Kitchen shears are a ubiquitous tool in the kitchen. If you don't already own a pair, they're a very worthwhile (and inexpensive) investment, one we wholeheartedly endorse. We're particular fans of ones like Chicago Cutlery's version, which come apart so they can be completely cleaned. Some models even operate like a Swiss Army knife for the kitchen, with a bottle opener, screwdriver, jar opener and other tools packed into their design.
You probably already reach for them when snipping herbs right onto a dish or trimming a piecrust, but you might want to consider reaching for your shears for some of these tasks, too. (Just make sure to wash them as frequently as you would your knives to keep things running smoothly.)
Break down a chicken. Kitchen shears give you more control when you want to neatly spatchcock a chicken or turkey or cut it into pieces for frying. "I use my shears to cut through the backbone of a chicken," chef Jonathan Waxman of Barbuto in New York City and Adele's in Nashville, says (save it for stock!). A fan of butchering whole animals in-house, he adds, "Really heavy-duty shears can cut through bones with ease." Shears can also cut through smaller bones with no risk of damaging the blade on your expensive knives.
Chop canned tomatoes. Some of the best brands of imported canned tomatoes only come whole. If you need diced tomatoes, the tidiest way to get them is to plunge your (very clean!) shears right into the can and snip away until you've got even pieces.
Clean shrimp. Make a loathsome job easier by using the point of your shears to neatly devein shrimp or to quickly snip through the shell to butterfly or remove the shells. "When I peel and devein shrimp, I'll just cut a tiny slit (less than a centimeter) in the middle of the back, and then pull the vein out," Dave Becker, chef/owner of Sweet Basil and Juniper in Massachusetts, says. "It keeps it from curling into a little pigtail and also keeps the juices in so the shrimp still has that 'snap' when you bite into it." Using shears to cut through the tough shells of lobster or crab is also safer than attempting the feat with a knife.
Cut bacon. Greasy, floppy bacon is a pain to cut with a knife on a cutting board. But with shears, it's easy to snip the raw strips into lardons before frying. Janet Zimmerman, an instructor at The Cook's Warehouse in Atlanta, also uses shears to make a few snips through the rind so the bacon doesn't curl up while it cooks.
Shred cooked meat. Freshly stewed beef or slow-cooked pork can be, quite literally, too hot to handle. Stick your shears right into the cooking vessel to quickly shred cooked meat for pulled pork or ropa vieja.