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Dexter Knives: An Affordable Brand for Your Kitchen (But Are They Any Good?)

By trk

Last Updated: July 30, 2023

affordable kitchen knives, best affordable kithen knives, Dexter knives, Dexter-Ressell kitchen knife review

Dexter knives are an affordable brand used widely in the foodservice industry. Dexter chef's, fillet, and boning knives in particular are quite popular in professional kitchens, and are growing in popularity for home use, too. And most of them are made in the USA!

Dexter offers more than 1,000 styles of knives and other utensils, including several specialty knives and outdoor knives. We take a look at this fascinating American brand and talk about its history, features, quality, pros and cons, highest rated and most popular knives, and more.

Dexter Knives at a Glance

Here are the Dexter knives sold to the home market. There are a few other lines made for the food industry which we aren't reviewing. All of these lines are made in the USA of proprietary DexSteel, which we can't find a lot of detailed information about. We're guessing the hardness rating of DexSteel to be somewhere around 56-58 HRC.

Dexter Line


-Heat-treated high carbon DexSteel blade

-Cutting angle of about 15 degrees (30 deg total)

-Ergonomic slip-resistant handle 

-6 colors: black, red, yellow, blue, green, purple

-11 knife styles, incl. chef, santoku, paring, boning

-NSF certified

-Made in USA

-About $15-$30.

Dexter Basics chef knife

-Stamped, heat-treated high carbon steel blade (400 series steel)

-Cutting angle of about 15 degrees (30 deg total)

-Slip resistant polypropylene handle

-Black or white handle 

-Several knives, spatulas, servers, and peelers

-NSF certified


-Dexter's most affordable line, about $7-$30

Dexter Connoisseur slicer knife

-Heat-treated high carbon steel or DexSteel 

-Full tang forged blades

-Cutting angle of about 15 degrees (30 deg total)

-Slip resistant recycled plastic handle

-100% recycled packaging

-Chef, santoku, slicer, boning, and carving forks

-NSF certified

-Made in USA

-Dexter's highest end line about $35-$150.

Dexter Duoglide chef knife

-Stamped, heat-treated high carbon DexSteel

-Cutting angle of about 15 degrees (30 deg total)

-Designed for increased control and to prevent hand fatigue

-Ecogrip 100% recycled plastic slip resistant handle

-NSF certified

-Made in USA

-Paring, utility, chef, and bread knife, about $30-$70.

Dexter Icut Pro chef knife

-Forged high carbon German steel blade (X50CRMOV15)

-Full tang, most have full bolster (not santoku)

-About 15 degree cutting angle (30 deg total)

-Slip resistant POM (synthetic) handle

-NSF certified

-Chef, santoku, slicer, paring, bread

-About $25-$60.

Dexter SaniSafe chef knife

-Stamped, heat-treated high carbon DexSteel blade

-Cutting angle of about 15 degrees (30 deg total)

-Ecogrip 100% recycled plastic slip resistant handle

-NSF certified

-Made in USA

-Many pieces available in HACCP food safety colors (white, blue, green, yellow, red, tan, purple)

-Dozens of buying options, $20-$200 (for a set).

Dexter Sofgrip 10 chef knife

-Stamped, heat-treated high carbon DexSteel blade

-Cutting angle of about 15 degrees (30 deg total)

-Soft rubber handle to prevent hand fatigue

-NSF certified

-Made in USA

-Dozens of pieces available, lots of specialized paring knives and utility knives, $20-$200 (set).

Dexter Traditional chef knife

-Stamped, heat-treated high carbon DexSteel or high carbon steel blade (varies by knife)

-Cutting angle of about 15 degrees (30 deg total)

-Natural rosewood handle

-NSF certified

-Made in USA

-Hundreds of specialty knives and spatulas, about $20-$200 (for a set)

-Dexter's oldest line and most complete line.

Dexter V-Lo chef knife

-Stamped, heat-treated high carbon DexSteel blade

-Cutting angle of about 15 degrees (30 deg total)

-Patented dual-texture handle

-NSF certified

-Made in USA

-Chef, paring, utility, boning, fillet, bread, carving forks, and sets available

-About $15-$300 (for set).

