The Best Chinese Cleavers For The Cooking Hobbyist

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Many chefs will tell you that only three knives your need in your kitchen: paring, bread, and a chef’s knife.

Only including these three types, though, is doing a significant disservice to your kitchen.

When it comes to an all-purpose tool, the Chinese cleaver is an essential addition to the kitchen and varies in design from a Western cleaver. It excels at cutting, slicing, chopping, and tenderizing, smashing, and transferring ingredients from the cutting board to the wok pan.

The Chinese cleaver is indeed an excellent utensil for amateur cooks and cooking hobbyists due to its number of uses and sizes.

You are going to want one, but before looking at the top-rated Chinese cleavers available right now, here are some buying tips for you to keep in mind:

Top 5 Best Rated Chinese Cleavers

Title
Recommended
Enso HD 7" Vegetable Cleaver - Made in Japan - VG10 Hammered Damascus Stainless Steel Chinese Chef's Knife
ZWILLING J.A. Henckels Chinese Chef's Knife/Vegetable Cleaver
ZHEN Japanese VG-10 67-Layer Damascus Steel 8-Inch Slicer Chopping Chef Butcher Knife/Cleaver, Large
ZHEN Japanese VG-10 67 Layers Damascus Steel Vegetable Cleaver Chopping Knife 7-inch
Preview
Enso HD 7" Vegetable Cleaver - Made in Japan - VG10 Hammered Damascus Stainless Steel Chinese Chef's Knife
ZWILLING J.A. Henckels Chinese Chef's Knife/Vegetable Cleaver
ZHEN Japanese VG-10 67-Layer Damascus Steel 8-Inch Slicer Chopping Chef Butcher Knife/Cleaver, Large
ZHEN Japanese VG-10 67 Layers Damascus Steel Vegetable Cleaver Chopping Knife 7-inch
Best for
Quality
Blade sharpness
Fine cutting
Handle ergonomics
Prime
-
Price
$169.95
$188.65
$135.44
$99.85
Recommended
Title
Enso HD 7" Vegetable Cleaver - Made in Japan - VG10 Hammered Damascus Stainless Steel Chinese Chef's Knife
Preview
Enso HD 7" Vegetable Cleaver - Made in Japan - VG10 Hammered Damascus Stainless Steel Chinese Chef's Knife
Best for
Quality
Prime
-
Price
$169.95
Title
ZWILLING J.A. Henckels Chinese Chef's Knife/Vegetable Cleaver
Preview
ZWILLING J.A. Henckels Chinese Chef's Knife/Vegetable Cleaver
Best for
Blade sharpness
Prime
Price
$188.65
Title
ZHEN Japanese VG-10 67-Layer Damascus Steel 8-Inch Slicer Chopping Chef Butcher Knife/Cleaver, Large
Preview
ZHEN Japanese VG-10 67-Layer Damascus Steel 8-Inch Slicer Chopping Chef Butcher Knife/Cleaver, Large
Best for
Fine cutting
Prime
Price
$135.44
Title
ZHEN Japanese VG-10 67 Layers Damascus Steel Vegetable Cleaver Chopping Knife 7-inch
Preview
ZHEN Japanese VG-10 67 Layers Damascus Steel Vegetable Cleaver Chopping Knife 7-inch
Best for
Handle ergonomics
Prime
Price
$99.85

Last update on 2021-07-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Best Chinese Cleavers Reviews on the Market Today (Including Comparisons)

Now that we have reviewed some points about this type of cleaver, it is time to get into the best Chinese cleaver review available for the amateur chef and cooking hobbyist.

HD Hammered Damascus 7-inch Cleaver by Enso

Last update on 2021-07-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Want a sleek and classic vegetable cleaver that is perfect for both right and left-hand usage?

Then you need to check out this one by Enso, a trusted name in kitchen cooking utensils since 1932.

This one is made of Japanese steel and comes directly from Seki-shi in Japan. The handle is a smooth black micarta with a full tang, making it comfortable to hold and exceptionally resilient.

With the blade being about 2.8 inches wide and 7 inches in length, it is a versatile tool that can slice, chop, dice, scoop, and transfer ingredients.

Unlike another meat cleaver, this option is tough enough to work against thinner bones and crustacean shells.

Both recreational cooks and professionals give this one two thumbs up!

