Shun vs Cutco Knives

Shun vs Cutco: 2 Very Different Kitchen Knife Brands

By Bobby B.  |  November 18, 2019  | Kitchen Knife Comparisons

I have to admit, I was utterly surprised at first when I saw a request for this knife comparison.  I mean, these two knife brands almost couldn’t be more different from one another.  But, then I thought about how someone just googling about good knives might run into such a question.  In this article, we’ll explain the differences between these companies and which is a better fit for your home kitchen based on a few different qualifiers. 

Shun vs Cutco:  The Brands

As I mentioned above, these knife makers are very different.  And, please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying.  Both of them are fine knife brands and make good products.  It’s just that they go about manufacturing them differently, marketing differently, and even using different materials for different reasons. 

What it really boils down to is their respective target markets. 

Shun Knives logo

Shun Knives

Shun tends to market to the high-end.  Professional chefs, home cooks that care a great deal about their knives, and someone that wants the best for presentation, etc.  Shun Cutlery knives are made in Japan, a culture that prides itself on handmade, beautiful knives show-pieces.  Japanese knives tend to use very high-quality materials that can be made ultra-sharp.  The trade-off for this is some additional maintenance.  More on this in “the knives” section below. 

As for sales channels, Shun knives can be found at high-end boutique knife stores or purchased online.  We suggest for the best deals.

Cutco Cutlery logo

Cutco Knives

Conversely, Cutco tends to market their products to customers who are looking for high-quality, robust kitchen knives made in the USA.  Their knives aren’t cheap, but they’re built to last forever!   You don’t have to be as concerned about day to day maintenance with Cutco knives.  Again, more on this below.

Also different from Shun, Cutco knives are exclusively sold through their own sales channel.  Lucky for those of us that like to buy from a retailer, you can find most of their stuff for sale at Amazon now too.  I’m not sure if this is through Cutco or sold through specific sales personnel. 

Shun vs Cutco:  The Knives

Now for the important part, the knives.  While both manufactures make great knives, they are very different in where they’re made, how they’re made, and what materials are used in their construction.  This makes the knives from both brands unique, but it’s no accident why they’re different.  As I mentioned above, they’re both made for a very specific, very different audience.

Shun DMS1020 Classic Knife Set

Shun Knives

Shun knives are made with premium materials, especially the blades. Their blades are made of ultra-hardened steels so the thin blades can retain their edge for a long time.  This is great for keeping your blades sharp, but they are so thin that if you’re not careful and accidentally hit a large bone, they can chip. 

As far as the manufacturing process, Shun knives are forged, and handmade by skilled artisans in Japan and have been for a long time.  Quality is VERY important to this brand.

In addition, they need to be hand-washed and dried each time you use them due to the high carbon content.  It will oxidize if you’re not careful.  I don’t want to sound negative though…most higher-end knives need to be hand-washed.  It’s not just Shun knives.  If you’re interested in Japanese-style knives, you can’t go wrong with Shun.  They are high quality from a well-known brand.


Cutco Model 1945 Knife Block Set

Cutco Knives

Cutco knives by contrast are one of the few good knives made in America.  While that’s totally awesome, they are a stamped knife and not forged.  That being said, they are built to last and are offered with their “Forever Guarantee”.  It states that you’ll be happy with them or you can get your knife replaced.  That’s definitely worth paying a bit extra, right?

I guess that means you don’t have to worry about these knives chipping.  If they do, it sounds like you can submit a request online to have them replaced.  They are also dishwasher safe.  The trade-off for using a stainless steel that is not as hard has Shun’s is that it can be washed more conveniently.  

If they were my knives, I’d still consider (and Cutco actually recommends) hand-washing them or at least pulling them out and hand drying them as soon as they are done so the water doesn’t sit on them too long.

Shun vs Cutco:  The Conclusion

After taking the time to consider both brands, the question to compare, and the reasons why people might consider each, maybe they aren’t all that different after all.  I mean, they both make good knives and are popular brands in home kitchens around the world, even if for different reasons.  

Which Sound You Buy???

Well, you need to decide what you’re looking for in your knives. 

If you want great slicing knives that are super sharp and look AMAZING, perhaps Shun Cutlery fits your needs.  They’re a very nice Japanese-style knife that is sure to wow your friends and family!  Just keep in mind that you’ll need to be careful with the blades as well as wash and dry them by hand after each use.  

If convenience, value, and robustness are words that better describe the type of knives you’re looking for, Cutco might be a better fit in your kitchen.  This is probably the case for the majority of kitchens in the United States.  Cutco makes nice knives that last a long time.  They can seem relatively expensive for what you get however.  I believe this is a function of their go-to-market strategy that involves sales people.  In some cases, you can find good deals on Cutco knives on Amazon, but not always.

If you find both of these brands to be too expensive for your blood, consider taking a look at some more value-type brands we discuss on this site like Zelite and Dalstrong.