TRIED & TESTED: THE CUTTING EDGE

Good kitchen scissors can cut delicate herbs and slice through bones. Our panel gets to grips with the top snips
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The Independent Culture
Much has been written about knives in the kitchen while scant regard is paid to another essential kitchen implement: scissors. Yet what are scissors but knife blades with their own double-action and no need to soil a chopping board? Manufacturers do their best to accommodate all hand shapes and levels of culinary skill; the problem is many scissors are sold in sealed packages, so ask to try a pair before you buy, to make sure you like the "fit".

THE PANEL

We asked six testers to put our kitchen scissors through their paces, including Andrew Thomas and Andrew George, chefs at Odins restaurant, London, Abbey Rudge, executive chef at the Food and Drink Federation and Louise Parker, housewife and dedicated cook.

THE TEST

Snipping up herbs, cutting the fins off fish, fashioning jam seals and trimming woody flower stalks were some of the uses cited by our panellists as tasks kitchen scissors must perform. Where the ability to cut through bones was advertised, testers tried this activity, too, so that both ends of the cutting spectrum were covered - from fine accuracy to brute strength.

**GOOD GRIPS

pounds 10.99 by mail order inc p&p

These spring-mechanism, ambidextrous scissors have a large bottom loop to accommodate all four fingers and a safety lock. The blurb says, they "can be rested flat on the worktop so that you can cut with the force of your arm and shoulder for chicken etc." So we imagined they would be favoured by frail cooks, but the elderly visitors we asked to try them couldn't get used to the spring action. The scissors caused mirth in the Odins kitchen, where they were compared to "pruning shears" and "regular Bobbits."

***GUSTAV EMIL ERN

pounds 13.50

These scissors, from a respected knife manufacturer, have a "good, sharp blade", but the lack of a serrated edge meant that bone-cutting needed a great deal of force. "There's no real grip," complained Andrew Thomas from behind a heap of quails, "the bird could just fly away." Testers turned the scissors over and over in an effort to find a comfortable position for the handles - except for Abbey Rudge, who voted these "light, sharp and no nonsense".

*WILTSHIRE STAYSHARP

pounds 11.99

These fearsome-looking scissors with a scalloped under-blade and an oval, serrated hole near the handles come with their own sharpening scabbard. The two Andrews thought this a splendid idea at first, but use proved this gimmick did more damage than good, causing the blades to bite into each other, "as if they weren't stiff enough already". The consensus of the professional chefs was that they look like surgical scissors, are very stiff, and the "bone crushing space is too large lengthways". "These are not ambidextrous," said left-handed Andrew George. Louise Parker was not impressed by the manufacturer's guarantee. "I think it's a threat when they say these ghastly scissors will last as long as you do," she said.

NUTCRACKER-BOTTLE-OPENER-SCISSORS

pounds 11.50

These unbranded scissors have intricate handles which do extra service as nutcrackers, bottle-opener and levers to prise off tin lids. They make an interesting gift, but lost credibility by trying to be all things to all men. The position of the bottle opener seemed dangerous and we discovered it's hard to crack a nutshell with the amount of leverage provided between thumb and forefinger. As Abbey Rudge remarked, "You couldn't sit at a dinner party using this to crack nuts." The scissors themselves, though they were sharp enough, reminded the chefs of "grandma's dressmaking scissors". They are heavy (a strain after topping and tailing a few pounds of gooseberries) and they make a clunk-clunk sound rather than a pleasing snip-snip.

****IKEA

3 pairs of kitchen scissors for pounds 3

These varying sized scissors with different coloured plastic handles come in a cheap and cheerful bundle of three which caused all the testers to gasp at their price. "These are fine," said Louise Parker. The professional chefs were doubtful. "Surely these are for people who can't cook and want to just cut open the packaging on ready meals?" said Andrew Thomas. While all our other samples are dishwasher proof, these carry no such guarantee, and it was felt that, out of respect for their low price they should be treated very gently. "You could make yourself a nice paper chef's hat with these," said Andrew George, helpfully.

*****FISKARS CLASSIC KITCHEN & FOOD SCISSORS

pounds 9.99

In a more sensible design move than the allegedly ambidextrous samples, these Classic kitchen scissors from Fiskars come with a left- or a right- handed grip, and have a gently serrated and scalloped top blade, with a notch for bones. "The best," announced Abbey Rudge, whose appreciation of their lightness and ergonomic handles coincided with the acclaim of all the chefs at Odins. Despite his original assertion that "We don't use scissors that much; we use knives. Scissors are a housewives' thing," Andrew Thomas reported a mild scuffle over this pair. His colleagues all wanted to keep them after trying out the surgical steel blades on fish fins and chicken wings.

**KITCHEN DEVILS SCISSORS

pounds 5.99

Abbey Rudge drew a neat graphic to illustrate her puzzlement over the upper and lower serrations on the Kitchen Devils' blades; for one serrated side comes into contact with the other blade, while the other doesn't. Nor did she see how it would be possible to slice a radish or chilli with the scissors, as illustrated on the packet. Louise Parker pointed out that "you'll never be able to sharpen these when they become blunt", and the chefs at Odins disliked the rough finish achieved by cutting with a serrated blade. Everybody approved of the comfort, and weight factors - "OK for cutting herbs and muslin spice bags" was the consensus.

STOCKISTS

Good Grips by mail order on 01246 261960; Gustav Emil Ern and Wiltshire Staysharps from department stores such as Bentalls, Fenwick, House of Fraser and Selfridges, as well as the Conran Shop, which is sole stockists of the Nutcracker-Bottle-Opener-Scissors; Fiskars Classic and Kitchen Devils from Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's; IKEA scissors from its stores. !

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