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5 unexpected uses for kitchen shears

A good pair of multipurpose kitchen shears can do as much kitchen grunt work and as many odd jobs as any other.

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A pair of kitchen shears is a true culinary workhorse and one of the most underrated tools in your arsenal.
David Watsky/CNET

I think it's safe to say I employ my kitchen shears more than the average Joe, but I'm on a mission to change that. Kitchen shears often get overlooked and underused but they really are a versatile tool if you know how best to apply them. I've often felt alone in my adoration for this tool that most people have but seldom use; that is until I saw an Instagram post by David Chang of Momofuku fame, praising his kitchen shears as the "most underrated tool in the kitchen." 

These tools are like a Swiss Army knife for the kitchen and deserve far more credit and use than they get in most homes. Kitchen shears do a ton of obvious cutting, but the right set can accomplish a laundry list of tasks around the home that perhaps you hadn't thought of. Investing in a decent pair of shears is worth it, and if you're working with a rinky-dinky pair or (*gasp*) regular old flimsy household scissors, it's time to upgrade to the real thing. Below are some common and lesser-known uses for the mighty kitchen shears, and why a pair of kitchen shears just might be the most underrated kitchen tool of all time.

Some obvious uses for kitchen shears

Having a pair of scissors handy is helpful for many reasons, and some are obvious. Breaking into a stubbornly packaged box of this or that, cutting twine for trussing a roast, trimming herbs and scallions or cutting up old cloth to make dish rags.

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Breaking down poultry is a job tailor-made for kitchen shears. But the uses go far beyond that.

David Watsky/CNET

The most common culinary application is breaking down meat, specifically poultry. Kitchens shears usually have one serrated blade and one sharp. The serrated blade is key for grabbing slippery skin and meat so you can safely cut through a bird. Chef's knives and paring knives can do some of this work too, but not nearly as well as shears.

1. Breaking down food that's already in a pan

When I'm cooking for speed, it's a near guarantee I'll find I've lobbed some vegetables or pieces of meat into a hot frying pan or Dutch oven that aren't as small as I want them. In this case you could take the piece of hot food out again and chop it up, or call on your kitchen shears to snip it down to size and keep moving. 

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Downsize food that missed your knife but made it into the pan. 

David Watsky/CNET

2. Opening stubborn jars

Good kitchen shears generally have two metal-teeth grippers inside the handles. These are excellent for opening stubborn jars or twist-off bottles. Just latch the teeth firmly onto two sides of the cap (it doesn't have to even reach to the other side) and you'll have far more torque than with your hands alone. This works particularly well on jars with smaller lids but can be effective on full-sized jars too.

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Kitchen shears are a secret weapon against stubborn jars.

David Watsky/CNET

3. Cracking nuts and shells

Those same metal teeth are excellent shell-crackers and nutcrackers. I don't own lobster crackers so on the occasion I make shellfish or have some big walnuts to shell, it's kitchen shears to the rescue. 

4. Opening beer and soda bottles

There's no such thing as too many bottle openers, and kitchen shears often have one built into the handle or blades. Since my shears are generally in the same place as my knives, I always know where a bottle opener is.

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When no other bottle openers can be found, kitchen shears will bail you out. 

David Watsky/CNET

5. Bring them on your next camping trip

Multitools like good kitchen shears are a camper's dream, from opening bottles to breaking down kindling for a fire and the hundred other little jobs a good pair of scissors will do. This is one piece of equipment that's useful far beyond the walls of your kitchen. 

How much should you spend on kitchen shears?

You can score a good pair of shears for under $20. As with anything else, you can also pay much more if you want but know that shears can't really be sharpened on account of the serrated blade. It's best to spend a bit less and replace them every few years when they begin to dull or lose their grip. 

J.A. Henckels

This pair by German knife maker Henckels is dishwasher-safe. Henckels makes a slimmer set specifically for poultry. 

Kitory

If you're looking to save a buck, this $7 pair of Kitory shears will get the job done much better than regular scissors. They're not detachable but have a good gripping blade and a sharp cutting blade.

All-Clad

If you want to splurge on shears, these All-Clad choppers in gauge-brushed stainless steel certainly have a good look to them. They come apart for easy cleaning and have a slender, more dexterous build.

Messermeister

This German brand is known for shears and makes them in several sizes and builds from basic to the take-apart variety.

More ways to level up your culinary skills