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About the Dexter-Russell Company 

Dexter was founded in 1818 in Southbridge, Massachusetts by Henry Harrington. In 1834, John Russell founded the John Russell Cutlery Company. These two companies merged in 1933 and eventually became known as Dexter-Russell. Since that time, Dexter-Russell has sold countless millions of knives and introduced several innovative products, including the Sani-Safe series in 1941, which is still considered the sanitary gold standard in the foodservice industry today; and the Dexter offset bread/sandwich knife in 1994. 

Dexter-Russell is best known in the foodservice industry for their affordable, NSF-certified cutlery and other utensils. The company makes more than 1,000 styles of knives and other utensils, including serving forks, serving spoons, spatulas, spreaders, pizza cutters, and more. They make several specialty knives such as craft knives, leather knives, seafood knives, and rubber knives (for cutting rubber). And, they make several different steels for sharpening blades, plus a few other types of blade sharpeners.

The company is still based in Massachusetts, where it makes most of its knives. It has 250 employees and an annual revenue of about $42 million.

Dexter makes a few other lines listed on their website as for industrial use, but all available for purchase by any buyer.

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What Steel Is Used in Dexter-Russell Knives?

Dexter knives uses three different steels: carbon steel, stainless steel, and DexSteel. Here's some information about each of these.

We also look at a few other aspects of Dexter knives, including heat treatments and blade grind.

Carbon Steel

Dexter Traditional narrow fillet knife carbon steel

Dexter Traditional fillet knife: carbon steel.

Carbon steel is an iron-carbon alloy that contains 0.05-2.1 percent carbon by weight. Carbon steel is fairly easy to shape and sharpen, and will keep a sharp edge. However, carbon steel rusts easily, so these knives require more maintenance than stainless steel alloys. Over time, carbon steel dulls and discolors permanently, although this does not affect its performance. 

Because of its ability to keep a sharp edge, carbon steel is the preferred blade material by many professional chefs. If you choose carbon steel, you have to remember to wash and dry the knives after every use, or they will rust. 

Dexter uses carbon steel on some of their knives, including these:

When you buy Dexter knives, make sure you're getting the type of steel you want: Some of their product lines use more than one steel type, and there's no way to know the blade's type of steel used except by looking for it in the product listing. 

Dexter calls their carbon steel knives "high carbon steel." So in the product listing, carbon steel will typically be listed this way (high carbon steel). 

Stainless Steel

Dexter Icut Pro chef knife

Dexter iCut-Pro chef's knife: stainless steel (X50CrMoV15).

Stainless steel is an alloy of iron, chromium, nickel, and molybdenum and contains less than 1.2 percent carbon. Stainless steel blades are highly resistant to corrosion, but softer than carbon steel so they require more frequent sharpening.

Most knives sold to home users are made of high carbon stainless steel, which has more carbon than, say, stainless steel cookware, but not as much as high carbon steel (also known as just carbon steel). The higher carbon content helps blades retain their edge, yet they still have excellent corrosion resistance (unlike carbon steel). 

Dexter makes some of their knife lines out of stainless steel, such as the iCut-Pro line, which uses a high carbon German stainless steel (X50CRMOV15). This is an excellent quality stainless steel that contains chromium, molybdenum, and vanadium for toughness and corrosion resistance. In fact most German knife companies, including Wusthof and Henckels, use this steel for knives sold to the home market. It has a hardness rating of about 56-58 HRC.

In product listings, Dexter calls these knives "stainless steel," so they are easy to find. 

There are some other Dexter knives that use stainless steel besides the iCut-Pro line, but blade material can vary even in the same lines, and we're not sure which other lines contain stainless steel knives.

Dexter may also use different types of stainless steel than X50CrMoV15, but we haven't found any.


Dexter 360 chef knife purple

Dexter 360, Connoisseur, Duoglide, SofGrip, Sani-Safe, V-Lo, and some pieces from other lines are made with DexSteel. 

