12 Things You Didn't Know Your Kitchen Shears Could Do

Kitchen shears are included in nearly every knife set or kitchen starter kit. To the uninitiated, these thick scissors appear as just that — another pair of scissors to shove into the junk drawer along with the others. But this is a kitchen tool you should acquaint yourself with.

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The possibilities and uses for a good pair of kitchen shears are endless. Sure, you can use them to break open the newest Amazon package that was just delivered. You can also trim those not-quite-dead kitchen herbs on your counter. The true culinarian knows that kitchen shears are so much more than another pair of scissors, and can be utilized for everything from breaking down quail for your fancy dinner party to opening stubborn cans, bottles, and jars without the help of stronger hands in your household. Here are several of our favorite and most uncommon ways to put those kitchen shears to work in your own home.

1. Slicing pizza the Italian way

The most uncommon way to utilize kitchen shears is to cut through your pizza. Yes, it's time to retire the pizza cutters, giant knives, and other techniques you've been leaning on. The problem with using knives and pizza cutters is that they tend to drag the ingredients with them. You've likely experienced the aggravation of taking a pizza out of the oven, letting it cool, then attempting to cut it into eight perfect slices. If the pizza itself is still too warm, or if there's an extreme amount of goo to it, you're likely going to end up with a bit of a mess. Cheese is pulled onto other slices, the crust is holding out, and the cut is anything but clean.

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Once your pie has cooled to a handleable temperature, you can simply snip through your layers of deliciousness with kitchen shears. According to Food & Wine, the tradition of using scissors on pizza isn't just for ease. It actually comes from pizzerias, where the chefs would ask patrons how big of a slice they want. Scissors make cutting the perfect piece easier. So, next time you're gearing up to make the perfect homemade margherita pizza, get your shears ready and slice the pieces to order. Pro tip: Kitchen shears also work wonders on other cheesy items for this reason — think grilled cheese and quesadillas. 

2. Opening whole canned tomatoes

If you've ever made a recipe that calls for whole canned tomatoes, you understand the frustration of working with them. The fruit (or vegetable, depending on who you ask) is steamed, peeled, and packed into cans ready for your recipes. But unless you're into textural exploration and don't mind the occasional squirt of tomato juice shooting across your kitchen, this pantry staple can be a little bit messy when it comes to breaking them down to add to your dish.

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Kitchen shears are the perfect solution to your canned tomato problem by allowing you to easily chop and cut them in the can itself. Open the can as you normally would, remove the top, then simply put your kitchen shears into the can and start chopping. This will keep the juice from the tomatoes in the can, prevent gooshing with your hands, and keep the juice from the tomatoes from staining your countertops, cutting boards, or clothes.

3. Breaking down chicken, quail, and turkey

For those of us that aren't completely comfortable with the art of butchery, the idea of using a sharp knife to break down a chicken, turkey, or quail can seem daunting. Knowing where to place the knife, which slice to make, and how to not wreck that bird feels like a bit of a feat in and of itself.

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Luckily, this is where your kitchen shears can shine. With a knife, you run the risk of slipping and sliding on slimy chicken skin. Let's say you're in the mood to make spatchcock chicken at home. This method makes it easier and faster to cook than an entire roasted bird. When spatchcocking, you need to remove the backbone of the bird. This is easy for someone like Gordon Ramsay, but can be really difficult with those of us who don't work in professional kitchens all day. Put your shears to work and simply snip out the spine of the bird, then you can continue on with your recipe. Shears also work for buying whole roasters and breaking them down yourself which is one of the most cost-efficient ways to enjoy poultry.

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4. Cutting up hot peppers without touching them

Let's say you're in the mood for chili. You've browned up all of your chuck, ground beef or turkey; you've got your tomatoes, chili powder, and spices ready, and it's time for a little heat. Maybe you want to try one of these 39 jalapeño recipes, or perhaps you want to substitute with some habaneros or you've got some serranos or poblanos. They all have their place in a dish like chili, but all the cutting, chopping, and prepping can come with a bit of anxiety. If you forget to wash the board, knife, or your hands, or anything that touches the peppers, it  could mean a swollen eye, burning skin, and other unpleasant side effects.

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Kitchen shears can help with hot peppers in a big way. First, you can use them to easily break down your peppers. Remove the top and stem, then cut into the pepper and remove the veins and seeds. You can do all of this directly over a trash can too, so there's no dirtying a cutting board or work surface. Then you can easily cut, snip, and chop your peppers directly into that simmering pot of chili. Your hands will only touch the outer skin of the pepper, so while you still need to wash up afterwards, you won't run as much risk with pepper juice seeping on to your fingers.

5. Cleaning shrimp

Recipes for everything from shrimp and grits to grilled shrimp to shrimp po' boys to blackened shrimp are an accessible and delicious protein every home cook should be familiar with. However, knowing exactly what and where to cut on your shrimp in order to clean and devein them can be a bit confusing. Here, kitchen shears shine again, for their surgical-level ability to get in to the nitty gritty.

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You can easily peel and devein shrimp at the same time. This works best with medium to large sized shrimp. Place your thawed or fresh shell-on shrimp in a large bowl in the sink. Turn the water to cold, and working with one shrimp at a time, take your kitchen shears and hold the shrimp under the running water. Work the kitchen shears under the shell on the shrimp's back, then cut up and along what would be the spine (if the shrimp had one). This will not only allow you to remove the shell, but you'll be getting rid of the vein too. Removing the vein will give your shrimp a cleaner taste that you and your guests will appreciate. You can also utilize your shears to crack shells and claws on larger crustaceans like lobsters, crabs, and prawns.

