Tool: Poultry Shears

Manuel Gonzales
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  • Material: High-carbon, no-stain steel
  • Handle: Stainless steel
  • Size: Ten inches
  • Price: $100


  • Material: Stainless steel
  • Handle: Soft rubber
  • Size: Ten inches
  • Price: $12

For the past year, my wife and I have relied on the Oxo poultry shears for all our chicken-cutting needs, although Oxo calls them, technically, Kitchen Shears, and my wife and I, technically, have used them for cutting open countless bags of dog food, cutting the plastic away from the cheese block, opening boxes of Pomi crushed tomatoes, and snipping the tags from my wife’s new dress, but so far we have not yet used them against the tiny spines of chickens.

Feeling neglectful, then, I decided that it was time to put our shears to the task for which they were created.

At The Fertile Crescent, a Middle Eastern grocery store located at 570 Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, just south of Flatbush, you can buy a whole, fresh chicken for $1.20 a pound. The staff offered to cut the chicken’s head off, using a serrated, motorized knife attached to the counter, but I declined, thinking, What better way to test our untested poultry shears? I realize that you don’t use poultry shears to decapitate chickens, but it had been over a year since we’d received the shears, and I figured I should raise the stakes a bit.

After studying the diagrams and instructions for cutting the whole chicken into chicken parts in The Joy of Cooking, I began to doubt whether my Oxos were up to the task. The Wusthof Poultry Shears, my dream shears, listed above but too expensive for my meager salary, are the kind of shears needed for severing a chicken’s spinal column. I could imagine any number of “henchmen” wielding the Wusthofs when they needed to cut someone other than a chicken into parts. These shears could, in the right hands (in my hands), save lives, swipe off the heads of the creeping undead, cut out the hearts of angered, hungry werewolves, restore the natural balance of good and evil.

It is unfortunate that I do not own these shears.

My wife, already unhappy with my attempts to get our dog, Steve, to play “tug-of-war” with the bird’s head, told me that she would be out for the afternoon and that if I was going to—against all better judgment—proceed with my experiment, I should do so while she was gone.

She left, and I grabbed the chicken neck and began to cut.

Raw chickens are tacky and covered in pimples—the result, I suppose, of having one’s feathers plucked—and the freshest of raw chickens often have tiny feather-stem remnants embedded in their skin. It is easier to separate the animal (chicken) from the food (chicken) when the food (chicken) is frozen, beheaded, precut into parts, boneless, skinless, sheared into cutlets. It is also easier, I discovered, to separate the meat from the bone using a sharp knife instead of the shears, which made a mangled mess of the meat. It is easier still to chop the head from the body using a cleaver and a swift, heavy, downward swing. The neck proved too much for my shears, which were built for cutting away, at most, the slender bones of a ribcage or, more likely, for cutting down the stems of fresh flowers or snipping at herbs or curling ribbons. I could feel the handles bend awkwardly when I squeezed against the bone, and so rather than force the issue and risk breaking our only pair of scissors, I washed them and returned them to their drawer, patted the bird with butter, and placed it, whole, into the oven.

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