June 7, 2023

Last Updated: July 30, 2023

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Chicago Cutlery Knives: A Review of the Classic American Brand

By trk

Last Updated: July 30, 2023

American made knives, Chicago Cutlery knife sets, Chicago Cutlery knives, kitchen knife reviews

Chicago Cutlery is an economical brand of kitchen knives. Their traditional carbon steel walnut knives are the most well known, but they sell a huge array of other lines, as well. If you're looking for a large set of affordable knives, or any inexpensive kitchen knife, Chicago Cutlery is worth checking out.

We look at Chicago Cutlery history and manufacturing, review their most popular lines, and discuss the features and pros and cons of each. Plus, we include a short guide for buying kitchen knives.

Chicago Cutlery Knives at a Glance

Chicago Cutlery makes several lines of kitchen knives and their lineup changes frequently. All of them are affordable and mostly available in large sets, plus a few individual knives.

We're listing the most popular Chicago Cutlery lines that have the most buying options: forged in the top table and stamped in the table below. Then we list a few "other" lines for sale, but with just a few buying options, or not on the website and probably discontinued. 

Forged Lines



Chicago Cutlery Armitage Partoku and Paring Knife

-Forged high carbon stainless steel blade

-Full tang, full bolster

-13 degree double bevel

-Polymer contour grip handles with double rivet

-Just a few buying options.


16pc set w/block on Amazon (about $65)

Chicago Cutlery Avondale 4.5 Utility Knife

-Forged high carbon stainless steel blade

-Full bolster

-13 degree double bevel

-Contoured stainless/polymer handle

-16pc set is only buying option. 


Chicago Cutlery Belden 15pc set

-Forged high carbon stainless steel blade

-Full tang, partial bolster

-13 degree double bevel

-Contoured stainless/polymer handle

-Set includes shears but no honing steel

-15pc set is only buying option.

Chicago Cutlery Damen Paring Knife

-Forged high carbon stainless steel

-Full tang, full bolster

-13 degree double bevel

-Asian style, triple riveted polymer handle

-No sets available, just the pieces listed here.

Chicago Cutlery 17pc set w:block rotated

-CC's highest end line

-Forged high carbon stainless steel blade

-Full bolster

-13 degree double bevel

-Cushion grip handle

-Block set includes honing steel but no shears.

Insignia Steel

13pc set w/block on Amazon (about $65)

18pc set w/block + sharpener (about $135)

4pc steak knife set (about $35)

Chicago Cutlery Insignia Steel 13pc set

-One of CC's flagship lines

-Forged high carbon stainless steel blade

-Full tang, full and partial bolsters

-13 degree double bevel

-Patented guided grip handle for easy pinch grip

-Built-in sharpener in 18pc block

-Sets include shears but no honing steel

-13 piece set has 6 steak knives (not 8).

Insignia 2 (Classic)

18pc set w/block on Amazon (about $90)

18pc set w/block on Amazon (about $110)

Chicago Cutlery Insignia 18pc knife set

-One of CC's most popular lines

-Forged high carbon stainless steel blade

-Full tang, full and partial bolsters

-13 degree double bevel

-Contoured, triple-riveted polymer handle

-Sets include shears but no honing steel

-Block has built-in sharpener.


16pc set w/block on Amazon (about $80)

Chicago Cutlery Malden 16pc knife set

-Forged high carbon stainless steel blade

-Full and partial bolsters

-13 degree double bevel

-Contoured, ergonomic stainless steel handle

-Set includes shears but no honing steel

-Black ash block w/built-in sharpener.


12pc set w/block on Amazon (about $70)

Chicago Cutlery Racine 12pc set w:block

-Forged high carbon stainless steel

-Full tang, full bolster

-13 degree double bevel

-Contoured, riveted walnut handle

-Removable steak knife block

-Set does NOT include shears or honing steel.


Chicago Cutlery Signature knife set

-Forged high carbon stainless steel

-Full tang, partial bolster

-13 degree double bevel

-Patented guided grip walnut handle for easy pinch grip

-Set includes shears but no honing steel.

