The Cutco vs Shun debate is the ultimate “East vs. West” battle as we weigh the best kitchen knife brands in America against the best Japanese knives. Despite being worlds apart in culture and heritage, these two knife brands have one thing in common: a burning desire to craft the best blades on Earth!
Read on to learn more about what makes Cutco and Shun two of the best knife manufacturers in the world and the unique features that set them apart.
What is Cutco?
Born in Olean, New York City, Cutco was founded in 1949. Cutco has produced high-quality knives made of American stainless steel since its establishment. The company is known for the wedge-lock handles on its knives. They also have their Forever Sharpness Guarantee.
The name Cutco is an abbreviation of Cooking Utensil Company. This alludes to the fact that they sell not only knives but also kitchen utensils, shears, and cookware.
What is Shun?
Shun knives are fairly young, begun in Seki City, Japan (1). The Kai Corporation established Shun knives in 2002. However, the town of Seki City has been a hub for Japanese-style knives and cutlery since the 1200s, with their origins rooted in samurai sword-smithing.
Shun makes its knives with a traditional Japanese-style design. These typically feature a rounded wooden handle made of Pakkawood or Tagayasan wood.
How are they different?
The most notable difference between Shun and Cutco is how their knives are made and the different materials used. For example, shun crafts its blades using traditional practices with hand-hammered finishes, whereas Cutco makes its knives for mass production and cost-efficiency.
In other words, Shun crafts forged knives, whereas Cutco primarily makes stamped knife collections.
As far as materials go, Cutco uses American steel with a high carbon content, while Shun uses super steels such as SG2, VG10, and VG-MAX. These “super steel” materials are significantly more durable and resistant to rust than most.
As such, it’s no surprise that Shun knives have stronger blades than Cutco. They typically come in at 60-62 HRC on the Rockwell Hardness Scale compared to Cutco’s 56-60 HRC range.
Another significant difference between these brands is their product offerings, with Cutco only offering one knife line while Shun provides seven. As such, you’ll find far more options in terms of handle designs with Shun, offering Pakkawood, Tagayasan wood, and PP/TPE synthetic materials.
However, Cutco knives are significantly cheaper than Shun knives. In addition, their blades are typically sharper, with 15-degree edge angles per side compared to Shun’s 16-degree angles.
How are they similar?
Now, let’s talk about what these distinct brands share in common. Firstly, they both offer a lifetime of free sharpening services as part of their warranty when you purchase. This means you can return your knives for free and have them resharpened by the experts and returned to you good as new.
On average, Shun and Cutco’s chef’s knife typically weighs around 7 ounces each, so they are more or less the same in terms of weight. Both brands also offer similar knife sets that usually include a chef knife, a paring knife, a utility knife, and a bread knife. You may also find extra accessories with their knife sets, such as a knife block, kitchen shears, or a cutting board.
What’s better about Cutco knives?
One of the advantages of Cutco knives is that they are pretty sharp. You will find a typical Cutco knife sporting an edge angle of 15 degrees, higher than the average. They also offer more straight-edge knives. These are more flexible than the average Shun knife, giving more room for error when you cut.
Furthermore, the handles of Cutco knives may not be as aesthetically pleasing as Shun knives. However, they are more practical in terms of ergonomics and safety.
Of course, Cutco primarily makes stamped blades, so their products are significantly more affordable than Shun knives. In addition, they focus their manufacturing process on mass production, so they can keep their prices low.
Also, Cutco knives focus more on home cooks than professional chefs, so their knives are usually more than sufficient for everyday homeowner tasks.
Another benefit of Cutco knives is their lower HRC score compared to Shun knives, as this has its perks. Softer steel means the blade can more easily bend and twist upon contact with tough ingredients. This results in less chance of a chip or cracks on your blade.
Also, Cutco offers thermo resin handles, a feature unavailable with Shun. In addition, this material is highly resistant to moisture.
What’s better about Shun knives?
Shun makes their knives from higher quality steel sourced from the best manufacturers in Japan. The brand is notorious for traditionally designed forged knives. The powerful edge of Shun’s super steels allows the blade to withstand damage from all angles, no matter what food is being handled.
Whether chopping vegetables, slicing meat, or slicing bread, it will not dull as quickly as the average knife brand.
