by David Thomas June 11, 2022
Once you start using utensil-quality shears while cooking, you'll never go back
Once you get a pair of beautiful, handmade scissors in the kitchen, your knives just might get a little lonely. It’s one of those cases where, once discovered, it makes you wonder how you never knew what you were missing. And now you can’t live without it. Rather astutely, Bon Appétit has called scissors “the most underrated tool in your culinary arsenal.
If you’re Canadian and your milk comes in a bag, scissors need to be handy one the kitchen. They are also great, and safer to use, when trimming twine when you’re dressing a chicken or pork loin.
But the real payoff for kitchen scissors is cutting the food itself. So if you’re cutting up pieces of chicken or beef for a stir fry, or carrots and celery pieces for a soup, reach for the scissors. Same for fresh herbs. Or slicing pizza. Or deboning a trout. Or deveining shrimp. Or spatchcocking chickens.
The beauty and feel of hand-finished, forged carbon or stainless steel feels solid and steady in your hand. Face it, scissors are safer and more fun to use and by now you understand why the knives get a little lonely.
So what makes kitchen scissors so special?
All scissors have two blades, but they come in a lot of shapes and sizes, each designed specifically for one purpose. We did a story on all the different kinds of scissors and cut ourselves off at 32 pairs – we easily could have come up with more.
First, stick to forged, carbon or stainless steel that has been hardened to carry a sharp blade and has been hand finished to “marry the two blades” for precision cutting and to ergonomically fit your hand. Learn more about how artisanal craft scissors are made and why you need to pay a bit more for higher quality materials and craftsmanship. Kitchen shear blades are often curved and micro-serrated for extra strength and blade grip while cutting.
Second, choose your kitchen task. There are specially designed poultry snips but most chefs go for the multipurpose design, which tackle a lot of tasks with flair. They have strong, sharp blades that can easily cut through bone. Some models even have a notch in the blade to hold the bone in place and make it easier to get the perfect cut.
They also have a built-in design in the handle to open cans and jars, as well as to crack nuts, crab or lobster. There are even models that include screwdrivers off the handles, for the full Swiss Army Knife effect. We have never had the urge to tighten cupboard door hinges while we cook, but check those out if that’s your jam. (We haven’t seen this accessory built into heritage, craft scissors.)
We love Korean BBQ when diners get to use scissors at the table to snip meat and those delicious little pancakes. And we were sad to see Momofuku’s David Chang and head chef Eunjo Park watch their Kawi restaurant in Manhattan fall victim to the Covid downturn.
It played up the whole interactive dining experience with scissors, even leading many diners to sneak their scissors out after dining. (There is no indication that scissor theft was a factor in the resto’s demise. It was really well reviewed, too. We would love to see more table settings with scissors.)
Kitchen shears are better. Let’s count the ways
One thing we discovered in using kitchen shears more was that the kitchen stayed cleaner. There is no need to wash the cutting board several times during prep if you are snipping the food straight into the pot or a bowl.
In the Bon Appétit story, Teri Tsang Barrett comes up with 11 less-than-obvious reasons why scissors are so essential for novice and professional cooks alike. Here are four reasons we particularly liked from that story:
They cut up dried fruit.
“Hand-chopping dried fruit can be painstakingly slow and putting it through the food processor is a whole other world of trouble (dried apricot paste, anyone?). Scissors, on the other hand, will produce whatever it is you need, headache-free.”
They toddler-ize any food.
“New parents eagerly look forward to the day little ones can eat "regular" food, but with that milestone comes the need to cut everything into mini-bites. Put an end to messy and laborious meal slicing and use scissors to cut everything from spaghetti to bagels into appropriately sized pieces.”
They make chopping canned whole tomatoes a mess-free job.
“Point the blades directly into an opened can and snip, snip away. This will work with any canned or jarred food, like pineapple rings or roasted red peppers.”
They shred leafy greens and herbs without bruising.
“Ingredients like scallions, chives and basil should be sliced using a sharp knife or else they can end up bruised and not sliced all the way through. Scissors will deliver clean cuts. You can also do this over the food to quickly garnish.”
Ciselier scissor tip: Caring for your kitchen shears
One common question with scissors, as with knives, is Can I put my scissors in the dishwasher? Our answer is probably. Many craft multipurpose scissors today have a stainless steel coating that holds up to the dishwasher. And they are designed with an open joint so you can detach them, which ensures all the wee bits of chicken or fish are cleaned and all the moisture in the hinge can be dried off before reattaching.
For the record, we use our pairs a lot and put them in the dishwasher, as long as the craft manufacturer says it’s okay. Just be careful not to knock the blade against anything that will dull it. (We have a ‘no knives in the dishwasher’ rule, but one of us tends to break it.)
If you want to do everything to keep your scissors blades in absolute top shape between sharpenings, stick to soap and hot water by hand. And be careful handling the blades!
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