Stamped Lines




13pc set w/block on Amazon (about $100)

Chicago Cutlery Ellsworth 13pc set

-Stamped, stainless steel blades

-Full tang, no bolsters

-13 degree double bevel

-Contoured, triple riveted polymer handle

-Set includes 6 steak knives and shears

-Built-in sharpener in block.


15pc block set on Amazon (about $35)

Essentials buying options on Amazon

3pc chef knife set on Amazon (about $20)

(Santoku/partoku, utility, steak, serrated)

Chicago Cutlery Essentials santoku:partoku 2pc set

-Stamped stainless steel blades

-Full tang, no bolsters

-13 degree double bevel

-Contoured, triple riveted black polymer handle

-Steak knives are serrated.


14pc block set on Amazon (about $80)

Chicago Cutlery Prohold 14pc knife set

-Stamped stainless steel blades with nonstick coating

-Full tang, no bolsters

-13 degree double bevel

-Contoured, textured polymer handle that promotes correct grip

-Nested block/removable steak knife block.

Chicago Cutlery Walnut Tradition 3pc chef:paring:utility set

-The classic, original CC style

Stamped, high carbon 420 stainless steel blades

-Full tang, no bolsters

-Contoured, triple riveted wood handle

-Several buying options but no block sets available.

Other Lines

These are Chicago Cutlery lines that are not listed on their website but are still for sale at some retail sites, probably discontinued, but still available.

Burling: Forged, high carbon stainless steel, 13 degree double bevel, HRC 58, contoured stainless/polymer handle. Burling 14pc set (about $100) is only buying option; no honing steel in set.

Clybourne: High carbon stainless steel blade, brushed stainless handle. 3 piece chef/utility/paring knife set about $20.

Elston: Stamped, stainless steel blades with stainless handles. 13 degree double bevel, HRC about 58, contoured stainless handle. Elston 16pc set (about $85) is the only buying option. Includes shears, honing steel, and 8 steak knives.

Precision (aka Walnut Precision): Forged, high carbon stainless steel, 13 degree double bevel, HRC 58, contoured polymer handle (looks like wood). Precision 14pc set (about $70) is only buying option. Set includes shears and honing steel.

Prime: High carbon German stainless steel with stain resistant black oxide finish. Contoured steel/textured handle. 5 pc set with magnetic block about $50.

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About Chicago Cutlery

Chicago Cutlery Walnut Tradition paring knife

Traditional CC paring knife (about $18).

Chicago Cutlery began as a knife sharpening service in 1930. It was founded by two Italian immigrants, Sam Asadorian and Joe Prosek. When they saw the demand, they began manufacturing their own knives, which was the beginning of Chicago Cutlery as we know it today. If you grew up in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s, you probably recognize the Chicago Cutlery knife pictured here, as nearly every American home had one of them.

Beginning in the 1960s, the company went through several changes in ownership. It is currently owned by Corelle, a kitchen product conglomerate that owns such popular brands as Corelle, Corningware, Instant Pot, Pyrex, and more.  

In the early days of the company, all Chicago Cutlery knives were made in the United States (in Chicago, Illinois, of course) and were considered to be extremely high quality for stamped knives. With the ownership changes, they began shipping some of their lines overseas to lower production costs. Today, all Chicago Cutlery products are made in China. This is standard for large conglomerates looking to slash manufacturing costs and keep prices down. 

And yes, these changes in manufacturing have affected the quality of the brand. Chicago Cutlery is now known primarily as an affordable, mid-range knife company. Their products are economically priced--large sets range from about $40 up to about $150--and the quality is good, but not as good as higher end brands like Wusthof and Zwilling. This is likely because they use cheaper grades of steel, mostly plastic handles, and cut some corners with manufacturing (for example, they don't talk about any heat treatment/tempering to strengthen the blades).  

Still, when you buy Chicago Cutlery, you are certainly getting your money's worth. They have a lifetime warranty and though they may need more sharpening than more expensive knives, they're likely to last just as long.

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Who Are Chicago Cutlery Knives For?

Chicago Cutlery Insignia 2 18pc block set

CC Insignia block with built-in sharpener.

Chicago Cutlery is a utilitarian brand, meant to get the job done but not win any beauty contests. This makes them a good choice if you're on a budget or don't want to invest a lot in your kitchen knives. They aren't as high quality as brands like Wusthof and Zwilling, but they come with a lifetime guarantee and should last for a long time. 

