Leave It to Cleaver
At our house growing up, dinner was always cooked with fresh, mostly local ingredients. Mom boasted that she could prepare an 8-course meal using only a wok, pair of chopsticks, and her favorite Asian cleaver. And she did–slice, dice, shred, chop, tenderize, bang, even scoop! After a full day working as a public schools teacher, Mom whipped up fast, healthy “country Asian” meals for a family of five, like Pepper Steak and Rice-a-Roni and Five-Spice Rutabaga.
“Gidgets too hard to clean,” mom said. You mean “GADGETS.” “Yeah, that’s what I said, no gidgets.” Wabbits, rabbits, never mind. We don’t own a garlic roller, garlic press, scraper or tenderizer mallet anymore. I tried and used gift cards to buy her special, not-cheap kitchen and cooking “gidgets” at the gourmet cookware store. They all ended up in the Goodwill box. OK, no more gidgets… or wabbits. Just leave it to cleaver.
Vegetable Knife or Animal Ax?
Traditionally, Asian-style cleavers were used for butchering whole animals–bones, gristle, and all. They were big and heavy and shaped like an ax. Modern versions of cleavers (sometimes referred to as Asian chef knives) are more versatile and refined. They are generally lighter in weight with a thinner blade and are designed for cutting boneless meat and vegetables. Perfect and practical for most home-chefs and everyday use, from chicken fingers to vegetable stir fry! More hardcore chefs who work with whole animal and bone-in cuts, use a heavier traditional cleaver with a blade that’s geared for chopping through hard bone and gristle. Many cleavers are made in China, Japan or Germany.
Cleaver Shopping Tips
Foodie friends and chefs have their own preferences, see 5 Best Chinese Cleavers to help with research. For some, it comes down to how it feels in your hand. For others, there are budget considerations. Be careful buying online, the photos can be deceiving and the metals vary widely in terms of sharpness, durability and being fully stainless. You can find our multi-purpose cleaver at the online CSB here.
Restaurant-Tough, Made in USA!
I own and have tested a dozen cleavers and Asian chef knives. My favorite one is the type we used in our family restaurant. My mom’s had hers for 25+ years. The wood handle fits in my smaller hand and the blade size is just right for me: big enough to be a real cleaver, but not so top-heavy for a smaller person. And it’s made in the USA. It’s my go-to for everyday cooking. I don’t use it to hack a whole chicken or chop bones, but it does about everything else. (I own a heavier, wider blade cleaver for bone-in jobs.)
- Foodie-friendly and Kitchen Tough!
- Proprietary high-carbon, high-alloy stainless steel. Individually ground and honed edge.
- Sharp, right out of the box. Easy to re-sharpen. Natural hardwood handle.
- Limited Lifetime Warranty. Looks large in size, but it’s lightweight, versatile, and slim.
- A highly versatile knife for scooping and transferring chopped vegetables from the cutting board into a pan.
- The sharp tip can peel soft skins, the flat part of the blade can smash garlic, and the spine can pound and tenderize meat.
See My First Cleaver in action in the video below. Speak softly, eat good food…and carry a big knife!