Cutco vs. Shun: Which Kitchen Knives Are Better?

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In this comparison of Cutco vs. Shun, you’ll learn how both company’s kitchen knives compare in terms of materials, design, sharpness, warranty, price, and much more.

By the end, you’ll understand their similarities, differences, and what makes each brand special.

So, if you’re shopping for new kitchen knives and can’t decide between Cutco and Shun, keep reading.

Let’s get started!


Use the links below to navigate the comparison:


Cutco vs. Shun: Comparison Chart

If you’re in a hurry and looking to quickly compare Cutco vs. Shun, check out the chart below:

CutcoShun
Founded19492002
Where It’s MadeOlean, New York, USASeki City, Japan
Blade MaterialHigh carbon stainless steelSG2, VG10, VG-MAX
Handle MaterialThermo-resin or polypropylenePakkaWood, Tagayasan wood, PP/TPE
DesignAmerican, modernTraditional Japanese
Weight of 8-inch Chef’s knife (average)7.2 ounces7 ounces
Edge Angle (lower = sharper)30-degree angle32-degree angle
Blade Hardness (higher = harder)56 to 6060 to 62
Knife Collections87
WarrantyForever GuaranteeLimited Lifetime and Lifetime Free Sharpening
Price $$$ (View on Amazon)$$$$ (View on Amazon)

Cutco: Company Overview

Cutco began in 1949 and is now the biggest manufacturer of kitchen cutlery in the United States and Canada. Headquartered in Olean, New York, the company employs over 600 skilled artisans at the factory. 

Model 1725 CUTCO 9-1/4

Cutco is short for Cooking Utensil Company. Not only do they make knives, but they also craft utensils, shears, flatware, and cookware.

They’re well known for their ergonomic Wedge-Lock handle and the exclusive Double-D stay-sharp blade edge.

You can buy Cutco knives on Amazon, but the company’s primary distribution method is its network of salespeople, who pitch you on the benefits via in-home demonstrations.

Some shoppers love the personal touch this method offers, but others find the sales experience high-pressure and uncomfortable — something to keep in mind if you’re leaning toward Cutco.

Shun: Company Overview

Shun knives have been made in Seki City, Japan, since the brand’s inception in 2002. However, their parent company, Kai Corporation, has been making knives in that region for over 111 years.

Shun Classic Blonde 7” Santoku Knife, Blonde PakkaWood Handle, Full Tang VG-MAX Blade

Seki City has been the hub of Japanese cutlery since the 13th century, starting with samurai swords. Now the city is better known for kitchen knives.

The blades are made by skilled Shun artisans who prioritize both performance and aesthetics. They honor the ancient tradition of manufacturing the knives by handcrafting each one using over 100 individual steps.

Shun offers over 130 knives and knife sets across seven collections. All Shun knives feature a traditional Japanese-style design, but each collection uses different materials and boasts a unique look (more on this in a minute).

Unlike Cutco, which is primarily sold through in-home demonstrations, you can find Shun at local kitchen supplies stores and on Amazon.

Blade Materials

The blade is an integral part of a knife. It’s what does the hard work of chopping, slicing, and cutting. 

So what are the main differences and similarities between the blade materials used by Cutco and Shun?

Cutco knives are made from high-carbon stainless steel. The company doesn’t disclose the exact formula, but it’s touted as rust and corrosion-resistant. The blade is sharp, boasts excellent edge retention, and is easy to maintain.

The Double-D and straight-edge blades are crafted slightly differently to achieve a durable but flexible, long-lasting edge.

To make Cutco blades, the steel is cut into the exact shape using an industrial laser or by blanking, often referred to as stamping or punching. 

Shun knives are made from a variety of stainless steels, including:

  • Dual Core VG10/VG2
  • VG-MAX
  • VG10
  • AUS10A
  • AUS8A

Each steel is high-quality, boasts excellent edge retention, and is rust and corrosion-resistant.

However, one big difference between Shun and Cutco is AUS8A steel, which provides plenty of flexibility.

It quite literally bends when you press it against a surface. It’s used in boning knives, such as the Shun Classic Fillet (view on Amazon), which require flexibility to prepare fish.

Handle Materials

Cutco uses two synthetic materials for their handles: thermo-resin or polypropylene.

Thermo-resin is an ideal material for knife handles because it doesn’t melt or warp. It’s durable, can handle high temperatures, and solvents can’t damage it.

Polypropylene is similar because it has a high melting point, doesn’t break down easily, and can withstand vigorous use. 

Shun uses a variety of materials such as PakkaWood, Tagayasan wood, and PP/TPE. All are available in a variety of colors, so you can find a collection that is both practical and beautiful in your kitchen. 

PakkaWood is a strong, durable, and semi water-resistant wood and resin material. The handles in the Classic, Dual Core, Premier collections use this material (view these collections on Amazon).

Tagayasan wood is a dark-grained wood prized for its durability. It’s exceptionally hard, which requires extra care during the crafting process.