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • VG-10 high carbon stainless steel blade core for durability (it stays sharper for longer for this type of cleaver)
  • 61 HRC – the ideal Rockwell hardness for outstanding kitchen knives
  • 37-layer Damascus steel
  • Durable handle made from black canvas micarta for slip and bacteria resistance
  • Handcrafted in Japan
  • Full tang for reliability and durability
  • Professional quality
  • Versatile 2.8 inch wide surface
  • It holds a refined edge for more extended periods than basic factory knives

Cons

  • Not as sharp out of the box as some people would like, but you can amend that with a couple of strokes on a honing stick

See our full review here.

Pro 7-inch Chef’s Knife/Chinese Cleaver by ZWILLING

Sale
ZWILLING J.A. Henckels Chinese Chef's Knife/Vegetable Cleaver

Last update on 2021-07-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The science behind the 7-inch Chinese chef cleaver by ZWILLING is bound to make this option a favorite for those who enjoy knowing their investment has been well spent.

ZWILLING Pro knives are all made with 280 years of experience, and a timeless look and design promised to endure even the most rigorous recipes.

The blade’s unique shape and handle come together to make cutting less grueling, and the curve of the edge creates a rocking motion that enables smoother, swifter cuts.

In short, it is a perfect, all-purpose Chinese chef knife that will complement any cooking area. It can be used as a meat cleaver.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • The Curved POM handle is durable, resilient, and comfortable
  • Full tang
  • Special SIGMAFORCE High-Carbon No Stain Stainless Steel
  • Ice-hardened FRIODUR edge that stays sharper for longer
  • Superior control from the cutting angle and shape of the blade, making it highly suitable for a large variety of cuts and other tasks – cutting, thin and thick slices, and trimming tough fruits, vegetables, and even shellfish or crab
  • Perfect for breaking down whole chickens, also making it superior for processing meats and fish
  • The high carbon stainless steel edge is 3.8 inches wide, 7 inches long

Cons

  • Thick metal makes it hard to fit in universal sized butcher’s blocks, so you may have to purchase a separate sheath

Japanese Damascus 6.5″ Light Cleaver by Zhen

For those who love a bargain without sacrificing quality, the light cleaver set by Zhen is an attractive choice.

You get both a 6.5 inch carbon steel one and a paring knife that comes wrapped in a unique box.

Visually, the dragon pattern blades are as impressive as how effective they are when slicing, dicing, and paring.

Both blades are made with Japanese stainless steel, and the double-beveled edges are exceptionally sharp and well-balanced.

Additionally, the full tang comes with a classic micarta handle – known to be durable, non-slip, and easy to clean.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • VG-10 Japanese stainless steel cutting core
  • 67-layer Damascus dragon pattern
  • HRC 60-62 hardness
  • Two knives, low price – a budget-friendly deal for those just stepping into this world 
  • Unique packing and design also makes this set an excellent gift
  • The polished carbon steel has improved stain and bacteria resistance
  • Durable micarta handle
  • Ideal for chopping and processing meats, vegetables, and fruit

Cons

  • Not designed to chop through solid materials
  • It is not as lustrous as more high-end models
  • The handle has been noted to have a rough quality

Japanese 67 Layer Damascus Steel 8-inch Gyuto Knife by Zhen

Last update on 2021-07-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The shortest knife on this best-of list is also highly versatile due to a different shape from the usual Chinese chef’s knife.

The Japanese gyuto has the same purpose as a Chinese cleaver, but the slimmer blade gives it a one-up when dealing with seafood.

Like all Zhen knives, it is Japanese 67-layer Damascus steel and forged in an ISO 9001 Taiwanese factory to create an unfathomably sharp and resilient metal that brings exceptional quality to the your home.

The handle is also made from bacteria and slip-resistant Pakkawood.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Designed for slicing, dicing, and mincing meat, fruit, and vegetables
  • VG-10 steel cutting core
  • HRC 60-62 – ideal hardness, durability, and strength
  • Stain-resistant
  • Gyuto style is exceptional for more delicate cuts and slicing
  • Full tang
  • Mirror polished steel
  • Made from imported Japanese Damascus steel
  • Lightweight compared with a heavier cleaver on this list
  • Versatile length and width

Cons

  • The handle may be too long and extensive for some people to hold comfortably.
  • Cannot be used for cutting hard boney materials
  • Do not use with granite, tile, or glass cutting boards

See our full review here.

