A decade ago, my mother probably would have chastised me for cursing if I told her I was serving a spatchcocked turkey for Thanksgiving. Today, more and more home cooks are taking advantage of this incredible cooking method. Removing the backbone of a turkey or chicken allows you to lay the bird flat, cooking it faster and more evenly. It might look weird, but this method all but guarantees juicy meat and ultra-crispy skin.
It’s easy enough to do if you have the right tool: A good set of poultry shears, like our top pick, OXO Good Grips Spring-Loaded Poultry Shears(available at Amazon).
Using a regular pair of kitchen shears will work in a pinch, but they’re not designed to cut through poultry bones. Turkey bones are incredibly thick, so using the wrong tool can ruin your knives and tire out your hands. Instead, use a spring-loaded pair of clippers that are specifically designed to cut through these bones without too much of a workout.
They’re helpful outside of the holiday season, too. We use our pair year round for spatchcocking chickens, slicing lobster tails, and carving whole-roasted birds.
These are the best poultry shears we tested ranked, in order:
OXO Good Grips Spring-Loaded Poultry Shears
J.A. Henckels International Poultry Shears
Mercer Culinary Hot Forged Poultry Shear
Tansung Come-Apart Kitchen Scissors
Wüsthof Black Stainless Steel 10-Inch Poultry Shears
Tuo Kitchen Poultry Shears
Gerior Poultry Shears
Raniaco Latest 2020 Kitchen Shears
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Most of the poultry shears we tested did well on some tasks but struggled on others. The OXO Good Grips Spring-Loaded Poultry Shears were the only set that hit all the marks. The blades came apart for easy cleaning, and they’re spring-loaded but don’t open too far for comfort. The locking mechanism that keeps them closed for storage is located on the bottom of the handle, so it didn’t get in the way as we sliced. We also loved the nonstick coating on the lightly padded handles, which were both comfortable to use and kept our hands from slipping when they became coated in raw chicken.
The blades themselves were equally impressive. The micro-serrated blades gripped on bone as we used them, keeping them from sliding backwards between slices. They were sharp enough to tackle chicken backbones one-handed, and they were one of the only pairs that didn’t struggle to slice through slippery chicken skin.
After they aced our chicken tests, we used them to remove a turkey backbone and cut the breastbone in half. We did have to use two hands to get enough momentum to get through the breastbone’s thickest part, but our hands weren’t fatigued after taking it down.
The tension in these spring-loaded scissors was perfect, and they bounced open happily after every cut. They were light and maneuverable, and they were an overall joy to use. They are more expensive than others, but not by much. We’d definitely recommend them to anyone looking to break down chickens or spatchcock a Thanksgiving turkey, making this set our choice for Best Overall.
Hi, I’m Lindsay Mattison, a trained professional chef. I’m all about improving my home kitchen economy, so I always buy whole chickens and break them down myself. That not only gives me access to bone-in breasts (the best way to cook a juicy, moist chicken breast that doesn’t taste dry), but it also lets me make stock from the bones. Jobs like this are so much simpler with specialized kitchen tools like poultry shears. I’d love to help you find a pair that makes your life easier, too!
Over the years, I’ve used several sets off poultry shears, and they rarely tick off all the boxes: Sharp blades that can make precise cuts through both skin and bone, a spring-loaded handle that creates the right amount of tension, and a comfortable design that makes them pleasant to use. So we scoured Amazon reviews and picked up eight well-rated models and put them to the test.
Our first set of tests revolved around chickens. If the shears weren’t sharp or comfortable enough to tackle chicken bones, there was no way they could cut through turkey’s tougher bones. So we broke the bird down into an eight-piece deconstructed chicken.
We first removed the backbone, noting whether we could use the shears one-handed or if they required the force of both hands to cut through the bone. Then, we removed the leg quarters and split them into thighs and drumsticks, took off the wings and the wing tips, and cut through the thick breastbone.
Along the way, we noted whether the shears could handle slippery chicken skin (spoiler alert: most of them couldn’t), how maneuverable and lightweight they were, and if our hands became fatigued after extended use. We also coated our hands in oil to see if the shears became very slippery.
Only three passed the chicken tests to move on to turkey. We tasked each set with cutting through the super-tough turkey breastbone and the backbone section that's included with a store-bought turkey breast. This is where we really learned about the amount of force each set required, and we left this test with one clear winner.
Finally, we let the dirty shears sit overnight before giving them a good cleaning. Most are not dishwasher safe, as the dishwasher can dull the sharp blades. We hand washed each set, noting whether the locking mechanisms or springs got in the way or if there were any hard-to-scrub crevices.
What to Know About Buying Poultry Shears
Poultry shears are specialized kitchen scissors that you may or may not need. If you don’t process whole chickens, you probably don’t need a set. But if you want to speed up the cooking process by spatchcocking a roasted chicken or turkey, you’ll definitely want a pair.
