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What are Poultry Shears?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Poultry shears are scissors which are designed specifically to be able to cut through bone, chicken skin, and other tough materials. In addition to being used on poultry, of course, poultry shears can be utilized as general kitchen shears, and they are suited to a wide variety of heavy duty kitchen tasks. While not an essential kitchen tool, they are extremely useful to have around, especially if you plan on hacking apart any whole chickens in your kitchen.

A set of poultry shears typically looks a lot like a pair of scissors, although the shears generally look and feel heavier. The ideal material for these shears is carbon steel, which holds an edge well and remains extremely durable, although it is also possible to find shears made from stainless metal. Depending on the design, the shears may be solid molded, or handles in materials like plastic may be attached. It is also not uncommon to find serrations or notches on one blade to grip the meat while it is cut.

Poultry shears have classically been used for tasks like cutting a chicken in half down the breastbone, although a cleaver can also be used for this purpose. They can also be used on an assortment of tough foods to cut rapidly and with a great deal of control. You may note that specific recipes call for poultry shears in particular for things like trimming and cutting meat. Ideally, the shears should not be used for non-kitchen tasks like cutting carpeting, although most shears are perfectly capable of being used in this capacity.

When seeking out poultry shears, it pays to spend a little more. Cheap ones will ultimately fail, possibly at a very awkward moment, and you may find them frustrating and irritating to use. Look for solid shears which feel heavy and well balanced in your hand, and avoid poultry shears with materials that feel flimsy or shoddy. You should also stay away from shears with lots of nooks and crannies, as these can harbor bacteria.

Care for poultry shears like you would care for any other blade. When not in use, keep them wrapped or in a knife rack to protect the blades and to prevent injuries. After use, hand wash the shears with very hot water and soap; a few drops of bleach may be used periodically to keep bacteria off the shears. Never run kitchen shears of any kind through the dishwasher, as this can dull the blade and damage the handle.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By aplenty — On Mar 09, 2011

@Submariner- I used to work in the restaurant industry and a good pair of stainless steel poultry shears was necessary. We would prep all of our chicken cuts from whole birds and shears allowed us to prep a few cases of whole chickens in no time at all.

That being said, if you are simply cutting up the occasional chicken, I would buy a good pair of utility shears, or just stick with a boning knife. It might be a waste of space to have a pair of expensive poultry shears that you will only use a few times a year. In my kitchen, drawer and cabinet space runs at a premium so I try to keep my kitchen tools and gadgets to a minimum of what is necessary for me to cook what I need to cook.

By submariner — On Mar 06, 2011

@Andrewwolf- It seems like you know your cutlery. I have a nice set of knives that I built up individually, but the one thing I do not have is a pair of kitchen scissors. I made chicken breasts stuffed with pan roasted sweet peepers, Havarti, and spinach last night, and I found myself using office scissors to cut the string I used to truss the breasts with. After that, I thought it might be a good idea to get a pair of kitchen shears. Should I look into poultry shears or is it better to buy a pair of utility shears?

I have always used a boning knife or fillet knife to break down a bird. Are shears better than knives or can I get away with a set of utility shears to make the occasional bone cuts?

By andrewwolff — On Jul 16, 2008

1) Good stainless steel shears don't get damaged in the dishwasher.

2) Heavy shears are not better shears.

3) Shears for poultry are sharpened at a different angle for a specific cut, which is why a poultry shears should not be used to cut other materials.

4) Plastic or rubber handled shears need to be checked if they are food safe. If not bacteria will get underneath the handles.

5) The best metal for your shears has the highest rockwell (or hardness)... the type of metal only dictates the properties in the metals (and yes can sometimes give a higher rockwell), but carbon over stainless is not "better."

6) Carbon steel can also rust... be careful to keep it dry (unless it is a high carbon stainless).

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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