Wusthof vs. Chicago Cutlery: Which Kitchen Knives are Better?

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If you’re shopping for new kitchen knives, you might be wondering:

Are Wusthof knives worth the splurge? Or, are Chicago Cutlery knives a better value?

The most significant differences between Wusthof and Chicago Cutlery knives are price and durability. Wusthof knives are expensive, but they’re made with high-quality steel and will last forever. Chicago Cutlery knives are affordable but have a concerning lack of durability, as you can see in these reviews.

That’s a high-level summary, but there’s much more to know about these brands before deciding which one to buy.

In this comparison of Wusthof vs. Chicago Cutlery, you’ll learn how their kitchen knives stack up in terms of materials, design, performance, price, and much more.

By the end of this article, you’ll have all the facts you need to decide which knives are right for your kitchen.


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Price

One of the most significant differences between Wusthof and Chicago Cutlery is the price, with Wusthof being significantly more expensive. In fact, you can buy a complete set of Chicago Cutlery — including 17 knives — for the price of one Wusthof knife.

While this might seem like a done deal, there are reasons for the huge price gap. Yes, Chicago Cutlery knives get excellent reviews and are a great value, but industry professionals and home chefs alike know that Wusthof knives are exceptional.

When you buy a Wusthof knife, you are buying it for life due to its incredible durability and reliability.

Compare the price differences of Wusthof and Chicago Cutlery knives in the table below.

Note: The prices below are pulled in real-time from Amazon. Click the chart to get more details about each knife set.

Prices and images pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

Where It’s Made

Wusthof has a storied history in knife making. Since 1814, the company has been in the cutlery business. It began with Johann Abraham Wusthof, and today, his descendants still run the company, seven generations later.

Wusthof knives are made in Solingen, Germany — also known as the “City of Blades.” Solingen is a long-standing hub of German cutlery brands, including many other famous brands, like Zwilling J.A. Henckels and Messermeister.

Wusthof relies on traditional craftsmanship and 40 precise steps to create each knife.

On the other hand, Chicago Cutlery knives are made in China, despite the name. Manufacturing overseas cuts cost and is one of the reasons the company can offer much lower prices.

Materials

The materials used are some of the most important aspects of knives. Here we examine how each company crafts its blades and handles.

Blade

Wusthof constructs its blades with a unique steel blend. The formula, X50CRMOV15, is etched onto every blade.

To break this formula down, here’s what each part means:

  • X = stainless steel
  • 50 = 0.5% carbon for sharpness
  • CR = Chromium for stain resistance
  • Mo = Molybdenum is also for stain resistance
  • V = Vanadium for blade hardness and edge retention
  • 15 = Optimal percentage of chromium used in this formula

With this high-quality steel formula, you can trust your Wusthof knife to be durable in the kitchen.

Chicago Cutlery describes their knives as being made of “high-carbon stainless steel,” but the company doesn’t disclose their exact formula, so I can only assume it’s not as high-quality. However, Chicago Cutlery does describe it as being stain-resistant and claims their blades won’t rust or pit.

Handle

The materials used in Wusthof handles vary depending on the collection. Some have synthetic handles, while others have wooden handles.

For example, the Wusthof Epicure and Ikon collections are all made of various high-quality wood. In contrast, other collections have handles made from highly durable synthetic materials, such as polyoxymethylene and polypropylene. 

Wusthof Classic Chefs Knife Handle Front
Wusthof Classic polyoxymethylene handle

Chicago Cutlery handles also come in a variety of materials. The Metropolitan collection has polymer handles; Walnut Tradition knives (pictured below) opt for walnut wood as the name suggests, and others feature a soft-grip rubber or stainless steel. 

If you love a range of choices, you’re in luck. Both brands offer a multitude of handle materials so you can find a type that best suits you and your kitchen’s decor.

Construction

As mentioned, Wusthof implements a 40 step crafting process when creating each knife. Craftspeople precision-forge the blades, then PEtec technology sharpens the steel. Workers inspect the knives multiple times before packaging and dispatching them to be sold around the world.

They do have one discount line — Gourmet. These knives are stamped instead of forged.

Stamped knives are laser-cut out of a large sheet of steel before being honed and heat-treated. On the other hand, forged knives are heated and pounded into shape from a bar of steel. Forged blades are generally more durable than stamped blades, so if you’re deciding between the two — I recommend going for a forged knife.

All Wusthof knives include a full tang. Most tangs and rivets are exposed, resulting in a more traditional German appearance. However, the rivets and tang are covered by the handle material in the Grand Prix II collection.

Wusthof Classic Exposed Tang and Rivets
Wusthof Classic Exposed Tang, Rivets, and Bolster

The bolsters vary on each Wusthof knife. The Gourmet collection has no bolster; the Ikon and Classic Ikon collections include a double bolster, and the Grand Prix II and Classic collections boast a full bolster.

Chicago Cutlery knives offer both stamped and forged blades, depending on the collection.

Chicago Cutlery has 11 collections, all with unique construction.

For example, their Malden collection has stainless steel contoured handles with a forged blade. 

The Metropolitan collection has triple-riveted, polymer handles with a full tang for control and stability. The blades are stamped, however.

As a final example, the Avondale collection is made with forged blades for increased weight and balance. The handle includes dual material and full tang.

One important detail to note is that Chicago Cutlery claims knives in its Fusion collection have full metal tangs, but some customers said their blade snapped, which is nearly impossible with a solid full tang. 

