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Many chefs will tell you that there are only three knives your need in your kitchen: paring, bread, and a chef's knife.
Only including these three types, though, is doing a major disservice to your kitchen.
When it comes to an all-purpose tool, the Chinese cleaver is an essential addition to the kitchen, for it excels at cutting, slicing, and chopping as well as tenderizing, smashing, and transferring ingredients from cutting board to wok pan.
The Chinese cleaver is indeed an excellent utensil for both amateur cooks and the cooking hobbyist, 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
7-inch Chinese Cleaver by Enso
Pro 7-inch Chinese Chef's Knife by ZWILLING
Japanese Damascus 6.5” Cleaver by Zhen
67 Layer Damascus Gyuto Knife by Zhen
Damascus 7" Vegetable Cleaver by Zhen
Fun fact: In the past, 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.
Presently, 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 blade could break off and go flying.
Keep in mind that just because a Chinese cleaver looks like a butcher’s cleaver doesn’t mean it can actually cut through bone.
The shape of the blade was designed for cutting through thin or soft bones and sinew, such as duck or chicken. The style of the blade 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 different. 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 important 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 – depending on this, a cleavers can be either better or worse for specific cuts.
The common thickness levels are 2mm, 3-7mm, and 8mm or thicker.
What are the Different Thicknesses of Chinese Meat Clear Used For?
8 mm+ Thickness
Regardless of thickness, a defining feature on the Chinese cleaver is the heavy tip to get momentum going when swinging the blade.
Once you master the motion of the Chinese cleaver, you will be unstoppable in the kitchen!
Like all decent knives and blades, a Chinese cleaver has to be sharpened regularly. Be sure to also have honing steel (also called a sharpening stick) on hand.
Furthermore, when washing and drying your knife, make sure to use warm, soapy water and to dry it thoroughly. Even the best stainless steel isn’t impervious to rusting, especially after working with acidic ingredients.
The Best Chinese Cleavers on the Market Today (Including Comparisons)
Now that we have reviewed some points about Chinese cleavers, it is time to review the best cleavers available for the amateur chef and cooking hobbyist.
HD Hammered Damascus 7-inch Chinese Cleaver by Enso
Want a sleek looking vegetable cleaver that is perfect for both right and left hand usage?
Then you need to check out the Chinese cleaver by Enso, a trusted name in kitchen cooking utensils since 1932.
The blade is made by Japanese steel and comes directly from Seki-shi in Japan. The handle is a smooth black micarta with full tang, making it comfortable to hold and extremely 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 some Chinese cleavers, this blade is tough enough to work against thinner bones and crustacean shells.
Both recreational cooks and professionals give this blade two thumbs up!
Prs & Cons
Pro 7-inch Chinese Chef's Knife/Vegetable Cleaver by ZWILLING
The science behind the 7-inch Chinese vegetable cleaver by ZWILLING is bound to make this blade 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 that is promised to endure even the most rigorous of recipes.
The unique shape of the blade and handle come together to make chopping less grueling, and the curve of the blade creates a rocking motion that enables for smoother, swifter cuts.
In short, it is a perfect, all-purpose blade that will compliment any kitchen.
Pros & Cons
Japanese Damascus 6.5” Light Cleaver by Zhen
For those who love a bargain without sacrificing quality, the light cleaver chopping set by Zhen is a wonderful choice.
You get both a 6.5 inch Chinese cleaver 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 chopping, 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 & Cons
Japanese 67 Layer Damascus Steel 6-inch Gyuto Knife by Zhen
The shortest blade on this best-of list is also highly versatile, due to a shape that is different 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, the blade is Japanese 67-layer Damascus steel and forged in a ISO 9001 Taiwanese factory to create an unfathomably sharp and resilient metal that brings exceptional quality to the kitchen.
The handle is also made from bacteria and slip resistant Pakkawood.
Pros & Cons
Japanese 67 Layer Damascus Steel 7-inch Vegetable Cleaver by Zhen
By design, this Chinese cleaver by Zhen is less for bone and fish 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 the defining qualities of this blade 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 blade would be a wonderful addition.
Pros & Cons
Interesting Ways to use a Cleaver
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!