For most of their knives--in particular their American-made knives--Dexter-Russell uses a proprietary steel alloy called DexSteel™. DexSteel contains stainless steel and carbon steel, and is most likely a 400 Series steel (which most cutlery is made with). DexSteel is considered a high carbon stainless steel. This means it's hard enough to hold an edge will, and will resist corrosion but can rust if not washed and dried after use.

Dexter's 360, Connoisseur, Duoglide, SofGrip, Sani-Safe, V-Lo, and some knives from other lines are made with DexSteel.

Because DexSteel is proprietary, we can't say with certainty what elements it contains. We can say that it is a fairly hard, flexible, tough steel with a fine grain that holds an edge well. Because of its high carbon content, it's less corrosion resistant than some other high carbon stainless steel knives on the market. But if you take good care of them, washing and drying after use, Dexter knives will last many decades.

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Who Are Dexter Knives For?

Dexter knives are widely used in the food industry, so you'll see them in restaurants, food packaging companies, butcher shops and meat processing plants, seafood processors, and the like. They are designed to be tools that help professionals get the job done. They are utilitarian, and not meant to be pretty or impressive. 

There's not a lot of status to using Dexter knives, but for people who care mainly about the work and not about owning something fancy or pretty, Dexter is an excellent choice. 

Dexter is also an excellent choice for people on a tight budget. Their knives are economically priced, with a chef's knife going for around $30-$50 and paring knives starting at less than $10. 

Dexter knives are easy to care for. The blades are easy to sharpen, with a hardness rating around 55-58 HRC (our estimate; Dexter does not share this information). This means they're durable, and great for just about every kitchen task, including cutting bones and hard foods. Most Dexter handles are synthetic, with great grip and easy care instructions. So if you're looking for a knife that can take a lot of use and abuse and doesn't need to be coddled, Dexter should certainly be on your list.

Then there's variety: Dexter makes more than 1,000 unique designs, so if you're looking for something uncommon or geared to a very specific purpose (including oyster knives, rubber knives, sheep skinning knives, and many more), Dexter probably has it. If you take a look at Dexter's product lines, you're almost sure to see knives and other tools you've never heard of before (kind of a fun read). 

Overall, Dexter knives probably aren't going to win any beauty contests, but they're kitchen workhorses that will provide many years of service at an affordable price. 

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Features of Dexter Knives

Heat Treatments

Dexter-Russell also uses a heat treatment on most of their steels which enhances the blade's strength, resistance to wear, flexibility, and corrosion resistance. Such a heating/cooling process reduces the grain size of the blade, which results in a stronger, more flexible, more corrosion-resistant blade that holds an edge longer. Such heat treatments are done by many top quality knife makers to strengthen the blade.

Blade Grind

Knife Blade Grinds diagram

Types of grind on knife blades: Dexter uses the full hollow grind for extreme sharpness.

Grind refers to how an edge is applied to the blade. This is important because different grinds offer different feels and retain an edge differently. 

Dexter knives have a hollow ground blade, which makes for superb sharpness, but also can make a blade more fragile than other grinds (which you can see in the image above from, where you can read more about the different grinds.) However, the steel Dexter uses is on the soft side, so fragility isn't an issue for their blades. The hollow grind is a perfect complement to the steel used in Dexter knives. 

NSF Certification

NSF stands for National Sanitation Foundation. The NSF is a nonprofit testing agency established to enforce standards for food sanitation and safety. It was founded in 1944.

NSF certification for knives means that a knife meets all the requirements for food sanitation and safety. Such a knife is eligible for work in a restaurant or other kitchen that produces food for sale to the public.

From the Dexter website

NSF certification assures suppliers, retailers, regulators and consumers that an independent organization has reviewed a product’s manufacturing process and determined that the product complies with specific standards for safety, quality, sustainability or performance. From extensive product testing and material analyses to plant inspections and auditing, every aspect of a product's development is evaluated.

To the average consumer, this isn't all that important. Most people are going to buy based on which knives they like or needand not on NSF certification. But restaurants are required to use NSF certified equipment to keep the possibility of food contamination as low as possible. 

