Let’s face it: Ordinary kitchen knives cry at the first sign of abuse. They don’t slit through meats and bones, or knock out hard fruit shells either. This is why you need a tool that is a true splitter at heart: a cleaver!
The precise culinary cuts and its versatility to take on any chopping tasks make the cleaver the ultimate priority for chefs. You can use it make massive, repetitive blows, tenderize meat, to crush garlic, and more!
Simply put, whether you’re starting out on your culinary journey, are a kitchen enthusiast, or a picky shopper with a great choice, your kitchen arsenal is incomplete without a cleaver. Kitchen tasks can be made effortless without shopping for an extensive variety; if you wisely invest in the right kitchen tool.
Let us walk you through the many cleaver uses that will compel you to upgrade your kitchen tools NOW than later.
But first, what is a cleaver?
Cleavers are heavy, sharp knives that resemble rectangular or square-based hatchets. Their weight and sheer momentum help drive down precise culinary cuts to any obstacle coming their way. They painstakingly slit through vegetables, fruits, meats and bones in a way that provides culinary ease to the hand at work.
What makes a cleaver so good?
Simply put, its sheer versatility! Whether it’s pounding, slicing, mincing, chopping, or crushing and dicing, the many cleaver uses make it a number one handy cutlery tool!
Having this classic cutlery masterpiece allows making hefty kitchen tasks seem like a hot knife through butter. It also saves you the hassle of having to switch between alternative knives.
On the whole, these gentle giants are primarily used for precision cutting through meat and vegetables. You must, however, choose the right shape and size of a cleaver, as it impacts the overall flavor and presentation of your meal.
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Basic cleaver uses
Cleavers can be used for a large variety of kitchen tasks, ranging from slicing and chopping to dicing, and even mincing. For all these cleaver uses, however, there are two essential elements that you require.
Having a cutting board
Working with a cleaver requires a thick, wooden board to begin with. Make sure that your cutting board is undistorted, well-built, and comfortably sitting on your countertop. You don’t want it to slide and risk cutting yourself with the cleaver blade whilst handling the bulky giant.
Sporting the right grip
A heavy cleaver might look intimidating, but sporting the right grip can help you chop, dice, or mince your culinary obstacle with ease. To begin with, the cleaver must be held closer to the blade. The next step entails placing the thumb over one side of the handle, curling the remaining fingers on the other side. This grip is used by chefs when they are not doing anything tough, such as chopping vegetables.
For added control, another grip you can use is by gripping the handle at the position where it connects to the blade. Begin by putting your thumb on one side of the cleaver’s blade. Next, position your index finger on the other side. This is called the second grip. It is also important that you make sure that your main grip pressure is distributed evenly between your thumb and index finger for all your cleaver uses.
Use cleaver to chop and slice
You might have thought that cleavers are used for cutting through meat and bones, but they are actually great for slicing and chopping as well. Dicing, rough chopping, julienne cuts, are all possible cleaver uses:
- For chopping and slicing, use the second grip meant for added control.
- A smooth, downward motion will help you slice and chop, nice and slow.
- Lift the cleaver up each time before heading for the next slice.
When slicing in a downward motion, you may also gently thrust the vegetables with the cleaver before you proceed to cut them in the desired shape. And this way, your chopped vegetables are all prepped.
Use cleaver to mince
Mincing meat might be a bit tricky to begin with, but practice is what makes a chef perfect. The main thing to remember is that you must gather the meat at frequent intervals and pile it up. This will allow you to achieve an even mincing finish:
- Same as chopping, sport the second grip for added control when mincing meat.
- Next, position your palm or a few fingers (of your free hand) on the cleaver spine. Remember, this is the part of the blade that is blunt.
- For the third step, lift the cleaver with the tip in contact with the board while you pivot the blade from one side to the other constantly to mince the meat.
Voila! Your minced meat is ready.
Use cleaver to dice
Dicing vegetables may seem tough, especially for vegetables that are round. Following these steps will allow you to dice with ease:
- Peel the vegetables and cut off thin slices to create flat surfaces.
- Rest the flat slides and slice them into wide planks.
- Lay out the planks in stacks, then slice them using the second grip for added control.
- Set the ends of the strips and use a slicing motion to create dice.
Your diced goodies are ready.
The most fun part of the process is transferring. All you have to do is:
- Slide the cleaver underneath whatever you have chopped, diced, or minced.