Most (but not all) Chicago Cutlery lines come in large sets, from 12-18 pieces, so this is a good brand for people who want a lot of knives at once as well as a block to keep them in. 

Chicago Cutlery knives come in a huge range of styles, so there should be a line to fit just about every kitchen. From traditional wood handles to modern stainless steel to sleek all-black blades and handles, Chicago Cutlery offers several options. 

They make several modern storage blocks, with removable steak knife blocks that you can place on the table for serving. They also offer traditional wood blocks, some updated with a built-in sharpener, which makes these a good choice for people who hate sharpening their knives. 

We recommend avoiding some of the cheapest Chicago Cutlery knife sets and going with something a little higher end for not a lot more money. For an idea of the cost, a 17 piece block set of Fusion knives, Chicago Cutlery's highest end line, is about $130--less than what you'd pay for one Wusthof chef's knife. 

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What Steel Is Used in Chicago Cutlery Knives?

Chicago Cutlery uses a high carbon stainless steel called 420. According to the Knife User site, this is a low cost steel seen in many budget knife and tool brands. It is a strong steel with good corrosion resistance.

420 steel is fairly soft, which means it doesn't hold an edge for very long, but also means it's easy to sharpen. The softness makes 420 steel extremely durable.

These can be great knives as long as you're able to keep them sharp. Since they sharpen easily, you can use any type of sharpener that you prefer. Pull-through sharpeners will change the cutting angle from 13 degrees to 15 degrees, but since these are inexpensive knives you may not mind that too much (and although the 13 degree angle is a little sharper, you probably won't notice a change in performance).

See our Beginner's Guide to Knife Sharpeners for more information on sharpening.

Chicago Cutlery's cheapest stamped lines don't say "high carbon," they just say "stainless steel." We're not sure if they're made out of a different steel or if they're just marketed differently. We suspect that these lower priced lines use an even lower priced steel, but we can't say for sure. (However, this is why we recommend going with one of the higher end CC lines.)

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Interesting Features of Chicago Cutlery Knives

These are some interesting features of Chicago Cutlery knives.

13 Degree Cutting Angle

Traditionally, most Western knives have had a cutting angle of 15-20 degrees, but Chicago Cutlery knives have always had a cutting angle of 13 degrees on each side, or 26 degrees total (or "inclusive"). This thinner angle gives the knife a sharper feel, even if it's not any sharper than a 15 degree knife. 

If you use a 15 degree sharpener on a Chicago Cutlery knife, it will alter the cutting angle, but you probably won't notice the difference.


Chicago Cutlery does not disclose the hardness of their knives, but from what we know about 420 steel, we estimate the hardness to be about 50 HRC. This is significantly softer than some other, more expensive kitchen knives, but it is plenty hard enough for home cooks. Remember this steel will require more frequent sharpening than harder steels, but it is extremely durable and will provide many years of dependable use.

If their cheapest stamped knives use a different steel (which we suspect they do), it is probably an even softer steel.


Some Chicago Cutlery knives are astonishingly affordably priced. Essentials is one of their cheapest lines and you can get a 14 piece set for about $35; this may be a promotional price, but wow: that's low. And, they get surprisingly good reviews, too.

Once again, we recommend spending a little more and getting a higher quality line such as the Fusion, Insignia, or Walnut Tradition. You'll pay a little more, but you'll get better knives.


While the 420 steel used in Chicago Cutlery knives is durable, the mass manufacturing process used to make these knives may result in knives that are less durable than some more expensive, heat-treated and hand-finished brands.

Overall, Chicago Cutlery knives have extremely positive reviews on Amazon and elsewhere. However, a few users complained about knife blades breaking in half. While this is a rare occurrence, you are far more likely to see it happen in cheaper, mass-produced knives like Chicago Cutlery. 

Made in China

Somewhat ironically, Chicago Cutlery is a brand name that means nothing. That is, these knives are made in China, and no longer made in Chicago, USA. 

We've already stated this, but it's an interesting feature of the brand that should be called out so people know for sure that if they purchase this brand, they are no longer purchasing an American-made product.

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Chicago Cutlery Pros and Cons

  • Affordable
  • Large variety of sets and blades
  • High corrosion resistance
  • Comfortable handles
  • 13 degree cutting angle feels very sharp
  • Lifetime warranty.
  • Need more frequent sharpening than more expensive brands
  • Made in China
  • Some reports of blades breaking.

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Chicago Cutlery Knife Sharpeners

Chicago Cutlery Pull-Through Sharpener

CC Pull-through sharpener (about $11).

Chicago Cutlery makes one pull-through sharpener, as well as several steels that come with sets or are sold separately. The pull-through sharpener is about $11 at this writing, so it's a great deal, and probably the best way to maintain that unique 13-degree double bevel on your Chicago Cutlery knives. It has a suction cup on the bottom to keep it stable during sharpening.

At this price, we don't expect the sharpener to last, but if you have to replace it every few years, that's probably fair for the price. A lot of reviewers also said the suction broke fairly quickly.

If you have a honing steel to smooth out your blades frequently, you'll use the sharpener less and get more life out of it. You don't have to buy a Chicago Cutlery honing steel, but if you own kitchen knives, you must own one and use it frequently, especially on the softer Chicago Cutlery steel. 

Many Chicago Cutlery sets come with a honing steel--or even a sharpener built in to the storage block--but if you don't have one, you should invest in one as soon as possible. A honing steel is the best way to keep your knives in good working condition and maximize time between sharpening.

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What to Look For When Buying Kitchen Knives (A Buying Guide)

Knife Parts Diagram

Here's our guide to buying kitchen knives.

Sets Vs. Individual Knives

Chicago Cutlery Walnut Tradition 3pc chef:paring:utility set

CC Walnut Tradition chef, boning, paring knife set (about $30).

There's no right or wrong answer, but before you buy a large set, you should be sure you need (and will use) all the pieces in the set. Most cooks really only need three knives: a chef's knife, a paring knife, and a bread knife. Everything else is extra.

This is not to say you can't benefit from having more knives. Some people will prefer a santoku to a chef's knife and a utility knife to a paring knife, or have other preferences. Having a variety of knives to choose from can be a good thing, especially if you're new to cooking and still exploring all the possibilities.

It's also nice to get steak knives with your set, at least if you eat steak (or other meat). But before you buy the largest set you find, think about what knives you'll really use.

But if you want to start out with just the basics, a great way to go is the Walnut Tradition 3 piece set (about $30) with a chef's knife, a boning knife, and a paring knife. These are high carbon stainless steel and are a great way to start your knife collection (you may not need any more for many years).

The Blade

The blade is probably the most important consideration when buying a knife. You want something sharp, that will last and resist corrosion. Here are a few things to look at when buying. 

Forged or Stamped?

Chicago Cutlery Damen Paring Knife

Forged knife: see the bolster?

Zwilling Gourmet chef's knife

Stamped knife: no bolster.

A forged knife is made from a piece of heated steel under great pressure. The blade is thicker at the top and tapers to a thin edge. Forged knives have a bolster (full or partial), which is an area of wider steel where the blade meets the handle; this adds weight, improves balance, and protects your fingers. Forged knives also typically have a full tang, but not always. (The tang is the part of the blade that runs through the handle; a full tang improves balance and adds strength to the knife.)

A stamped knife blade is cut from a steel sheet. It has a uniform thickness throughout (except where the edge is sharpened), and typically has no bolster or tang, although some Chicago Cutlery stamped knives do have a full tang.

Stamped knives are usually lighter than forged knives (which some people prefer), and have a different feel. 

Forged blades tend to be stronger than stamped blades because heating toughens steel, plus there's a bolster that adds thickness and weight. However, many stamped knives are strong enough for kitchen use, and of good quality. Chicago Cutlery makes a few stamped knives with a full tang to provide good balance and increase strength. The Chicago Cutlery Walnut Tradition line--their original line--is an excellent example of a high quality stamped blade.

Steel Type and Hardness

Type: We discussed Chicago Cutlery steel type above. The most desirable knife steel today--at least for most home cooks--is high carbon stainless steel. This is a hard, durable steel that resists corrosion and is easy to sharpen. 

