Chicago Cutlery Old Vs New: Are New Ones Really Better?

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Chicago Cutlery is one of the most famous knife brands in America.

In fact, they are often referred to as the “best American knife brand” available on the market today.

The company began all the way back in 1930 and is still alive today, selling quality knives to amateur cooks and professional chefs alike.

However, there is a lot of debate about whether their new models are up to par with the ones they released back in the day.

But is there any truth to this?

Old Chicago Cutlery knives were handmade with superior craftsmanship and steel, so the old models tend to be sharper, more durable, and better fit for the kitchen.

On top of that, old Chicago Cutlery knives were made with wooden handles, which gave it a more aesthetic look.

In this article, we’ll be looking at old Chicago Cutlery knives and new ones to see whether or not the old stock is really better.

Read on to learn more.

Related: Best Chicago Cutlery knives

Old Chicago Cutlery Knives New Chicago Cutlery Knives
Knife steel High-carbon steel High-carbon steel
Handle Wood Plastic and Stainless steel
Edge 15-degrees per side 15-degrees per side
Where are they made? USA China
Are they hand-made? Yes No

Chicago Cutlery: A Brief History

The roots of Chicago Cutlery can be traced all the way back to 1930 when the company started.

But at the time, they weren’t a knife manufacturer like we know them today.

Instead, the company started as a knife sharpening company, with its target market being butchers who worked in Chicago’s stockyards.

The company carried on as sharpening service for a while, but in the 1960s’, they began crafting their own blades and selling them on the market.

These blades were handcrafted and had wooden handles, which gave them a rustic yet professional aesthetic.

When they began crafting their own models, all of them were handcrafted in the USA.

To be more specific, they were originally made in Wacounda.

These models grew in popularity and turned the brand into one of the most popular manufacturers in the country.

However, as time went by, the company was acquired by a large kitchen brand conglomerate known as Corelle Brands.

Other brands under this conglomerate are Pyrex and Corningware.

And as the brand got bigger and bigger, they began to move their manufacturing to China.

Yes, all new Chicago Cutlery blades are currently made in China, which can be very misleading.

Since the brand literally has the name of its founding city in its title, many people still believe that their products are made in the USA.

Currently, the brand is known as a budget option for decent kitchen knives.

But did the quality of their blades begin to dip when they moved their manufacturing?

We’ll find out in the next section.

Chicago Cutlery: Old Vs. New

In this section, we’ll be comparing the features of the old models of the brand and the news to see their similarities, differences, and which is the better option.

The exact date when the company moved its manufacturing from the USA to China is unknown.

Still, many enthusiasts stand by the statement that the quality of these blades has diminished over the years.

So, to figure out if this is true, let’s dive into specific features and differences that people have noticed between the old and new stock of Chicago Cutlery.

The Steel

One of the main qualities of Chicago Cutlery knives that caused their rise in popularity in the 60s’ was the quality of their steel.

Again, it’s largely unknown now what specific steel was used for these blades, but most people agree that they were high-carbon and very durable.

With that said, many people also agree that these original blades were not stainless, so if not taken care of properly, they would rust.

Nowadays, though, these blades aren’t exactly known for their strength and durability.

The modern products released by the brand tend to use weaker steel that doesn’t hold its edge that long and overall isn’t that durable.

The Edge

Presently, the company claims that their knives are sharpened to a 13-degree angle on each side.

This should make for a very sharp blade, but many users say that this is not true.

A common complaint with modern products from the brand is that they aren’t that sharp right out of the box.

Granted, they will be sharp enough to cut through most ingredients, but there’s a huge difference compared to knives for other brands.

And since most old models have been resharpened multiple times, it can be hard to say whether this was always an issue, or it has only come about in recent years.

However, if you know how to sharpen a knife with a whetstone properly, you can always enhance the blade’s edge.

This can make a huge difference in the kitchen and is highly recommended if your blade isn’t that sharp.

The Handle

When the brand started, they were known for beautiful wooden handles on their blades.

One of the easiest ways to spot a vintage Chicago Cutlery blade is to check out the handle, and if it’s wooden, there’s a big chance it is an old model.

While there are still some newer models that have wooden handles, the brand now makes handles with various materials.

Some will have plastic handles; others will have stainless steel ones.
The brand also incorporates more modern designs in their handles, with contoured profiles to fit the hand better.
So, while the old models might have a more rustic look, the newer ones have a more ergonomic and modern feel.

Notable Collections

Let’s take a look at some of the best collections that the brand has to offer so you can figure out which one is the right pick for you.

These are the newer collections from the brand, so they are made in China.

And while they aren’t recommended for professional applications, they could still be fairly useful tools to have in a home kitchen.

Fusion

The Fusion collection is arguably one of their best in modern times.

It features a full-tang construction, modern designs, and a contoured handle that feels great in hand.

If you get the full-set, it also comes with a wooden knife block that can add a nice aesthetic to any kitchen.

This may be one of the more expensive sets that the brand has to offer, but it is also one of their best.

So, if you’ve been looking to get a set of Chicago Cutlery blades for yourself, the Fusion collection would be your best pick.

Essentials

The Essentials collection is not the best set of knives on the market.

However, they are very affordable and can still work fairly well in a home kitchen.

They boast a classic knife look, and the complete set comes with a very nice block for storage.

While they aren’t designed for heavy use, they are still a great pick for those looking to build a cheap knife collection for their kitchen.

Insignia

This is probably the most modern collection that the brand has to offer.

They have a satin finish and are made of high-carbon steel, which offers a very sleek and sophisticated look.

Even the handles on these knives are made of steel!

They are very lightweight, but this is a blessing and a curse.

The weight allows you to use the blades for a long time without feeling tired, but they could also feel flimsy and insufficient for some people.

But at the end of the day, this is still a great modern-looking set you can get on a budget.

Conclusion

So, there is some truth in the statement that old Chicago Cutlery knives are better than new ones.

They were made in the USA and were handcrafted, so you know that they paid close attention to detail when making them.

If you’re looking for a high-quality set from the brand, it would be best to scour the market and find old models that are still in good condition.

However, if all you need is a basic set of kitchen knives for your home while on a budget, some of their modern collections might still be of use to you.

And at the end of the day, as long as you enjoy using your knives, then you truly have the best set for you!

Last Updated on September 2, 2021

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My name is Andy Wang, and I'm a retired chef. I used to work at the City Vineyard restaurant in NYC. I also had a culinary degree from the Institute of Culinary Education in New York. And this blog is where I share my love for knives and cooking with people like you.