Design

When it comes to classic German knife design, look no further than Wusthof.

The Classic collection is the most traditional with a full bolster, three rivets, full tang, and durable polyoxymethylene handle.

Wusthof Classic Kitchen Knives
Wusthof Classic knives (view on Amazon)

The Classic Ikon Creme is one of their most unique collections, as the cream-colored handle stands out. It still includes triple rivets and a full tang, keeping to the theme of traditional German design.

Finally, the Epicure collection offers a distinct look. The Richlite (a composite of recycled wood fibers) handle is elegant and super smooth. It still boasts exposed rivets but has only two instead of three. 

Chicago Cutlery designs vary by collection, too. Some, like the Insignia2 collection, look a lot like Wusthof knives, mimicking the German-style.

Other Chicago Cutlery designs boast a unique style, like the Malden collection. This collection has contoured stainless steel handles for maximum rust and stain resistance, while still offering maximum comfort. 

Overall, both brands offer a wide variety of designs, so you’re sure to find one that matches your style. Check out both brands on Amazon (Wusthof, Chicago Cutlery) to see each collection’s design.

Sharpness

Wusthof knives are sharpened to 14 degrees per side, 28 degrees in total. Chicago Cutlery knives are sharper out the box since they have a 13-degree angle per side, 26 degrees total. However, because they have a thinner edge, they’re more likely to chip or break.

Edge retention is more important than sharpness. Wusthof knives have some of the best edge retention in the cutlery industry due to their PEtec technology and unique steel blend.

You can buy the PEtec sharpener on Amazon, so you can easily resharpen your Wusthof knives back to their original edge. 

Chicago Cutlery knives don’t have as great of edge retention and will lose their sharpness quicker than Wusthof knives.

Durability

Durability is what earns Wusthof its high price tag. When you buy a Wusthof knife, it’s guaranteed to last for life. Their steel blend and lengthy crafting process contribute to the knife’s reliability. Wusthof delivers corrosion-resistant, hard, razor-sharp blades that are sturdy workhorses in the kitchen. 

Chicago Cutlery knives are discount knives, and their durability reflects that. Many reviews on Amazon state that Chicago Cutlery knives sometimes break in half. Not only is this dangerous, but it’s also disappointing.

Wusthof knives maintain their integrity due to the high-quality steel, full tang, thick blade, and strict manufacturing standards.

Chicago Cutlery knives have thinner blades (many of which are stamped), smaller (or non-existent) tangs, and are made in China with presumably less rigid manufacturing oversight.

Options

Both Wusthof and Chicago Cutlery offer several different knife collections.

Wusthof has several collections with a wide variety of sets and individual knives available. For example, the Classic collection includes over 80 pieces, and the Grand Prix II collection has over 25.

Chicago Cutlery also offers a wide selection of knives and knife sets. However, fewer individual knives are available.

For example, if you want a cook’s knife from Chicago Cutlery, you can only buy it from the Essentials, Walnut Tradition, or Damen collection. In contrast, Wusthof has cook’s knives (and most other knives) available in all their collections.

Below is a list of Wusthof and Chicago Cutlery’s most popular knife collections with links to Amazon to get more information:

Bottom Line: Should You Buy Wusthof of Chicago Cutlery Knives?

Now that you know all the important facts about Wusthof and Chicago Cutlery kitchen knives, it’s time to decide.

Should you spend more and get higher-quality Wusthof knives, or save on good-enough Chicago Cutlery knives.

Before I give you my recommendation, let’s briefly recap the pros and cons of each brand.

Wusthof Pros

  • Unique steel blend
  • Handles come in a wide variety of styles and durable, water and heat-resistant materials.
  • German tradition, made in Solingen, Germany (the City of Blades)
  • Rigorous manufacturing process
  • All knives have a full tang
  • Razor-sharp edges that stay sharp
  • Limited lifetime guarantee

Wusthof Cons

  • Expensive, especially for the higher-end collections like Epicure and Ikon
  • Limited selection of stamped blades

Chicago Cutlery Pros

  • High-carbon stainless steel blade
  • Variety of handle materials
  • Selection of forged and stamped blades
  • Range of designs
  • Sharp edges — 13-degree angle per side
  • Very affordable

Chicago Cutlery Cons

  • Made in China 
  • Customer reviews claim knives break in half, revealing no full tang
  • Many collections have stamped blades
  • Inferior edge retention
  • Not nearly as durable compared to Wusthof

Overall, both brands are top-rated, but for different reasons. Chicago Cutlery is a budget-friendly option. Wusthof is known and respected for its durability, performance, construction, and quality, and they are more expensive for a reason.

I strongly recommend choosing Wusthof over Chicago Cutlery. Although the initial investment is higher, Wusthof knives will last a lifetime, so the total cost of ownership is relatively low.

Unlike Chicago Cutlery knives, a Wusthof knife will never snap in half.

If you can’t afford a full set from Wusthof, start with one of two knives and add more later.

If you’re going to buy one knife, I recommend the Classic Chef’s knife, available on Amazon, because it’s the most versatile knife in Wusthof’s most popular collection. You can learn more about this collection in my recent in-depth review.

Chicago Cutlery knives are a decent low-cost option. They get the job done but don’t expect them to be your “forever” knives. As the saying goes, “you get what you pay for.”

Whether you’re ready to buy, or just want to read more reviews, you can check out both brands on Amazon at the links below:

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