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Cutco Cutlery Knives | Kitchen Knife Review

Cutco Cutlery Homemaker SetOne question I get asked pretty frequently is… “What about Cutco Knives — are they any good?” You’ll notice that we don’t talk about Cutco much around OnlyKnives.

But I wouldn’t want anyone to think that’s because we’ve forgotten about them. So, with that in mind, here’s my personal opinion about Cutco cutlery. Take it with a grain of salt — I’m just one guy who happens to write a lot about knives. Your mileage may vary, you may respectfully disagree, and/or you may sell Cutco knives for a living.

First off, let’s get something out of the way… I’m not a fan of Cutco knives. I’ll spend some time explaining why that’s the case but, if you’re looking for a reason to buy these knives, you’re probably best off looking elsewhere. When I’m done explaining why I don’t like these knives, I’ll provide some alternatives that I prefer.

Vector Marketing

No discussion of Cutco would be complete without talking about Vector Marketing. Cutco is Vector’s creation, and Vector is the company behind marketing Cutco’s products.

And herein lies my first problem with Cutco. Instead of selling knives through kitchen retailers such as Williams Sonoma, Vector has opted to go “door to door.” They do this by hiring sales associates and paying them commissions on successful sales. Not a terrible idea from Vector’s perspective — motivated salespeople make excellent pitchmen.

But any commission-based sales program can be problematic. Will commission-based sales reps give out the whole story even if it would cost them a sale? Are the sales reps fully qualified to sell the product they represent? Selling high-end knives requires an in-depth understanding of metallurgy that many salespeople do not possess.

Another problem with going “door to door” is that a potential customer may be a friend, acquaintance or colleague of the salesperson. This adds to the pressure to buy and discourages the customer from asking tough questions. Many Cutco buyers are unfamiliar with high-end knives and of the science that goes into making a knife, so it’s easy for them to misinterpret claims that a salesperson might make.

Sharp Knives are a Revelation

My next complaint with Cutco is something of a mixed bag. Cutco preaches the value of keeping your kitchen knives sharp. Anyone who knows anything about knives will agree with that sentiment. So, on some level, I’ve got to give credit to Cutco for spreading a message that I strongly agree with. I’ll go as far as to say that Cutco is pioneering a very positive trend — exposing home cooks to the benefits of very sharp knives is something to be commended for.

The problem with it is… since they’re sold door-to-door, Cutco’s are often compared to a customer’s existing kitchen knives. And since many home cooks have dinged those up and have done limited maintenance on them over time, Cutco comes off pretty darn good by comparison. A sales technique sometimes employed by Cutco reps is to bring along a set of last-generation Henckels knives. These Henckels are hardly state-of-the-art so, once again Cutco comes off looking good. And, since everyone’s heard of Henckels, this can be a powerful message.

After getting their hands on a Cutco, many home chefs will become converts — themselves espousing on the virtues of using a very sharp knives in the kitchen. And a few hundred bucks later, they’re the proud owners of a new set of Cutco knives. In that context, did they get an upgrade from their existing knives? Maybe so. But had they done their research, or compared the Cutcos side-by-side to an equivalently priced set of high-end knives, they might’ve been surprised to discover that their new knives are not regarded so highly by most experts.

The “Double D Edge”

Cutco knives employ a patented “Double D” recessed edge. As far as I can tell, the Double D most closely resembles a serrated edge and therefore shares some of the pros and cons of serrations.

I’m no fan of serrated edges, except for maybe slicing a loaf of bread. For most kitchen tasks, in my opinion, a razor-sharp straight edge is more appropriate. Imagine zooming in on a knife’s edge by about 800%. A high-end kitchen Chef’s knife should look like a scalpel — razor-sharp and unblemished with indentations — a finely-tuned instrument designed for delicate, precise cutting.

Serrations are exactly the opposite — jagged teeth designed to grip and rip at food, potentially damaging it in the process. Using a serrated knife to cut a tomato is like using a chainsaw to whittle a marshmallow stick. It’ll get the job done, sure, but I’d hate to be that delicate tomato after a serrated edge has had its way.

The other problem with serrations is that they’re difficult for a home user to sharpen. Despite some folks claim to the contrary, serrated edges certainly do wear down over time. The serrations mask quite a bit of that wear — as long as the teeth are intact, the knife will continue to tear its way through your food.

But when they do eventually need sharpening, you’ll need to send them back to the factory. I like to sharpen my own knives, so this may be more of a concern for me than it is for you. And, mitigating this concern somewhat, Cutco — like many other makers of high-priced knives — provides lifetime re-sharpening for only the cost of return shipping.

Cutco Cutlery Steel

Cutco blades are made from 440A stainless steel. 440A is not exactly tin foil, but it’s by no means a high-end steel. 440A is often used by knife manufacturers in their “value” knives, when cost is their biggest concern. Consumers should think twice before choosing any knife that uses 440A, let alone one that’s very expensive.

440A can be made sharp, no doubt. But its chemical makeup means that it will not hold a sharp edge over time. High-end kitchen cutlery is typically made from any number of harder high-carbon steels such as 440C, X50CrMo15, SG-2 or VG-10. Any of these are better choices than 440A for hardness, sharpness and edge retention.

When no high-end kitchen cutlery maker is using 440A steel, it’s a good sign that this material is inappropriate for expensive knives.

Alternatives


If you’re considering a set of Cutco knives, you’re about to drop a pretty penny on a set of knives. This can be a great event — owning a high-end set of kitchen knives is a very satisfying experience. Owning great knives will make you want to cook more, can give you added confidence in the kitchen and can lead to increased awareness of ingredients and cooking tools.

For that kind of money, though, I’d recommend any number of high-end brands instead. One such set of knives are Shun Classic knives. The Classics are extremely sharp, require just a delicate touch to slice effortlessly through foods, and are gorgeous showpieces that any professional chef would be proud to own.

Less-expensive, but impressive alternatives, such as the R.H. Forschner Knives by Victorinox are discussed at length in our guide to Kitchen Knives for Any Budget guide.

More Info

It’s probably pretty clear by now that I’m no fan of these knives. If you want to learn more about kitchen knives, I’d suggest you check out our Kitchen Knife Guide.

You won’t read anything about Cutco in that guide so, if you want a second opinion on Cutco, I’d suggest you look elsewhere. Be careful where you look, though. Search around a bit and you’re going to find eager supporters and sales reps chiming in with tons of emotionally-charged opinions.

Personally, I’d suggest you seek out the advice of an expert. For example, here is knife guru Chad Ward’s opinion on Cutco. Chad’s the author of An Edge in the Kitchen – The Ultimate Guide to Kitchen Knives, so he knows what he’s talking about!

Alternatively, seek out a professional chef’s advice at KnifeForums’ kitchen forum or read a few of the well thought-out nuggets in this thread at Chow.com.


Cutco on eBay: