Equipment: Chinese Cleavers

The more knowledgeable a cook becomes with cuisines, histories, ingredients, techniques, and equipment the broader their palette becomes. Knives are a crucial addition to any kitchen, so I wanted to inform the public of a cost effective option for an all-purpose knife. The two most popular styles of all-purpose or chef's knives are the Western-style chef's knife and Japanese Santoku chef's knife. However, there is a third option, the Chinese cleaver or Chinese chef's knife, and this is a personal favorite of mine.

Originally, the knife was forged out of carbon steel, which wouldn't have remained as beautiful as it aged. Although, beauty is not the design goal of a Chinese chef's knife, these knives were built for durability. Currently there are high-carbon stainless steel options available as well, these stay beautiful much longer. (Young 245)

Besides durability, versatility is the other aspect that makes the Chinese cleaver so heavily desired. The weight distribution is different than either Western or Japanese style chef's knives. The weight in the blade allows for more momentum while chopping. This could be used in advantage of the speedy and well trained cook.

The standard use for my Chinese cleaver is doing large amounts of vegetable prep. Besides slicing, dicing, mincing, and julienning, I often need to transfer the prepared vegetables to various pots and pans. The large area of the Chinese cleaver makes it easier to transfer more prepared vegetables.

Finally, crushing garlic or ginger, and tenderizing meat is done with ease and efficiency. Either the bottom of the handle or flat surface of the blade can be used to pulverize tough vegetables or tenderize meat and seafood.

Chinese cleaver's may be purchased either online or cooking stores in China towns or Asian markets throughout the United States. The most common Chinese clever in America is likely the 8" Dexter-Russell wood handled cleaver which I found for $36 on Amazon, However, even less costly Chinese cleavers can be acquired. In addition, many Western and Japanese knife companies have designed high quality versions of the Chinese cleaver so it may still possible to match with your existing knife set.

Citations and Further Readings:

  • Young, Grace. The wisdom of the Chinese kitchen: classic family recipes for celebration and healing. Simon and Schuster, 1999.


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