During use, you’ll notice the angled handles, which provide an ergonomic fit and comfortable grip. Handles in the Kanso collection are made with Tagayasan wood.

Lastly, the synthetic handles made from polypropylene or thermoplastic elastomer are both lightweight and durable.

They are slightly textured for a no-slip grip. They’re great for beginning home cooks and are well-balanced and easy to maintain. Handles in the Sora collection are made with this material.

Construction

Cutco’s process is well-monitored to ensure quality. The crafting process includes blanking (stamping) the knife from stainless high-carbon steel. The blades are heat-treated for maximum hardness, flexibility, and stain and rust resistance. 

Cutco uses a three-stage heat process: blast in the furnace, a freezing process, and hardening in a walk-in furnace.

Afterward, the blades are polished, and the sides are ground before sharpening. The handles are shaped and assembled. Finally, workers finely grind the blade for a straight edge. The knife goes through another round of polishing before the final inspection.

Shun knives are made differently depending on the type of knife, but all collections are produced by traditional handcrafting techniques.

The Damascus knives are made by layering different metal alloys together before forging them into a single piece. That’s what leads to the rippling patterns on the blade. 

Shun Classic 8” Chef’s Knife with VG-MAX Cutting Core and Ebony PakkaWood Handle; All-Purpose Blade for a Full Range of Cutting Tasks with Curved Blade for Easy Cuts; Cutlery Handcrafted in Japan

The number of layers varies between collections and knives, but most have 34 layers of metal per side, surrounding a stainless steel cutting core.

The blades are also bead blasted or acid etched, which provides a textured finish. This helps with food release and reduces cutting drag to give users an effortless cutting experience.

The style of blade-making is called Kasumi, which means mist due to the appearance of the outside of the blade compared to the cutting core.

Other Shun knives are made by forging the blade from a single piece of steel called Honyaki. The blade is ground, bead-blasted, and sharpened to create a beautiful rippling pattern.

To sum up, Cutco’s stamping process is designed for mass production. Alternatively, Shun relies on ancient traditions, handcrafting techniques, and forging, which results in higher quality knives.

Design

One of the most significant differences between Cutco and Shun knives is their design. Shun knives feature a traditional Japanese style, while Cutco knives are modern American. Let’s take a closer look at the details.

Cutco offers two blade designs within their collections: Double-D and Straight Edge. The Double-D edge is a patented saw-toothed design very much like a standard serrated edge.

CUTCO Model 3738 Hardy Slicer.....6.3" High-Carbon Stainless Double-D serrated blade.........5.7

The straight edge knives hold a more classic look and are featured on the chef’s knives. They are razor-sharp and can be sharpened at home. However, the majority of Cutco knives have a Double-D edge.

Another drawback to Cutco’s knife design is the blade is bolster-free, making it very lightweight and less balanced.

These blades are a bit more dangerous than bolstered knives since there’s no thick finger guard between your hand and the edge.

However, Cutco does have solid design features, such as the Universal Wedge-Lock handle.

Cutco 1728 7-5/8" Petite Chef Knife

This handle is ergonomic, so it fits right into your hand whether you’re left or right-handed or have large or small fingers. It provides a sturdy, non-slip grip that’s comfortable to use for extended periods.

When examining a Shun knife, you’ll notice its traditional Japanese style. The company offers seven collections, all with unique blades and handles. For example, in their Classic Blonde collection, you’ll find light Pakkawood D-shaped handles that are suitable and comfortable for both right and left-handed users.

Shun Classic Blonde 8” Chef's Knife, Blonde PakkaWood Handle, Full Tang VG-MAX Blade

Another example is the Premier collection, which boasts walnut-colored PakkaWood handles and a gorgeous hammered blade finish.

Shun Premier 7” Santoku Knife Easily Handles All Basic Kitchen Cutting Tasks, Light, Agile and Very Easy to Maneuver, Fits in Hand Like a Glo, 7-Inch, Silver

Shun features a range of designs, whereas Cutco has one basic look. While Cutco’s knives are modern and sleek, you won’t find much variety. Even within the blades, there are no hammered or Damascus finishes, as you’ll discover with Shun.

If you’re a fan of unique designs, Shun is the way to go. However, if you don’t like the traditional Japanese style and crave something more simple and modern, then Cutco is an option to consider.

Blade Hardness

Blade hardness is measured on the Rockwell Hardness Scale. Most blades fall between 55 and 62. The higher this number, the harder the steel. The lower the number, the softer the steel.

Softer steels are more flexible and, therefore, are a bit more durable. Their primary use is for firm ingredients such as meat or hardy root vegetables.

On the other hand, harder steels hold their edge better, but they can chip or shatter when met with impact. Their primary use is softer and delicate ingredients such as fruits, soft vegetables, and fish.

Shun knives range from 60 to 62 on the Rockwell hardness scale. It’s intended for delicate slicing, so if you’re mostly preparing thick cuts of meat and dicing potatoes, this may not be the all-purpose knife for you in the kitchen.  Keep in mind that it’s more likely to chip or break because it is harder steel.