Most knives with NSF certification have synthetic handles, because wooden handles can harbor bacteria and other food pathogens more easily--but some wood handled-knives are eligible for NSF certification, including Dexter Traditional knives.

NSF certification is something the maker has to apply for, so not all knives that could be NSF certified are.

A lot of makers don't bother, especially if their knives are sold primarily to home users. But because Dexter-Russell knives have a large food industry market, all of their lines are NSF certified.

If you're concerned about food pathogens in your kitchen, a Dexter knife is a good choice. Most higher end knife brands sold to home consumers do not have NSF certification.


One of the most interesting features of Dexter-Russell knives is the sheer variety of knives and other utensils that they make. They have more than 1,000 different designs on their website.

They make all the basic knives: chef's knives, paring, utility, bread, slicer, fillet, boning, santoku, and more. And, they make them in several different lengths and designs.

But they also make a number of specialty knives, including butcher knives, Chinese cleavers, cheese knives (several styles), skinning knives, leather knives, rubber knives, pizza knives, seafood knives, mezzalunas, and more. In addition, they make several utensils, including several styles of spatulas, turners, spreaders, serving forks, serving spoons, peelers, and more. 

A look through their website, online catalog, or PDF catalog is a lot of fun (though you'll probably find the best prices on Amazon).

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Do Dexter Knives Come in Sets?

Most Dexter knives are sold singly, but there are some sets available. Many of the sets come in rolls, such as those a chef would use to carry his tools with him when he travels. Or they come in disposable packaging, without a roll or block to store them.

Dexter sells some blocks, but there aren't a lot to choose from. Here are the Dexter sets sold on Amazon, and here's a look at all the sets on their website.

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Dexter Knives Pros and Cons

Dexter makes so many different knives and uses so many different materials, it's hard to give an accurate picture of all the pros and cons. But here's a broad overview.

  • Affordable yet good quality
  • NSF certified (hygienic)
  • Large variety to choose from, including a lot of specialty knives
  • Most are made in the USA
  • Good enough quality to last for many years.
  • Many Dexter knives have a high carbon content, so they can rust (wash and dry after use!)
  • Steel is on the soft side (though very durable)
  • Few sets available.

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Sharpening Dexter Knives

Dexter 3 rod knife sharpener

Dexter 3-rod knife sharpener.

Dexter sells several steels to keep blades sharp. Here is their procedure for using a sharpening steel.

They also sell an affordable handheld sharpener and a three rod sharpener with different grits for all your sharpening needs. Each rod is replaceable (a great feature).

Or, if you have a large foodservice business and need to sharpen several knives at a time, you might be interested in their Ross-1 robotic sharpener.

Interestingly, Dexter doesn't sell whetstones to sharpen their knives like many manufacturers do. But the good news is that you can use just about any sharpening system to keep Dexter knives sharp, including a whetstone, guided rod system, or pull-through sharpener (manual or electric). With 15 degree cutting angles on each side, most sharpening systems will work.

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Popular Dexter Knives

Dexter sells more than 1,000 knives and cooking utensils, so it's impossible to review them all. Here are a few of their best-selling and highest rated knives.

See all Dexter knives on Amazon, or see Dexter's online catalog (but prices are almost always better on Amazon).

Boning and Fillet Knives

Dexter boning and fillet knives are popular for meat and seafood processing. Their plastic-handled knives sell very well in these industries because they perform well, sharpen easily, and are easy to keep clean (and are NSF certified).

Dexter Sofgrip Fillet Knife with Edge Guard

Dexter 8in. Sofgrip Fillet Knife with Edge Guard (about $35)

This DexSteel Sofgrip fillet knife with sheath gets 100% positive reviews. One reviewer called it "the best handle in the business." Always wash and dry after use to prevent rusting.

Dexter Sani-Safe Fillet Knife with Sheath

Dexter 9in. Sani-Safe Fillet Knife with Edge Guard (about $40)

This is a DexSteel knife that also gets excellent reviews on Amazon and elsewhere. A few people complain about rusting, but that's to be expected from a high carbon steel knife (wash and dry after use!).