Japanese 67 Layer Damascus Steel 7-inch Classic Vegetable Cleaver by Zhen

Last update on 2021-07-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

By design, Zhen’s Chinese cleaver is less for meat and more for cutting vegetables, herbs, and other fresh ingredients that need a more precise cut.

The shape is excellent for rocking back and forth, allowing you to chop herbs, dice garlic, and slice vegetables without extra effort.

One of this blade’s defining qualities would be the handle, which is full tang, waterproof, slip, and bacteria resistant.

In a kitchen where multiple people are preparing fruits and vegetables all at one time, this would be an excellent addition.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Lovely pakkawood wood handle makes it not only pleasing to the eye but also comfortable to hold onto
  • Made with top-grade 67-layer, Japanese Damascus steel
  • VG-10 cutting core
  • 60-62 HRC – ideal sharpness, edge retention, and durability
  • Easy to sharpen
  • 2.75 inches thick
  • Waterproof, full tang handle
  • Explicitly designed for fruits and vegetables

Cons

  • The primary issue with it is how rapidly it loses sharpness when against more problematic ingredients
  • Not designed for chopping hard materials
  • You cannot use it with class, tile, or granite cutting boards
  • Some users also report that while the handle is lovely, the shininess of the blade fades overtime
  • Upkeep is essential with this blade

Materials

Fun fact: Chinese cleavers were made of carbon steel, but such metal is susceptible to rust, which imbues the food with an unsavory metallic taste. Luckily, this is now avoidable.

Despite the design originating in China, the blades are most commonly made out of Japanese stainless steel or a combination between carbon and stainless.

For the finest, sharpest, most resilient blade, Japanese steel is the way to go.

Also, look for full tang. The tang is where the blade and handle meet. If you purchase a partial tang, the blade and handle are in two separate pieces, meaning that the edge could break off and go flying.

Style

Keep in mind that just because a Chinese cleaver looks like a butcher’s cleaver doesn’t mean it can cut through bone.

The blade’s shape was designed for cutting through thin or soft bones and sinews, such as duck or chicken. The edge style also makes it perfect for slicing and dicing thicker vegetables like squash, which would usually break thinner knives.

There is also a Japanese variant that is shaped slightly differently. You will see these knives referred to as “gyuto” or “deba bocho,” which are used primarily for articulate cuts and slicing head off fish—the smaller, slimmer blade aids in making more precise chops.

Sizing and Thickness

If you have a chance before purchasing your Chinese cleaver, try handling a few different models.

Comfort is essential when handling this valuable tool. A cleaver should feel solid in your hand but not too unwieldy or cumbersome.

The most common size is 7 inches, but Japanese gyuto knives will be slightly shorter in length. Anything smaller than 5 inches isn’t ideal.

Now, about cleaver thickness, cleavers can be either better or worse for specific cuts depending on this.

The standard thickness levels are 2mm, 3-7mm, and 8mm or thicker.

What are the Different Thicknesses of Chinese Meat Clear Used For?

2mm Thickness

  • Thinnest option available and one of the most versatile
  • Sharply angled blade
  • Ideal for chopping vegetables
  • Julienne cuts (i.e. carrots)
  • Removing skin from fish

3-7mm thickness

  • In-between tasks – versatility depends significantly on how thick the blade becomes
  • Smashing garlic cloves and ginger
  • Pestle handle
  • Cutting through chicken bones and those of similar density

8 mm+ Thickness

  • Much thicker blade for chopping through denser bones
  • Wider blade
  • Shallow angle
  • Wedging cuts
  • Breaking up food
  • Not ideal for slicing and precision cuts

Regardless of thickness, the Chinese cleaver’s defining feature is the hefty tip to get the momentum going when swinging the blade.

Once you master the motion of the Chinese cleaver, you will be unstoppable in the kitchen!

Care

Like all decent knives and blades, a Chinese cleaver has to be sharpened regularly. Be sure also to have to hone steel (also called a sharpening stick) on hand.

Furthermore, when washing and drying your knife, make sure to use warm, soapy water and thoroughly dry it. Even the best stainless steel isn’t impervious to rusting, especially after working with acidic ingredients.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know all about Chinese cleavers, how these knives are meant to be used and have seen the examples of the best cleavers available, it is your turn to choose!

Which model will you be choosing and why? Regardless of which blade you choose, you are adding an invaluable tool to your kitchen!