Cutco knives are between 56 and 60 on the Rockwell Hardness Scale, which means these knives are a bit more of the workhouse style for your kitchen.

Sharpness

Both Cutco and Shun knives are sharp right out the box — but how do they hold up over time?

Out of the box, Cutco edges are sharpened to a 15-degree angle per side, and Shun edges are sharpened to 16 degrees per side. This is not a significant difference, but it’s worth noting that Cutco knives are technically sharper.

Shun knives tend to hold their edges longer than Cutco due to the more hardened steel. However, all knives dull, so you’ll need to sharpen both regularly.

With Shun, you can easily sharpen them yourself at home, or you can take advantage of their Forever Free Sharpening Service.

With Cutco, you can sharpen their straight-edge knives at home, but when a Cutco Double-D edge knife dulls, you need to send them away to Cutco for sharpening — pretty inconvenient, in my opinion.

Warranty & Money Back Guarantee

Both Cutco and Shun have solid warranties and money-back guarantees.

Cutco offers some unique guarantees, including:

  • 15-Day Unconditional Money Back Guarantee: If you’re not satisfied, you can get a full refund within 15 days of receiving your knives
  • Forever Performance Guarantee: If you’re not satisfied with your knives’ performance, you can send them back, and Cutco will repair or replace them.
  • Forever Sharpness Guarantee: When your knives dull, you can send them to Cutco (you pay to ship), and they will sharpen them and send them back for free.
  • Forever Replacement Service Agreement: If you damage your knives while using them to cut something other than food, Cutco will replace them for half the cost.

Shun has a Limited Lifetime Warranty, which protects against manufacturing defects when the knife is properly used and maintained. The company also offers a Forever Free Sharpening Service similar to Cutco’s; you pay for shipping, and they sharpen the knives for free.

Price

Both Cutco and Shun are considered high-end brands, and, as such, they’re not cheap.

While the high-end Shun collections, such as Premier and Dual Core, are more expensive than Cutco, they offer a range of prices.

For example, the Shun Classic and Sora are their most affordable collections. These are similar in price to most Cutco knives, and in some cases lower. 

Why are some Shun collections knives more expensive than Cutco?

Shun blades are handcrafted, made with premier steels, and often feature Damascus and hand-hammered finishes, while Cutco knives are stamped by machines and finished by skilled workers.

Shun’s manufacturing process is much more involved, and the prices reflect that effort.

To give you a better idea of how Shun and Cutco compare in terms of price, check out the chart below. These prices are pulled in real-time from Amazon.

Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

Bottom Line: Should You Buy Shun or Cutco Kitchen Knives?

Now that you know how Shun and Cutco knives stack up, it’s time to decide which brand is right for you. Let’s quickly recap each brand’s pros and cons.

With Cutco, you get:

  • High carbon stainless steel blades that are rust and corrosion-resistant
  • Durable and synthetic handles
  • Double-D and straight-edge blades
  • Wedge-Lock handle that fits comfortably in most hands
  • Softer but still strong steel that’s between 56 and 60 on the Rockwell Hardness Scale
  • 30 degree blades — very sharp
  • Forever Performance and Sharpness Guarantee

However, Cutco isn’t without its cons:

  • Not a wide variety of design options
  • The blades are stamped instead of forged
  • The Double-D blade isn’t as unique as it seems — it’s a serrated edge
  • The blades don’t have a bolster
  • You can’t sharpen the Double-D blades yourself
  • You have to pay for shipping if sending the knife back
  • Pushy salespeople (in some cases)

With Shun, you get:

  • Traditional Japanese manufacturing methods
  • A variety of high-quality stainless steels
  • Beautiful, durable handle materials
  • Damascus or hand-hammered finishes
  • The steel is hardened, between 60 and 62 on the Rockwell Hardness Scale
  • Great edge retention
  • You can sharpen the blades yourself
  • Lifetime limited warranty
  • The Classic collection is a bit more affordable

What about the disadvantages?

  • Overall, more expensive than Cutco
  • Not all handles are 100% moisture resistant, so may wear down quicker than synthetic handles
  • The steel is harder, so it’s more likely to chip or break if used in high-impact situations

Both brands are respected and have decades of experience behind them. If you want Japanese style knives, Shun is one of the best brands on the market. However, if you want American made knives with excellent guarantees, go with Cutco.

While both brands have their pros and cons, my recommendation is Shun. It has fewer drawbacks and is an excellent addition to most kitchens, especially for slicing and cutting more delicate ingredients like fruit, vegetables, and fish.

Shun also has many more options with eight collections. The blades are made with higher-quality steel that you can sharpen at home and feature gorgeous finishes. The handles are elegant yet comfortable and functional.

Shun is one of the best kitchen knife brands in the world. Cutco knives are sharp, durable, and reliable — but the design and options may not ‘wow’ you. 

Learn more and read dozens of other reviews of Shun and Cutco knives on Amazon at the links below.

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