But kitchen scissors are mostly for general kitchen use, and include features like a notch for opening bottles or cracking crabs. Poultry shears have fewer bells and whistles, but excel at cutting through tough poultry bones. They also usually feature one handle loop, and some are flat on both handles. That makes them easy to use with either the right or left hand.
Poultry shear blades are often curved and micro-serrated to make it easier to grip onto bone, preventing the shears from slipping backward with every slice. They’re also spring-loaded so you don’t have to use as much strength with each slice, and they’ll bounce open after every cut to keep your hands from tiring. That requires the use of a lock to keep them from being a storage hazard, and a good set has a well-designed lock that doesn’t get in the way or accidentally engage while you’re slicing.
It’s also important to grab a pair with a comfortable, padded handle and an ergonomic design. Even the sharpest pair requires two hands from time to time. Putting that much pressure on the handle can cause quite a bit of pain, especially if the handle isn’t coated or has raised edges. Finally, like kitchen scissors, it’s ideal if the blades come apart. While you may only use them for raw poultry, you could also use them to carve roasted chicken, cut lobster tails, or gut fish. It’s important to clean them completely after every use to prevent cross-contamination and foodborne illness.
Take-apart shears make it easier to do that, getting into all the crevices without accidentally slicing into your hands.
Other Poultry Shears We Tested
J.A. Henckels International Poultry Shears
If our top pick is out of stock, you won’t be disappointed with J.A. Henckels International Poultry Shears. The micro-serrated steel blade gripped and sliced through both chicken and turkey bones without issue. We were able to use them one-handed most of the time, using it two-handed only to get through the thickest part of the turkey breastbone. The handle was padded for comfort, and our hands didn’t slip even when they got coated with raw chicken.
These shears struggled more than our winning pair on slippery chicken skin, and we had a few issues with the spring-loaded blades. They opened too wide for smaller hands, and the lock that kept the blade closed during storage got in the way from time to time. It’s secured with a flat-head screw, which needs to be tightened to keep it from sliding around.
The Mercer Culinary Hot Forged Poultry Shears was one of three sets that passed all our first-round testing to move on to the turkey tests. The long, curved blade looks intimidating, but it did a fantastic job gripping chicken bones as we sliced and had no issues getting through slippery chicken skin. The locking mechanism is conveniently located at the bottom, so it didn’t get in the way as we sliced.
We did find the stainless-steel handle and lack of handle loop to be a little slippery, and the spring-loaded tension on this set opened the blades way too wide to be comfortable. They’re also 1.5-ounces heavier than our winning pair. That doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up to tire your hands after extended use.
While these inexpensive Tansung poultry shears were sharper than some of the models we tested, they still didn’t have the whole package. They required two hands for many sections of the chicken backbone and breastbone—an indication that they wouldn’t fare well on tough turkey bones—and frequently got hung up on slippery chicken skin.
That would have been acceptable, but the handle was incredibly uncomfortable. The plastic handle is coated with a nonstick material that did keep our hands from slipping, but it contains raised ridges on the inside of the handle loop. They dug painfully into our hands, especially when we were exerting strong effort.
Wüsthof Black Stainless Steel 10-Inch Poultry Shears
We’ve tested several Wüsthof knives over the years, and they usually end up towards the top of our rankings. In this case, we were pretty disappointed with the performance of these Wüsthof Black Stainless Steel 10-Inch Poultry Shears. The spring-loaded mechanism provided the right amount of tension, but the blades weren’t as sharp as some of the other models.
They struggled to get through slippery chicken skin and didn't grip as well on bones as we sliced. The spring mechanism locked with the same screw design as the J.A. Henckels, which loosened and got in the way after a few uses. It can be tightened, but the design is still a pain.
Finally, the handle had a very narrow loop that would be a tight fit for larger hands, and didn’t contain any padding. That made it slippery and uncomfortable after extended use.
Tuo Kitchen Poultry Shears are absolutely gorgeous. They have a sleek, pakkawood handle that makes them look more expensive than their actual price tag. But our love of this pair stopped at looks.
The lack of finger loops made them slippery, especially when our hands were coated in raw chicken. The blades aren’t micro-serrated, either, so they slipped on bone instead of gripping it as we sliced.
If Gerior Poultry Shears were the only tool available, we would use them. But they were among the least comfortable we tested.
They weren’t sharp enough, struggling to get through chicken skin and tender wing bones. The only good thing we can say is the blades came apart, making them easier to clean than some of the other models.
The description of the Raniaco Latest 2020 Kitchen Shears might lead you to believe that they’re poultry shears, but they’re definitely not.
They may have a curved blade, but they weren’t even sharp enough to cut through chicken skin, much less bone. Using the shears was uncomfortable, and the lack of a spring-loaded mechanism made them hard to bring back to center before the next cut.
Our hands hurt after using these to break down a whole chicken. All in all, we’d rather avoid this set.
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