See Dexter's Amazon page for more boning and fillet knife options.

Chef's Knives

Dexter sells hundreds of chef's knives (or "cook's knives," as Dexter calls them). Here are some of their most popular lines. 

Dexter SaniSafe chef knife

Sani-Safe 10" Chef's Knife (about $40)

The plastic handle is easy to care for and is available in all HACCP food safety colors. The DexSteel blade holds an edge well yet sharpens easily. Gets great reviews on Amazon and is a popular knife in professional kitchens. Dexter users seem to prefer the 10-inch chef's knife over the more standard 8-inch, maybe because they're bought mostly by pro chefs. Here's the 8-inch version if that's more your speed (about $30).

Dexter Chinese Chef's Knife

Traditional Chinese Chef's Knife (about $45)

This is 8in. x 3.25" and although it looks like a cleaver, it's a fairly thin blade, and is considered a standard chef's knife in Chinese cuisine, used for chopping everything from garlic to chickens to squash. It's not heavy enough to do large bones, but will work for chicken bones. Surprisingly, this is one of Dexter-Russell's most popular chef's knives. People love the wooden handle.

Dexter DuoGrip 7 Santoku

Dexter V-Lo Duo Edge 7" Santoku Knife (about $40)

This V-Lo santoku is one of the highest rated Dexter knives on Amazon. The blade is DexSteel, a stain-free high carbon steel that's extremely sharp (but will rust if left wet so wash and dry after every use). The handle is a combination of soft and hard plastic that makes for a super comfortable grip.

These knives come in different lengths and different colors, though 7-inch is the standard santoku length. 

Slicer Knives

Dexter Sani-Safe 12 Slicer knife

Dexter Sani-Safe 12" Slicer Knife (about $45)

Slicers are also a popular Dexter knife. They're used primarily for slicing thin cuts of meat off a turkey, large roast, ham, etc. The length and shape of the blade allow you to cut thin, precise slices. It's a great option to you can get an affordable slicer from Dexter, since very few sets (if any) come with one. Since it's not a knife you'll use frequently, getting one at a low price makes it a worthwhile purchase, if you'll use a slicer.

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

Knife Parts Diagram

This section is a generic buying guide for kitchen knives. We'll start with the basics--what knives do you need?--and get into details to look for before you buy. 

If you decide Dexter isn't the right knife brand for you, this section will help you decide how to find the right brand for your style and preferences.

Which Knives Do You Really Need?

Dexter SaniSafe chef knife

Dexter Sani-Safe 8" chef's knife.

Dexter Offset Sandwich knife

Dexter 9" Offset Sandwich/Bread Knife.

Dexter Sani-Safe paring knife

Dexter Sani-Safe 3" paring knife.

Most cooks need just three knives: a chef's knife, a paring knife, and a bread (serrated) knife. This covers all your food prep needs, and everything else is extra. 

Chef's Knives

Chef's knives come in a variety of styles and sizes, so you have to decide which one works best for you. The most common blade length is 8 inches, but you can get them up to 12 inches long. You can go with a standard German chef's knife (shown above), which has a wider, heavier blade and a deeply curved belly for rocking motion cutting. Or, you can go with a Japanese style santoku for your chef's knife, which has a nearly flat blade and requires an up-and-down cutting motion. Standard santoku length is 7 inches, but you can find them as short as 5 inches and as long as 9 inches. You can even go with a Japanese gyuto, or a Chinese cleaver, both of which are considered all purpose chef's knives. 

Which chef's knife you use depends on how you like to cut and what you cut. If you're not sure, you should try a few different styles to decide. Also, you are not relegated to just one (although one good chef's knife should cover about 90% of your cutting needs). Many cooks like to have a few different chef's knives to choose from for different jobs. For example, a standard German style 8-inch chef's knife for heavy foods and cutting through small bones (such as poultry), a gyuto or santoku for prepping most veggies, and a shorter (or longer) blade for other jobs. 

Dexter makes several styles of chef's knives for you to choose from, although they do not make a gyuto knife. 