There are many types of high carbon stainless steel, and some are higher quality than others. Chicago Cutlery's 420 steel is a very popular mid-quality steel that's durable and easy to sharpen, but can't hold a sharp edge as long as some other high carbon stainless knife steels. However, if you want something that holds an edge longer, you will have to pay considerably more for it.

Hardness: Knife steel hardness is measured by the  Rockwell Scale in HRC units. Kitchen knife hardness can vary widely, from about 50 HRC up to 63 HRC (or even higher for some expensive Japanese brands). In general, Western (German) knives are less sharp and more durable, and Japanese knives are more sharp but also more brittle and prone to chipping. For most cooks and most cutting tasks, the best hardness is somewhere in the middle, from 53-58 HRC.

Chicago Cutlery does not disclose their hardness, but some sources say 420 steel has a hardness rating of just 50 HRC. This doesn't mean a Chicago Cutlery knife isn't sharp; it means that it will dull fairly quickly compared to knives with a higher hardness rating. As with steel type, if you want harder knives you will have to pay more for them. A knife with a low hardness rating can still be very sharp, so you're not getting a dull knife. It will just need to be sharpened more often than a harder knife. 

Cutting Angle

The cutting angle is the angle, or bevel, at which the knife is sharpened. The most common angle for kitchen knives today is 15 degrees each side, or 30 degrees inclusive. 

Chicago Cutlery knives are sharpened to 13 degrees each side (26 degrees inclusive). This gives them a slightly sharper feel than most other Western/German kitchen knives. 

The cutting angle isn't an important consideration for buying, as you'll get used to whatever knife you buy. But it becomes important for sharpening, at least if you want to keep a knife's original cutting angle. Many people don't care, especially with inexpensive knives, and sharpen all their knives to 15 degrees, or whatever angle their pull-through knife sharpener is. But if you know your knife's angle, you can choose whether you want to keep it or not.

Shape, Size, Weight, and Balance

Even if we look just at chef's knives (the most essential kitchen knife), we'll see a huge variety of shapes, sizes, lengths, weights, and balance. So while it's true that you'll get used to whatever knives you buy, you may want to try several different knives just to get a feel for what's out there and what works best for you

For example, some people like a heavy knife, and some people like a light knife. And, some people prefer a standard 8-inch blade, while others like a longer (or shorter) blade. And, some people like a knife with more weight in the blade than in the handle, or vice versa, while others like a knife to be perfectly balanced.

There are no wrong answers, only preferences. If you're new to kitchen knives and trying to figure out what you like, we recommend trying several different knives. You can even try santokus, which many people prefer to a Western style chef's knife (a santoku has a flat blade and requires a different chopping style than a curved Western chef's knife).

Handle Material, Shape and Size

The handle is the other major consideration when buying a knife. A handle should fit your hand well and be made of a material that is both durable and comfortable to hold. 

Most knife handles are made to be comfortable in most hands, but if you have particularly large or small hands, you may have to try a few before you find one that fits. 

If a handle doesn't fit your hand well, the knife will be hard to use, causing strain and fatigue or even blisters.

Look for a smooth handle without protruding rivets or rough edges. 

And what the handle is made from isn't particularly important unless you're looking for NSF certification, which is only required in professional kitchens. Both wood and synthetic handles can be beautiful and comfortable.

Synthetics come in a wide range of quality, from soft plastic that melts and crack easily to resin polymers that are both beautiful and extremely durable. Some synthetic handles, including some Chicago Cutlery handles, have a soft, textured, rubber-like feels great in the hand and also helps with grip. 

There are a lot of options. So as with blades, we recommend trying a lot of different styles before you decide what's best for you. 

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About Chicago Cutlery Scissors/Kitchen Shears

Chicago Cutlery shears

CC kitchen shears (about $11).

Chicago Cutlery also makes a set of kitchen shears that are quite affordable. These shears are about $11, and come with a built-in bottle opener, screwdriver, and teeth to help you with hard-to-open bottles. They're usable by both left- and right-handed people and are made from high carbon stainless steel. They twist apart easily for easy cleaning.

Some reviewers complained that they aren't the same quality as their old CC shears, that they fall apart easily, and that they rusted. 

However, at that price they're probably worth a try if you're in the market for kitchen shears.