Shun is notorious for its excellent edge retention, sharp blades, and beautiful designs. For example, the Shun Premier chef’s knife delivers on all fronts with a stunning Damascus steel blade and a gorgeous dark Pakkawood handle. Skilled artisans craft this blade, and its ultra-sharp edge will remain for extended periods before resharpening is mandated.
Indeed, additional maintenance is not as frequent with Shun knives vs Cutco, as their blades are designed to last a lifetime of use. Shun knives are of higher quality than Cutco, for the most part. They have far more variety in their collections, offering seven knife lines compared to Cutco’s single collection.
Furthermore, You can purchase Shun knives at local kitchen stores and retailers like Amazon. It makes them more accessible for the everyday home cook.
Who should get Cutco and why?
Cutco knives are an excellent choice for those who want security with their knives. They have their Forever Sharpness Guarantee and in-home demonstrations give you plenty of involvement with the brand.
The American brand makes sure you have looked after. They are also reasonably affordable, given the extra services available when purchasing Cutco knives. In addition, you have the option of buying kitchen cutlery and cookware such as pots and pans in addition to just kitchen knives.
Who should get Shun and why?
Shun is a higher-end brand than Cutco and comes at a higher cost. With that in mind, Shun is a fantastic choice of knives because its blades are inherently stronger than most kitchen knives on the market, and you also get the backing of a strong warranty when you purchase.
Lastly, Shun knives offer more variety in product offerings and design choices, and they also (in my opinion) look a lot nicer than Cutco knives too.
Undoubtedly, forged blades are always the winner in these types of comparisons. However, in this case, the winner isn’t so clear-cut. Cutco sharpens its blades to a steeper angle than Shun, giving it a slight advantage in cutting prowess. As a result, Cutco’s knives are for you for those seeking a sharper blade that is more ruthless and smooth for explosive results.
In my personal opinion, I’d prefer a knife that does more than a few amazing sessions. I want a blade that can last me for a lifetime. Shun is undoubtedly the choice for those with their minds on longevity over a few flawless cuts. Unlike Cutco, Shun’s edge won’t go blunt too fast.
In addition, the Shun knife is built in a full tang construction with higher-quality steel. So, the chances of breaking under pressure are far less likely than Cutco.
At first glance, the obvious choice for who has the better handle would probably go to Shun, simply based on aesthetics and design choices. Shun boasts an array of stunning Pakkawood and Tagayasan wooden handles made in a Japanese-style design with a rounded bottom (2).
In addition, they also have a variety of synthetic PP/TPE handles that offer a firmer, more secure grip.
Cutco’s range of handle materials and design options are far more limited than Shun, and they don’t offer any wooden handles like their Japanese competitor. However, where Cutco excels is in its ergonomics.
For example, Cutco knives have a wedge-lock handle that lets you dig your fingers into various parts of the handle and have more maneuverability to tackle complex cutting tasks.
This could be tricky, as when it comes to price, we must consider all aspects of the brand beyond just the knives themselves. For example, Cutco offers lower prices, a Forever Sharpness Guarantee, and a limited lifetime warranty. While this is usually the selling point of Cutco knives, Shun certainly has something to say about that.
They may not advertise it as well as their American competitor, but Shun also offers free sharpening services alongside a limited lifetime warranty. This may be an unpopular opinion, but while Shun knives are more expensive at face value, I believe you get more value per penny spent with Shun than you do with Cutco.
Shun is one of the few brands that can contend with Cutco’s fantastic warranty. In addition to that, they can outshine them in product offerings and knife quality.
Cutco vs Shun FAQ
Are there better knives than Shun?
Depending on your needs and preferences, there are some brands you may prefer over Shun for various reasons. Shun knives are one of the most durable forged blades on the market. However, they lack in sharpness compared to brands like Wusthof, Zwilling, and Cutco.
Is Cutco overrated?
Cutco knives are priced slightly higher than average despite only making stamped ones, so they sometimes get accused of being “overrated.” In truth, the warranties and in-home demonstrations offered by Cutco are a rarity in the kitchen knife market, and you’ll find it easy to make your products last the distance with these services.
What knives are equal to Cutco?
Brands like Victorinox and Henckels are known for making knives using the stamped method, much like Cutco. However, in terms of warranty, Shun can match Cutco by offering free sharpening services, a perk of Cutco that they are well-known for.