Bread (Serrated) Knives

The main characteristic of a bread knife is that it has a serrated blade (as you can see in the image above). The serrations make it possible to cut through crusty loaves of bread without damaging the tender interior crumb. Serrated knives are also great for cutting sandwiches, and some people prefer serration on their utility and paring knives. The Dexter offset sandwich knife shown above is a great design that will work for all types of bread and sandwiches. You can also get straight bladed bread knives, which are a more standard design.

Paring Knives

Paring knives are mostly for small vegetable jobs: de-stemming strawberries, coring tomatoes and apples, peeling potatoes, etc. Dexter makes several different styles of paring knives, but a standard 3- or 4-inch paring knife with a straight blade is a good choice for most cooks. You may enjoy looking through their online catalog to see all the fun options available.

We're not saying you need these three knives, because you may need only one of them (a chef's knife), or you may need more knives than this. Rather, we're saying that these are the best knives for starting your knife collection. 

You may also want a carving knife, a boning knife, a utility knife, a smaller serrated knife, a cheese knife, a set of steak knives, a fillet and/or boning knife...there are many types of knives to choose from. 

For more information about choosing knives, see How to Choose the Right Kitchen Knives.


How much do you need to spend to get good quality kitchen knives? Opinions differ on this. Some people say $30 for a decent chef's knife, others say $100, still others say $300. 

The truth is that all of these answers are correct, depending on what you're looking for. You can find decent quality knives at lower price points if you don't mind lower quality handles (such as molded plastic rather than resin or wood), stamped blades rather than forged, and steel that will need more frequent sharpening because it's softer (and remember that soft steels are also very durable). 

Most Dexter knives are in the economically priced category. You can get a good quality Dexter chef knife for $30-$70, depending on what you're looking for. If you're on a tight budget or you just don't want to spend a lot or don't care about having artisan quality knives, then Dexter is where you should be looking. They are the ultimate utilitarian knife, but they are made to use and to last.

The Blade

The main considerations when buying a knife are--obviously--the blade and the handle. This section looks at the blade and what you need to consider before buying, including type of steel, hardness, forged vs stamped, edge/bevel, shape and size, and balance.  

Type of Steel

We've already talked above about the steel Dexter uses, so that's a good place to start this discussion.

You can spend a lot of time learning about all the different kinds of knife steel--there are a lot of them- but it's not necessary if all you want to do is buy a good quality knife that suits your needs. 

Nearly all knives made for the home kitchen market are made from high carbon stainless steel. The high carbon content makes the steel hard and helps it keep a sharp edge. Most knife steel also contains elements such as molybdenum, chromium, and vanadium to strengthen the steel and help it resist rusting and corrosion. 

The two main options are German steel and Japanese steel. German steel is softer than Japanese steel. This means it doesn't hold an edge as well--i.e., needs more frequent sharpening--but is more durable, so you can use it for anything and it won't chip or break. Most German knife steel has a hardness rating of 54-58 HRC. (More about this in the next section.)

Japanese steel is harder, with a typical hardness rating of 58-62 HRC. This means it will hold an edge longer between sharpening, but it is also more brittle, so it's prone to chipping if used incorrectly. (Japanese chef's knives should, in general, not be used for hard foods or bone. The Japanese have different knives for those tasks.)

German blades are thicker, heavier, and not as sharp, but their weight and bulk can help with cutting and they are extremely durable.

Some knives, especially those used by professional chefs, are made from carbon steel, which has an even higher carbon content than high carbon stainless steel. Carbon steel is strong and holds a sharp edge quite well, but it is not as corrosion resistant as stainless steel, so it rusts easily. In general, pro chefs prefer carbon steel because they find it more efficient to wash and dry the blades after use than to sharpen the knife more frequently, while home cooks prefer the more corrosion resistant stainless steel. This is because chefs can use their knives for several hours each day, so if they used stainless steel knives, they'd be sharpening them all the time; home cooks use their knives for about half an hour a day, so sharpening is much less of an issue for them--thus, the corrosion resistance is a bigger issue for home cooks than for professionals.

