to be trying to cut through some very difficult foods and will probably find yourself holding these shears at awkward angles at times. You need to be able to be in full control of what these shears are doing and where they are going. Dull edges may be good on children’s safety scissors, but children work with construction paper and you are trying to work with various vegetables, fruits, and cuts of meat. The sharper your shears are, the safer you will ultimately be (assuming that you use them responsibly).
Of course, your first step will be selecting a pair that comes with a sharp edge. The sharper the edge is when you purchase the shears the easier it will be to keep it sharp, because it has already been shaped into a good angle. If you are purchasing in a store, you can easily just pick them up and have a look (be careful not to cut yourself on them while you are checking). If you are purchasing online, however, you will probably have to do a little research. Try reading reviews such as the ones on this website, and consumer feedback.
Generally speaking, those with microserrations (tiny, barely visible teeth) on their blades are sharper than those with straight edges. This type of blade also stays sharp for longer. That being said, when it comes time to resharpen you may have to visit a specialist to have the serrations sharpened back into the blade.
Easy To Sharpen
Now that you have selected a sharp pair of shears, you will want to keep them sharp, right? Your ability to keep your blades sharp with ease will depend upon two major factors – the metal they have been constructed from and the way their blades have been designed.
The best steel for sharpening is high-carbon steel. It is considered the best among most chefs because not only is it easy to sharpen but it also stays sharp longer than other options such as stainless steel. However, high-carbon steel is known to rust. Many companies have been making a high-carbon stainless steel hybrid which mixes the best and worst of both worlds – it stays sharp longer than stainless but not as long as high-carbon steel; it doesn’t rust as easily as high carbon steel but is more sensitive to water than regular stainless steel.
The way the blades have been designed will also impact how easy they are to sharpen. Blades which come apart are usually the easiest to sharpen, but these do have their own dangers and concerns as you will see later on in this article. Another option for easy sharpening is a specially-shaped blade. Instead of the sharp part of the blade running from the tip up to the screw, some shears have been designed with blades which stop being sharp about an inch below the screw and which have been shaped so that the sharp part of the blade protrudes, making it easier to sharpen without interference from surrounding parts.
If you are looking to purchase a pair of kitchen shears there are a few things you will want to consider when it comes to handles. To begin, you will want handles with some sort of non-stick coating or built-in grip system. Oftentimes, you will find yourself working with slippery foods and wet hands. To save yourself time, you will want to work with your shears without having to worry about washing and drying your hands on a constant basis to avoid losing control and possibly hurting yourself.
Non-slip handles will allow you to do just that. Rubbery silicone handles are an example of handles created from and/or covered with a non-slip material. You can also buy shears with metal and plastic handles which have been textured for extra grip, though these can slip much easier than those created with non-stick materials. Another option is metal or plastic handles with added silicone grips. These grips are usually created in the form of ridges or bumps and are glued to handles during the manufacturing process. My only concern with this type of handle is that the added silicone may come off during use and could possibly fall into your food.
Overall, if you often find yourself working with wet or slippery hands, I suggest purchasing shears with silicone coated handles. If you can find fully-coated silicone handles with built-in texture, you are even further ahead of the game. However, if you do not plan to use your shears with slick hands, none of this is of concern to you. Feel free to snap up a pair with plastic or metal handles.
Pull Apart Handles and Blades
Some kitchen shears are made to come apart for easy cleaning and easy sharpening. Whether or not you select pull-apart handles and blades will depend on what is important to you in terms of convenience, control, and safety. These kinds of shears are usually designed so that one handle is connected to the opposite blade, like most shears and scissors. Unlike other types of shears and scissors, this kind does not feature a tensioning screw. Instead, it features a locking mechanism whereby a knob built into one handle slides into a notch in the opposite handle, holding the shears together much like a lock-adjust wrench.
This is extremely helpful when it comes to both sharpening and cleaning. Unlike other kinds of shears, you can sharpen one blade at a time, right up to the point where the handles meet, without worrying about the other blade interfering with your work. Fewer crevices mean that you will be able to get every bit of bacteria and water cleaned off of these shears. Health concerns and rust concerns will be a thing of the past.
Why aren’t all shears constructed this way and why do some people opt for the kind with a screw in the middle? The screw in the middle serves two major purposes – it holds the blades together and also sometimes allows you to adjust the tension between the blades. First of all, this way of fastening blades together is much safer than the sliding lock mechanism discussed above. When using quality shears constructed in this fashion you will not need to worry that moving them in strange ways may release the blades from each other.
Secondly, by tightening or loosening the screw you can adjust the tension and space between the blades depending on the type of food with which you are working. For example, I like looser blades when working with thick cuts of meat and tighter blades when finely chopping herbs and other garnishes. However, I do not recommend using extremely loose blades when cutting anything, as it may get stuck and jam the blades.
All The Extras
It is becoming quite difficult to find a basic pair of kitchen shears. These days, most kitchen shears feature some conglomeration of extra features. Some come with a pop-top bottle opener built in between the handles or added on the end of a handle. Some feature a can opener. Nut crackers are becoming a regular part of kitchen shears, because they are quite easy to build into the shape of the handles. Personally, I like to use the nut cracker to help open twist-off bottle caps – its size and little teeth work perfectly to grip the bottle cap.
Another interesting feature is the bone notch. In fact, many people have no idea what this feature is when they see it. A bone notch is a small notch in the upper part of one blade. You may notice that, on some shears, one blade runs the full length from tip to fulcrum (the area where blades and handles intersect), but the other blade stops before the fulcrum and a small notch has been carved out of the steel in that area. This notch was created so that you can easily place a small bone or stem against it and use it to hold the bone or stem still as you slice through it with the other blade.
If you are left-handed or know someone who is left-handed you are probably all too familiar with the struggle left-handed people often face when looking for a pair of scissors. Unfortunately, the same is often true for kitchen shears. It should be comforting to know that many companies have come out with kitchen shears developed specifically for left-handed people. Many other companies have created shears which will work perfectly well in either hand.
If you are left-handed or anticipate having help in the kitchen from a left-handed person, you may want to pay close attention to the kitchen shears you are purchasing. If you are ever unsure and have trouble finding information about whether a particular set is lefty-friendly, try contacting the manufacturer for more information.
Pulling It All Together
I hope that this guide has helped you not only learn more about kitchen shears, but also begin some sort of a list of the attributes you want your shears to hold. Use this new knowledge as you move forward in your search for your next pair of kitchen shears.