A pair of scissors can be a sheer pleasure to use in the kitchen—if you get the right one.
Last Updated May 21, 2021. Appears in America's Test Kitchen TV Season 19: Pork Patties and Steak on the Grill
In our original review, we named both the Kershaw Taskmaster Shears and the Shun Multi-Purpose Shears as winners, since both are made by the parent company Kai and were identical in design and performance. We recently learned that Kai made changes to the design of the Kershaw shears, so we retested the Shun and Kershaw shears and found a few key differences between the two. The Kershaw blades have slightly less tension and shorter, shallower serrations; they’re also not as sharp as the Shun shears. As a result, we don’t recommend them as highly as the Shun shears, which remain our top pick.
Kitchen shears are an essential component of any cook’s knife kit. We use them for a wide range of tasks—cutting twine and parchment, snipping herbs, trimming pie dough, cutting florets from heads of cauliflower and broccoli, and butterflying chickens, to name just a few. In our last testing, the Kershaw Taskmaster Shears ($26.30), also known as the Shun Multi-Purpose Shears, outperformed all competitors—and at a fairly low price. So we knew we didn’t have to spend a lot to get a great tool. Curious to see whether our former favorite reigned supreme among all inexpensive shears, we decided to pit it against five other models priced from $12.99 to $39.95.
All the shears sailed through the lighter tasks, ably snipping twine and chives, cutting parchment rounds, and trimming pie dough. But when we challenged them to cut tougher, denser, or more slippery foods, some shears faltered. Several slipped on the woody stems of rosemary branches, failing to bite through them. Others just couldn’t find purchase on the slick skin of raw chicken—never mind the hard, smooth bone—when we cut whole chickens into parts.
Blade design was primarily to blame for these failures. Each pair of shears has two blades: a cutter blade, which has a smooth edge and is responsible for most of the cutting action, and an “anvil” blade, which is usually serrated and a bit thicker, the better to help grip and secure the food being cut. Cutter blades are similar to the blades found on chef’s knives in that they sport a bevel—the slim strip on either side of the blade that narrows to form the cutting edge—that’s sharpened to a specific angle. While cutter blades are generally sharpened to a wide edge angle (traditionally 50 to 70 degrees), we found that, as with chef’s knives, the narrower the angle on the blade, the sharper it felt and the more easily it sliced through the food; blades with thicker edge angles tended to wedge themselves into the food instead of cutting it. Not all manufacturers were willing to disclose edge angles, but our favorite model had an unusually acute angle of 25 degrees, providing an almost knife-like sharpness (for comparison, chef’s knives are typically sharpened to about 15 to 20 degrees). And although narrower edge angles can make some blades more vulnerable to chipping or scratching, we’re pleased to say that our favorite suffered no such loss of integrity over the course of testing.
The type and placement of the serrations on the anvil blade mattered, too. For the serrations to truly bite into and stabilize the food, they had to be on the edge of the blade or at least on the bevel. And the deeper and sha...
The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing. We stand behind our winners so much that we even put our seal of approval on them.
Miye is a senior editor for ATK Reviews. She covers booze, blades, and gadgets of questionable value.