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6. Opening your wine bottle

There's nothing worse than needing to open a wonderful bottle of wine and being unable to. Either the cork is stuck, the screw top is compromised, or whatever other fancy opening contraption sported by your bottle. Sure, you can opt instead to saber the top off, find a very strong, confident person to get it open, or just give up completely and crack open a beer. But if you've got a pair of kitchen shears lying around, you're in luck.

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This wine bottle opening hack doesn't involve the scissor part of the tool; instead, we're utilizing the serrated interior between the handle and the blades. If you've broken off the cork of your wine and enough is sitting above the rim, you can use this tool to grab and twist the remaining part of the cork and, hopefully, open your wine. It can also help snag and remove tough metal caps, so either way, you'll be enjoying wine in no time.

7. Chopping up dried fruit

If you're in the mood for delicious, succulent apricots and dried plums, about to make your own trail mix, or are finally trying your hand at your grandmother's fruit cake recipe, you'll need a good amount of dried fruit. But chopping tons of dried fruit can be time-consuming and frustrating. Dried figs may stick to your kitchen knife; getting dried mango to a manageable size can be a nightmare. In general, dicing and cutting all those little pieces can be a pain.

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Using your kitchen shears to take care of dried fruit can make the task less troublesome. If your kitchen shears are good and sharp, you can stack flatter pieces of fruit, such as apricots, pineapple rings, or mangoes, and chop several at a time directly over a bowl for ease. You can also try coating your kitchen shears in a bit of flour to prevent bits of dried fruit from sticking to your scissors (or each other), then cutting pieces of dried fruit down to the size you need for whichever recipe you're attempting.

8. Peeling potatoes like a pro

There's nothing more frustrating when it comes to kitchen and culinary duties than having to peel potatoes. If it's for a small meal among family, it won't take much time to prep some potatoes. But if you've landed on potato peeling duty for, say, Thanksgiving, you could be looking at pounds and pounds of spuds. That's a lot of peeling, a lot of potato pieces on the floor, and you could potentially hurt yourself in your quest to clean potatoes.

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There is a little known hack that could cut your potato peeling time in half. Peeling potatoes without a peeler involves your trusted pair of kitchen shears. Wash your potatoes, then use your kitchen shears to cut a line around the circumference of each potato. Make sure the line goes all the way around so that the skin can separate. Once your potatoes are scored, add them to a pot of boiling water for about 20 minutes. Remove and immediately place in an ice bath for about five minutes, which will help cool the spuds down enough so that you'll be able to handle them. When they're cool, remove from the ice bath and pull the skins off each end. You may have to use a little force to slide the skins off, but they should easily come free. You can save those skins, too, for loaded potato skin dishes.

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9. Opening those tough-to-get jars

If you've led your fair share of struggles against everything from stubborn pickle jars to immovable containers of curry to jam jars, a pair of kitchen shears could be the right tool for you. Glass jars with metal lids are notorious for getting stuck. One hack for opening these tough-to-open containers is to run the lid and jar closure area under hot water. The metal on the jar lid will expand a bit, making it easier to remove. However, you could get wet and you're dealing with hot water, so a little discomfort may be part of the process.

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If the hot water trick isn't an option, hopefully you've got your kitchen shears nearby. Using the metal teeth grippers above the blade and below the handle, you can grasp that stubborn lid and twist. This will give you more strength behind your attempts to open a jar.

10. Cracking open nuts

Once per year, the eyes of an army of nutcrackers stare back at me from the mantel; their overexposed teeth gleaming white, ready to crunch and crack down on those chestnuts roasting on the open fire below them. But outside of the holidays, you may need help in cracking everything from walnuts to chestnuts to Brazil nuts. And although they're cute, those nutcrackers aren't the most efficient for cracking a whole handful of nuts. They may even be more form, less function. Your kitchen shears are ready and able, despite not being the snappy dressers.

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Using the serrated teeth between the blade and handles of your shears (the same you'd use for opening jars), position your nut of choice and crack down. This should easily remove the outer shell of most nuts quickly. Shelled nuts can be used fresh in a variety of recipes, or stored in the freezer for much later use. 

11. Squeezing lemons

On a hot, steamy, summer day, with temperatures soaring into the 90s and relief at an all-time low, a big, cold glass of lemonade feels like the ultimate refreshing drink. Of course, you can head out to the store and buy the premade stuff. You can also opt for the powdered mix, which may not be as appealing to some of us. The "best" kind of lemonade, we think, is the kind made from scratch with water, freshly squeezed lemons, and a little bit of sugar. The problem is, juicing lemons by hand can take quite awhile.

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If you're struggling with juicing lemons, your kitchen shears can help. Simply cut your lemon in half, then take each half and squeeze it over a bowl with the handle. You'll be able to use more force as you juice thanks to the way the kitchen shears are designed. Don't stop at lemons for the juicing hack, either. You can easily apply this newfound technique to grapefruit, limes, pomelos, and oranges; really, any other fruit that needs a little juicing.

12. Cutting items already in the pan

Let's say you've got a hot pan on the stove already working on a long vegetable or strips of meat. They're bubbly and cooking away, and you realize they're not exactly bite-sized. Sure, having larger pieces of protein or vegetables isn't the end of the world, but if you're prepping a meal for kids or just are trying to avoid awkward bites, then having everything be equally sized is important. But taking your items out of the pan, chopping them on a cutting board, and adding them back is time-consuming, messy, and will likely disrupt your cooking process. 

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Enter kitchen shears. You can easily use your kitchen shears to snip and cut items while they're in a hot pan. Protect your hands a bit from the heat, and be careful not to scratch the bottom of your pan with the pointed part of the blades, then snip away to your desired size. This works best with items like asparagus, green beans, and even broccolini, but if you're confident enough, you can snip just about anything. 

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