- Scoop them up onto the wider part of the cleaver blade.
- Transfer them to the vessel for cooking.
How to take care of a cleaver
A cleaver is a chef’s best friend. Therefore, it must be treated with utmost care and respect. Ensuring the right care will allow the tool to provide you with years of healthy assistance with all your cleaver uses:
Cleaning, storing and maintenance of a cleaver
When choosing a cleaver, the best ones are those that do not corrode and can hold on the edge well. We will discuss more about that in the how to choose a cleaver section. For now, you must ensure that:
- Never run a cleaver through dishwater or try soaking it in water, especially if the handle is wooden.
- Wash away with warm, soapy water.
- Wipe and dry the tool after each use.
- Clean cleaver blade immediately after using acidic substances.
- For best care, store in a knife block.
- Keep the knife away from humid areas, such as the sink and dishwasher top.
Sharpening a cleaver
A dull cleaver is a dangerous cleaver, it brings a higher chance of slippery which could be deadly. Here is how you can use a whetstone for sharpening, to keep the knife sharp and minimize the chances of any unwanted incidents in the kitchen:
- Choose a whetstone, preferably between 2000 – 6000 grit.
- Make sure the whetstone has been soaked in water.
- Grip the cleaver with your dominant hand, and position your thumb on the spine.
- Position four fingers of your free hand near the part of the blade close to the tip.
- Slide the blade at a correct angle in a curved motion, making sure that the blade edges are touching the surface of the whetstone.
- Repeat till sharpened.
Cleaver vs. Nakiri – choosing the right option for your kitchen
Now that you are well versed with the basics of a cleaver, let us walk you through a comparative analysis of a Chinese cleaver with a Nakiri. Appearance-wise, They are two knives often recognized to be one. But in reality, they are far from the same.
Not only will it help you decide which one is better, but also help you make a confident decision:
To make it short, a Nakiri is specifically designed to produce the same cuts, but often used to cut only vegetables. Performing other tasks would mean you have to switch your knife, preferably with a cleaver.
How to choose a cleaver
Cleavers come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and designs. When choosing a cleaver, you need to decide what kind you want based on your needs and the quality of the knife. Here are the elements that you need to look out for when choosing a particular product for your cleaver uses:
Chinese cleavers come in a range of blade thicknesses.
The thinnest option comes in 2mm options with steeply angled edges. Vegetables can be finely chopped with such blades.
The average thickness of cleavers ranges between 3-7mm. Smashing garlic cloves and cutting thin bones is easier with these blades.
Heavier blades of 8mm thickness help chop bones and meat chunks.
Cleavers made of high carbon steel is considered much sharper. But it will require more care from the chef. It can rust very quickly without proper maintenance. You also need to build a sharpening/honing routine to keep the blade work.
Stainless steel is more suitable for chefs that don’t want to invest much in a knife. Though it’s not as sharp as high carbon steel knives, it does not rust for years of use. Words being said, you still need to take good care of the blade without abusing it every use.
Blade made of high carbon stainless steel is also an option. It will allow for minimal corrosion and stains. Of course, cleaning and drying the blade will still be an important measure to take.
Cleavers come in a variety of lengths and sizes, mostly ranging between 5 and 10 inches. The most ideal length for most cleaver uses is 7 inches. Anything longer than that requires practice to use.
This is the part where the back portion of the blade connects with the handle.
Full tangs of cleavers run from the center to the hilt. Such tangs are strong and durable. Also brings more weight to the knife.
Partial tangs have blades and handles that are not continuous. This kind of knife is cheaper in production since less metal was used. But it could snap during use at any time.
Cleaver handles come in a variety of materials. Choosing a cleaver handle will depend on your level of comfort. Plastic, wood, rubber, and stainless steel are some of the options to choose from for all types of cleaver uses.
A cleaver is a heavy duty tool. Buying a cleaver means choosing something that feels solid, never heavy. Comfort must be ensured, otherwise tasks can be strenuous and you won’t enjoy working in the kitchen.
After mastering these basic cleaver uses, you will be amazed by their adjustability to any kitchen. Whether you are a professional or a home chef, a cleaver can be the star of your kitchen knife set, and quickly take over the place to be your most used daily knives.
Wanna learn more kitchen knife facts? Whether it’s kitchen hacks or basic knife guides, we get you covered. Check our website for more. If you are looking for that knife of the dream, stopping by our store!