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.
Here's why the Chinese cleaver is the go-to knife for virtually any task in the kitchen.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Chinese cleaver blades usually measure an average of 7 inches and above. A shorter blade would limit what you could do with the knife.
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.
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.