Dexter's proprietary DexSteel, used for most of their knives, is closest to German steel in composition. This means that these knives are fairly soft, with a hardness rating around 55-58 HRC. But DexSteel also has a pretty high carbon content, so it can rust more easily than other knife brands.

Dexter also uses carbon steel for some of their knives, which will rust easily and must be washed and dried after each use. And, they use German high carbon stainless steel for their iCut-Pro line (like this knife), making it the most corrosion resistant line of all Dexter knives.

The upshot of all this is that most Dexter knives are made of a fairly soft steel that has a high carbon content. These traits make Dexter knives durable and help them hold an edge pretty well, but also makes them prone to rusting--so unless you go with the iCut-Pro line, be sure to wash and dry your Dexter knives after every use to prevent rusting.

Steel Hardness

The hardness rating of a blade is a measure of how long it will hold an edge between sharpening and is measured as HRC on the Rockwell scale. Standard hardness for kitchen knives ranges from about 54 HRC up to about 60 HRC. 

You may think harder steel is always better, but this is not always the case. Harder steel is more brittle, so it chips more easily. Softer steel is more durable, so it's more durable and a better choice for hard foods and bones (as well as making a great all-purpose kitchen knife).

Dexter-Russell doesn't openly discuss the hardness of their knives, but people have estimated their hardness to be around 54-58 HRC. This makes them fairly soft, yet quite durable. 

Forged Vs Stamped

Dexter Traditional chef knife

Stamped knife: no bolster.

Zwilling Twin 4 Star II chef's knife

Forged knife: bolster.

Knife blades are either forged or stamped.

A forged knife is made from a piece of heated metal under pressure. The blade is thicker at the top and tapers down to a thin edge. Forged knives have a full or partial bolster and typically a full tang (though some forged knives have a partial tang, particularly lighter Japanese knives).

A stamped knife is cut (or stamped) out of a sheet of steel (no heating or pressure). It has a uniform thickness throughout the knife (except where the blade is ground, of course), and typically has no bolster or tang: the blade is attached to the handle with rivets, or possibly some type of adhesive. 

Forged blades tend to be stronger than stamped blades because the forging process toughens the steel, plus there's a bolster that "bolsters," or strengthens, the blade. Forged knives are less susceptible to chipping and cracking. 

Stamped knives are usually more affordable than forged knives because they're cheaper to make. Stamped blades were once considered to be less durable than forged blades, but new steels and technologies have greatly improved the quality of stamped knives. Today they're an excellent choice for most kitchens and can be a great way for budget conscious buyers to get good quality knives.

Dexter makes a few forged knives--for "front of the house" use--but the majority of their knives are stamped. This keeps prices lower yet still results in an excellent quality knife. 

Cutting Angle

Cutting Angle Diagram 15 degrees

The edge, bevel, or cutting angle of a knife is the angle to which it is sharpened. Dexter doesn't talk a lot about their cutting angle, but because of their sharpeners, we know them to be about 15 degrees (30 degrees total, or inclusive). 

This is a pretty standard edge angle, and good for all standard kitchen work. It also means that you can use almost any electric or pull-through knife sharpener (like the popular Chef's Choice Trizor XV) as most of them are 15 degrees (though some are 20 degrees, so be sure it has the angle you want before you buy). This is great news for people who want an easy system for keeping their blades sharp.

While the cutting angle isn't so important that you should base your buying decision around it, it is something you should know, primarily for sharpening. On the other hand, Dexter knives are so affordably priced that you can experiment with sharpening them to different angles if you want to, and you don't have to feel too bad if it doesn't work.

Shape and Size of the Blade

We talked about this above in Which Knives Do You Need? Though every cook needs at least one chef's knife, the size and shape that's right for you can vary. The most common chef's knife is 8 inches, but you may prefer a smaller or larger one. 

Also, as we already said, there are different types of "chef's knives," including Japanese chef's knives with a narrow, fairly straight blade, German chef's knives with a wider, steeply curved blade, santokus, nakiris, and even Chinese cleavers. All work as a standard chef's knife, depending on your cutting style, the food you like to cook, and other personal preferences.

