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October 13, 2020 4 min read

All In One Chinese Cleaver - A Chef's Best Friend

If you like simplicity and you're looking for a kitchen knife that can do just about everything in the kitchen, look no further than the Chinese cleaver.

Its proper name is actually the Chinese chef's knife but it closely resembles a cleaver so most people call it that. It has the broad, rectangular blade and the square tip of the meat cleaver, but it is thinner and lighter.

If you only have room for one knife in your kitchen beside your chef knife, this is the knife to get.

Uses of the Chinese Cleaver

Here's why the Chinese cleaver is the go-to knife for virtually any task in the kitchen.

  • It can be used to chop, mince, slice, and dice meat and vegetables.
  • Its broad blade can be used to scoop up ingredients and transfer them to a container.
  • The top blunt edge of the blade can be used to pound the meat to tenderize it.
  • You can use the flat of the blade to pound up ginger and garlic.
  • The handle can double up as a pestle. How about that!

While the Chinese cleaver can do all these, remember that it's not a meat cleaver. Avoid using it to cut through bone, joints or cartilage as it could get damaged.

All In One Chinese Cleaver - A Chef's Best Friend

What to Consider When Buying a Chinese Cleaver

The Metal

Traditional Chinese cleavers were constructed with carbon steel. However, it rusts easily and can leaves a metallic taste in the food if not cared for properly.

Nowadays, a combination of carbon and stainless steel is used to make the blades. Some knife manufacturers use stainless steel alloys for their knives, like the Shun Kai Classic Vegetable Knife 18.7cm, which uses VG-MAX steel.

Different types of steel are layered together and forged to make a single piece with a beautiful Damascus pattern. The resulting blade is sharp, long-lasting, and resistant to corrosion.

Shun Kai Classic Vegetable Knife 18.7cm

The Handle

Knives come with all sorts of handles- wood, hard plastic, or stainless steel. Wood looks good and gives a firm grip, but it is more likely to absorb and retain water, possibly attracting germs due to dampness.

Manufacturers avoid this by using hardwood, which is more water-resistant than softwood, or using wooden materials impregnated with resin, like Pakkawood. Pakkawood is harder and water-resistant than natural wood and is often used to make knife handles. The Shun Kai Classic Vegetable Knife 18.7cm mentioned above has an ebony Pakkawood handle.

A stainless steel handle, like that of the Shun Kai Seki Magoroku Shoso Chinese Chopper 16.5cm, makes the knife extremely strong and durable. It is more water-resistant than wood, and as it is stainless steel, it won't rust and is even dishwasher safe.

The fact that the handle is continuous with the blade means that no bits of food will get stuck in the joints between the blade and the handle. In this regard, it is more hygienic than a knife with a wooden handle.

Shun Kai Seki Magoroku Shoso Chinese Chopper 16.5cm

The Tang

In knife-speak, the tang is the blunt part of the blade that extends into the handle. It's how the handle and the blade meet.

Partial tang means that the blade extends partly down the handle, while full tang means that the blade runs right through to the end of the handle.

A partial tang knife is not as strong as a full tang knife, and if you got too carried away while using it, it could break and go flying. A full tang knife has the blade and the handle continuous, so it is stronger and would be able to handle more demanding tasks. Since a Chinese cleaver is multi-purpose, a full tang one will have a better balance and will be stronger.

The Length of the Blade

Chinese cleaver blades usually measure an average of 7 inches and above. A shorter blade would limit what you could do with the knife.

Care for Chinese Cleavers

  • Hand wash your knife with gentle soap with the blade facing away from you. Avoid dishwashing it as this could corrode the blade and warp the handle.
  • Use a gentle scrubber like a sponge instead of steel or scouring pads as these could easily scratch the blade.
  • Avoid harsh soaps containing citrus or bleach, as these cause corrosion.
  • Rinse and dry the knife immediately to reduce the risk of corrosion. Allow them to air dry even after towel drying them to make sure all the water is out.
  • Avoid soaking knives in soapy water as this could damage both metal and handles, especially if they're wooden. You could also injure yourself reaching into the sink full of sharp blades. If you wash the blade immediately after using it, you won't need to soak the knife as the food will come off easily.
  • Use proper storage devices for your knives, e.g. a knife block, magnetic strip, or a knife case. If you don't have enough knives to justify buying entire storage devices, simply sheath the knife to protect the blade (and yourself) and keep it in a drawer.

Sharpening a Chinese Cleaver

Using a dull knife is annoying because it squishes or tears ingredients and can actually injure you. Knives need to be honed frequently to avoid having to keep sharpening them so they can last longer.

Wait. Honing? Sharpening? There's a difference? Yes, there is! Honing is simply polishing the knife's edge to realigh the blade and allow it to cut better, while sharpening is actually grinding the edge of the knife to remove material and eventually make it sharper.

Regularly honing a blade (say weekly) reduces the number of times you have to sharpen it. This keeps the knife in good condition as constant sharpening eventually wears a blade out.

You can hone your knives yourself using a honing steel, like the Shun Kai Classic Honing Steel, but if you're not sure about how to sharpen a blade, send it to a professional.

Shun Kai Classic Honing Steel

Final Words

A Chinese cleaver can do virtually anything except cut bones and joints. It may look big, but it is light and easy to maneuver. It's a must-have in the kitchen.

All In One Chinese Cleaver - A Chef's Best Friend


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