The main problem with kitchen scissors is that they too easily get carried off to become desk scissors or outdoor scissors. Threats on this subject are usually to no avail, and unless you're one of those rare types who can run a household like a military base, it's sometimes best to just muddle along and plan to get new scissors every now and then.
But which new scissors? There are fierce looking poultry shears on the market, many pairs of more normal looking scissors, scissors especially for lobsters or fish, even scissors for plucking your after-dinner grapes neatly from their vine.
Any pair of scissors you buy for general use in the kitchen should be tough enough to cut easily through at least the smaller chicken bones, and through fish fins and gills. But to be of most use they should also be suitable for cutting kitchen twine, slicing the end off the bacon wrapper and snipping herbs.
They should also be easily cleanable, with no unreachable nooks or crannies, especially if you use them with raw meat, poultry or fish. And their handles should be designed and constructed so that they are comfortable to the hand, even under the pressure of cutting through chicken bones and even if the hand is slippery or wet.
Serious poultry shears are formidable-looking things with curved, scythe-like blades, the better to reach the more inaccessible joints. Their cutting edges are usually toothed, with the teeth slanting toward the cook, so that as you cut through the poultry it can't slither forward and escape the grip of the blade. There is also usually a notch cut out of the blade near its hinge to make the grip even surer.
These shears, while they are wonderful for cracking through a duck breast bone or dividing a chicken, have limited use aside from poultry. Designed for big-handed male chefs, they often open too wide on their spring mechanisms to be comfortable for smaller hands. And the handles themselves are on a big scale, too, which means a smaller hand is likely to slide around and lose control. Since they are often made of steel, they have a tendency to rust.
And they aren't much good for the smaller jobs. Trying to snip chives with these monsters would be like running your Waterford through a car wash.
In short, if you spend a lot of time cutting up poultry or fish and you have big hands, it might be worthwhile to consider a serious pair of poultry shears.
Otherwise, there are kitchen scissors on the market that do these jobs nearly as well, and do other jobs too. These scissors are more normal looking, some of them quite small. Some, such as the ones pictured, which are made by Imperial Shrade in Germany, do other things besides cutting.
But first, their properties as cutters: They cut through smaller poultry bones (like the breastbone or the wing tips) with ease, and their blades are big enough to authoritatively grip the object being cut. At the same time, they are small-bladed enough to snip chives and parsley comfortably, but just barely.
For any medium-sized chore -- snipping bits of fat from the veal cutlets or cutting through the spare ribs -- they are just right. They come apart for cleaning, and their manufacturer says they can be sharpened.
The grooved part of the handle is designed for gripping jar tops, and there are little metal tips for opening bottles.
This particular brand is available at Kitchen Bazaar stores, but there are other versions on the market of similar size and quality. They cost approximately $20.
The Joyce Chen brand scissors are a great favorite of many cooks. They have shorter blades, making them even better at smaller jobs like snipping herbs than the larger versions, but they are strong enough to hack through almost anything. One friend swears she used these scissors to cut away the gills of a 40-pound fish.
The advantage of the Joyce Chen scissors is their flexible plastic handles, which are extraordinarily comfortable to use. They are more forgiving to the fingers when the cook is trying to cut something recalcitrant and, as my friend with the 40-pound fish points out, since they are plastic they tend to stay warm even when working with slimy, cold things. They are widely available.
The only disadvantage to these scissors is that they look too much like non-kitchen scissors and are therefore more vulnerable to random missions from outside the kitchen.
There are also three specialty types of scissors worth mentioning. One is the lobster scissors, with short blades designed especially for cutting through lobster shells. Another is a fisherman's scissors with a notch at the end of the blade for slitting open the fish, and handles that double as scalers. Both are available at La Cuisine.
Finally, there are the grape scissors, a remnant of a more gracious era. Grape scissors are delicate little instruments that allow you to snip an individual-sized bunch of grapes from the main bunch (which of course reposes in a crystal fruit bowl) and grip your little bunch until it gets safely to your plate, where you can release it or pluck the grapes from it one by one. These are available at most kitchenware stores.