Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.
If you cook a lot of poultry, making sure your kitchen is equipped with a durable, sturdy pair of poultry shears is essential. Not only can these shears snip through fat and flesh, but they can also help you get through bones and cartilage. A good pair of poultry shears should lock efficiently and have a sharp blade and a comfortable, non-slip grip. If you like to spatchcock your whole chickens or you’re one to spatchcock a Turkey on Thanksgiving, having a proper pair of poultry shears will help you take out the backbone safely and easily.
"It's important to remember that you aren't really using poultry shears to actually cut through thick bones, like femurs," says Cara Nicoletti, Founder & CEO, Seemore Meats & Veggies. "You're mostly using the shears on finer bones, as well as to disarticulate the joints, which are held together with soft cartilage and are much easier to cut through. So, a good sharp pair of poultry shears should work well regardless of the bird."
Here are some of our favorite poultry shears for even the most cumbersome birds.
Best Overall: OXO Grips Spring Loaded Poultry Shears
Easy to use
Extremely sharp blade
Sheath not included
Need both hands to unlock
These ultra springy shears are great at cutting through both skin and bones on whatever poultry you’re prepping. The added spring in the handles ensures that you won’t have to exert too much effort because it greatly reduces the strain in your hand. The handle lock holds the shear, and the grip is non-slip and easy to hold. The blade is slightly tapered, which helps the shears navigate their way into narrow, tough-to-reach spots.
One shear has a handle loop that provides a more secure grip and stability. One blade is micro-serrated to help slice through thick skin and flesh without slipping. The locking mechanism also protects the blade while in storage.
Dimensions: 12.2 x 4.69 x 1.14 inches | Material: Stainless steel blades, plastic handle
Best Budget: Tansung Poultry Shears
Non-slip, comfortable grip
Left-handed users may struggle with comfort
These heavy-duty shears are available in two colors. Customers love their reliability and super-sharp blades. The shears come with a three-lock design, which means there is a locking mode where the blades are protected, a spring-loaded mode that can relieve added strain from your hands, and a detached mode where the blades are separated for cleaning and sharpening.
The large, non-slip grips are not only stylish, but they’re comfortable and won’t slip out of your hands while you’re using them. The micro-serrated blades prevent any unwanted slippage when cutting through skin. Reviewers note how long the blades have lasted and how the blade is extremely sturdy.
Dimensions: 9.25 x 4 inches | Material: Stainless steel blade, plastic handle
“With poultry shears, you should make sure they have a hinge that allows you to take them apart so that you can get into all the crevices to clean after using them. This also makes it easier to sharpen. Kitchen and poultry shears have both a flat and beveled edge, which require different treatments on a whetstone for sharpening.” — Cara Nicoletti, Founder & CEO, Seemore Meats & Veggies
Best for Compact Storage: Williams Sonoma Poultry Shears
No handle loop for added grip security
These shears don’t have a one-handle loop, which means that when they’re in the lock position, they’re extremely compact and easy to store. If you’re taking these camping or on an outdoor adventure, they’ll be super easy to pack and carry. The spring-loaded mechanism is intended to take as much stress off your hands and muscles as possible. The shears have a simple locking mechanism to open and close the lock.
The handles are non-slip, though they don’t have the added grip of a handle like some other shears, which can sometimes lead to losing hold of them if your hands are wet. The blades detach easily when it’s time to clean or sharpen them.
Dimensions: 2 x 10 inches | Material: Stainless steel blade, plastic handle
Best Splurge: Zwilling J.A. Henckels Twin Select Poultry Shears
Top-quality stainless steel
Spring mechanism helps lock shears
Little strain on hands
Might rust over time
These stainless steel shears marry sleek design and aesthetic with high functionality. The spring function not only takes a ton of strain out of your hands and wrists, but it makes it easy to click the shears open and closed. The special-formula stainless steel is super attractive, sharp, and also highly tough and durable.
The looped handles provide extra grip and insurance that the shears won’t fall out of wet or oily hands while in use. The micro-serrated blades are ideal for cutting through thick skin and flesh without slipping or sliding around.
Dimensions: 11.5 x 3.35 inches | Material: Stainless steel blade, plastic handle
Best Serrated: Zwilling J.A. Henckels Serrated Poultry Shears
Good for oily skins
No looped handle for added grip strength
Shears with tiny serrated blades are always ideal because they allow you to cut through finer skin and flesh that would otherwise slip around if not for the serration. This pair of shears boasts an efficient and functional serrated design that allows for complete control. They’re very easy to navigate and can cut through oily, wet skin without any problem. The plastic grip handles are also easy to hold onto and are intentionally curved to fit the natural grip of the user snugly so that you can apply lots of force using minimal effort.
While the shears are dishwasher safe, it’s definitely advantageous to wash them by hand in order to preserve the sharpness and strength of the serrated blade. When it’s time to clean or sharpen, the blades can be taken apart.