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Recommended Chicago Cutlery Knives


Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17pc knife set

17pc block set on Amazon (about $130)

17pc block set + sharpener (about $140)

6pc steak knife set on Amazon (about $40)

6pc steak knife set + sous vide (about $140)

Chicago Cutlery's top knife line. Forged high carbon stainless steel. Several buying options.

Insignia Classic ("Insignia 2")

Chicago Cutlery Insignia 2 18pc block set

18pc set w/block on Amazon (about $90)

18pc set w/block on Amazon (about $110)

One of the most popular Chicago Cutlery lines. High carbon stainless steel. There is also an Insignia Steel line, but we prefer the Classic.

Walnut Tradition

Chicago Cutlery Walnut Tradition 3pc chef:paring:utility set

See all buying options on Amazon

The classic Chicago Cutlery knife. Mostly individual knives or small sets. The three piece chef knife set (pictured) is a great beginner set for any kitchen.

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Other Affordable Knife Brands

There are many other affordable knife brands to choose from if you don't like Chicago Cutlery. Here are a few we like:

Dexter Knives--made in the USA and great quality for the price. See our Dexter review for more information.

Victorinox Knives--A Swiss brand and a huge favorite of many chefs, including America's Test Kitchen chefs. Probably closest in quality to Chicago Cutlery.

Misen Knives--Not as low priced as Chicago Cutlery or Victorinox, but affordable for high quality German steel knives. 

Dalstrong Knives--Marketed as affordable, but you'll pay at least $80 for a chef's knife. A huge variety of styles and shapes, including some unique blades. Made in China but good quality. See our Dalstrong review for more information.

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Chicago Cutlery FAQs

Are Chicago Cutlery Knives Good Quality?

Chicago Cutlery knives are considered a mid-range brand, meaning they are not the highest quality kitchen knives on the market, but they aren't the lowest, either. They are an affordable brand with a lifetime warranty that the company seems pretty good about honoring.

Where Are Chicago Cutlery Knives Made?

At one time all Chicago Cutlery knives were made in the USA. Today, manufacturing has moved to China, so all CC products are made in China today.

Are Chicago Cutlery Knives Easy to Sharpen?

Yes, Chicago Cutlery knives are easy to sharpen. The 420 steel is pretty soft, so the knives are both durable and easy to sharpen. The flip side of that is that they don't hold an edge very long, but this is to be expected at this affordable price point (and not a huge flaw, especially with built-in knife sharpeners that come in many CC block sets).

Where Can You Buy Chicago Cutlery Knives?

You can buy Chicago Cutlery in several retail settings such as Target, Wal-Mart, and Bed, Bath & Beyond. You can also buy them online at Amazon and other retailers, as well as at the Chicago Cutlery website. We've found that prices at Amazon and Wal-Mart tend to be lowest.

What Is the Chicago Cutlery Return Policy?

Chicago Cutlery has a 90 day return policy on all their products. The product must be unused and in its original packaging. You will have to pay for shipping, plus a small return fee (usually $8).

Or, if you buy at any retail outlet, you can return your knives there per their return policy.

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Final Thoughts on Chicago Cutlery Knives

Chicago Cutlery has roots in the USA, but today all products are made in China. They are an affordably priced brand that is best for people on a budget or those who don't want to spend a lot of money on kitchen knives. They are sharp, durable, and come with a lifetime warranty. The steel is softer than you'll find on some more expensive brands, so you'll have to sharpen them more often. We recommend the Fusion, Insignia Classic, and Walnut Tradition lines as their highest quality and with the most buying options.

If you just want to get the job done, Chicago Cutlery knives are a great choice. 

Thanks for reading!

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About the Author

The Rational Kitchen (TRK) is a collaborative effort, but the founder, editor, and writer of most of our articles is Melanie Johnson, an avid cook, kitchenware expert, and technical communications specialist for more than 20 years. Her love of cooking and the frustrating lack of good information about kitchen products led her to create The Rational Kitchen. TRK's mission is to help people make the best decisions they can when buying kitchen gear. 

When not working on product reviews, Melanie enjoys reading, playing with her dog Ruby, vintage video games, and spending time outdoors and with her family.

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