The only way to know what's right for you is to practice with different styles and sizes of blades to figure out what works best for you. You can do this by going to cooking stores that have knives available to test (such as Sur la Table), or taking advantage of Amazon Prime's free returns. 

Dexter offers mostly standard Western chef's knives, plus their very popular Chinese cleaver (pictured and linked above). If you want something more Japanese in style, Dexter has santokus, but no gyutos. 

Balance and Weight 

In general, you want a knife with a center of balance right where you hold it to cut. This keeps the knife feeling comfortable in your hand and will reduce hand strain if you're using the knife for a long period.

Weight is really a personal preference. Some people like a heavier knife that helps them slice through hard foods, while other people like a light knife that feels almost like an extension of their hand. 

As with shape and size, try out several different knives and choose one that feels comfortable in your hand.

The Handle

For a kitchen knife handle, you want to look at shape, size, and material.

Handle material is important for comfort, hygiene, and durability.

You want a handle that's comfortable, not too heavy or too light (giving the knife poor balance), and one that feels comfortable in your hand. 

Knife handles are made from wood or synthetic materials, with many different tiers of quality. Most Dexter handles are made from different types of plastic, which makes them comfortable, sanitary, and affordable. Some of their handles are made from a soft, rubber-like plastic that is very soft and extremely comfortable. 

Synthetic materials tend to be more hygienic than wood because they don't harbor bacteria or other pathogens. Wood handles tend to be prettier and have a more organic feel in your hand.

Dexter has a few lines with wooden handles, and synthetic material that looks like wood. But most of their handles are soft plastic material with great grip. 

Overall, Dexter handles are known for their comfort, cleanliness, and durability. They won't be the prettiest handles you've seen, but they are some of the most comfortable.

Dexter Knives FAQs

Here are frequently asked questions about Dexter knives.

Are Dexter Knives Good Quality?

Yes, Dexter knives are good quality. Most of the steels they use are mid-range in hardness and corrosion resistance, so you'll have to take good care of them and sharpen them regularly. But Dexter knives should last several years, if not decades.

Are Dexter Knives Made in the USA?

Most Dexter knives are made in the USA. They have a few lines that are imported, such as the Basics line. To make sure you're buying an American-made Dexter knife, check the packaging: it should say "Made in USA."

What's the Cutting Angle on Dexter Knives?

All Dexter knives, as far as we know, have a 15 degree cutting angle, or 30 degrees inclusive. This is a pretty standard angle for Western knives and good for nearly all kitchen cutting tasks. And since this angle is the most popular, several pull through sharpeners, both electric and manual, are a good choice for sharpening Dexter knives.

Where Can You Buy Dexter Knives?

You can buy Dexter knives from Amazon, from Wal-Mart, from Katom, and from some other online restaurant supply stores. You can also buy directly from the Dexter cutlery site, although, as with many retail products, the prices are usually higher here. 

How to Sharpen Dexter Knives?

Dexter knives are easy to sharpen. You can use any honing steel to keep the edges in good shape, and most other types of sharpeners will work, too. As we said, the 15 degree (30 degree inclusive) angle is very common, so most electric and manual sharpeners will do a good job on a Dexter knife. 

Dexter sells several honing steels and a few different sharpeners, but you don't need to use Dexter sharpeners if you don't want to. Any sharpener will work.

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Final Thoughts on Dexter Kitchen Knives

Dexter Sofgrip Edge Slicer with fish

Dexter knives are an affordable American brand, hugely popular in professional kitchens and the foodservice industry. They are rapidly gaining recognition for home use, too, and this article looks at the Dexter-Russel knives designed for the home kitchen.

So is a Dexter knife a good choice? If you want quality but don't care about fancy steels or handles and don't want to spend a lot, Dexter is an excellent choice. Dexter knives are sharp and durable, and will almost certainly last as long as brands costing twice as much or more. The only caveat is that most Dexter blades are high carbon, so they can rust without proper care. This means you have to wash and dry them after use (just like professional chefs do).

They're not the prettiest or fanciest knives on the market, but they'll get the job done. 

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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