Dimensions: 12.6 x 3.3 x 0.9 inches | Material: Stainless steel blade; plastic handle
Best Stainless Steel: Messermeister 10-Inch Poultry Shears
Super high-quality material
Easy-to-use locking mechanism
No looped handle for added grip strength
These high-quality stainless steel shears look just as durable and tough as they are in practice. The heavyweight blades and handles are balanced perfectly so they feel comfortable and easy to control in your hands. The slightly curved blade allows you to navigate the bird and make small cuts in harder-to-reach places and angles. The convenient locking mechanism makes it super easy to click them open and also puts them back into place when you’re done using them.
Messermeister, a reputable brand in the world of knives and shears, also offers a warranty with their purchase. Reviewers love how easy these shears have made the process of spatchcocking poultry.
Dimensions: 10-inch length | Material: Stainless steel
For reliable shears that will work for whatever poultry job you're tasked with, the OXO Spring-Loaded Poultry Shears (view at Amazon) are your best bet. If you're not looking to invest a lot of money for a pair, we recommend the Tansung Poultry Shears (view at Amazon), which feature a three-lock design and a comfortable, non-slip grip.
What to Look for in Poultry Shears
It’s important to consider that poultry shears not only need to be proficient in snipping through fatty, slippery skin, but they also need to be able to force themselves through tougher, thicker bones. Because of this, you need to look for a blade that’s just as sharp and nimble as it is sturdy. Serrated blades can be helpful in gripping onto slippery skin and slicing through it, though non-serrated blades should still be sharp enough to slice through fat and flesh.
The locking mechanism on these shears is very important. There needs to be a position where poultry shears clamp and store safely. If there’s no locking mechanism, this puts the blade at risk while it’s being stored. The locking mechanism will also give the shears a slight spring, which is helpful when using them because you want them to spring back as you cut through bones and flesh. The spring should be powerful enough to help you move onto your next cut, yet not so powerful that the blades accidentally come apart from time to time. The locking mechanism should be easy and simple to engage and disengage.
Handles and Grip
Cutting through bones and heavy-duty birds is a tough task regardless of whether your shears are great or not. This is a task that requires skill and force. This means that the shears should feel comfortable and natural in your hands and they shouldn’t feel forced. The grip should be non-slip (your hands might be wet and oily from handling the bird), and the grip should be an easy fit for your hands. If you’re left-handed, you’ll definitely want to try out the shears and make sure that they can accommodate you.
Where the two blades of the shears meet is called the hinge, and the design of this element is very important to the quality of your shears. It’s ideal for this hinge to be able to detach so that you can easily take apart the two blades when it comes time to clean, maintain, and sharpen. Some shears also offer a hinge nut, which allows you to tighten or loosen the clamp between the blades. Heavy usage can cause the blades to loosen, so having the ability to re-tighten is a nice feature.
What are poultry shears used for?
Poultry shears are used to cut through the bones and tougher limbs and cartilage in birds, such as chicken, duck, or turkey. It’s not always best to try to forcefully get your knife through a tough bone. It’s much easier and safer to use a pair of poultry shears. They are an especially great tool for someone who likes to spatchcock their birds, as shears help break through the tough backbone. They’re great for deboning cuts of meat as well as sectioning off different parts of the bird.
How do you sharpen poultry shears?
To sharpen poultry shears, you can opt to take them to a professional sharpener, as you might with your chef’s knives. If you prefer to do it yourself, you’ll need to take apart the two blades and use a sharpening stone set on a towel. With the coarse side of the stone facing upwards, place the inside of the scissor blade on the stone and give it 10-15 strokes from the back to the front. After you see some tiny metal shards scrape off (that means you’re sharpening it properly), go ahead and turn the stone over and do another 10 strokes on the finer side. It’s also a good idea to sharpen the bevel edge of the shear while you’re sharpening the blade. You’ll give the bevel edge 10 strokes first on the coarse side of the stone and then on the fine. Reassemble the two blades and you’re good to go.
Can you use kitchen scissors instead of poultry shears?
Poultry shears are much stronger, durable, and more heavy-duty than kitchen scissors, so they can cut through tougher materials. Plus, some scissors are not designed in a way that you can remove the two blades from one another, which can make it harder to maintain and sharpen them.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Sara Tane has written nearly a dozen buying guides for The Spruce Eats, understanding what consumers and cooks need to consider before making a new purchase for their culinary adventures. She is a professionally trained chef. With many years of spatchcocking Thanksgiving turkeys and plenty of smaller birds in between, she is no stranger to what it takes to use poultry shears. After researching different poultry shears and their materials, she can help you find the best tool for your kitchen. She also interviewed Cara Nicoletti, Founder & CEO of Seemore Meats & Veggies, for additional insight and research.