Even the most creative home cooks will often groan when it comes to food prep, a.k.a. the mise-en-place that can sometimes take longer than cooking the actual meal itself. That’s why we’re always fans of tools that will help get the job done faster, whether it’s a chopper, a hand blender or some other genius device.
Enter the Chinese cleaver. If you haven’t used one of these handy tools before, they’re pretty much life-changing. Although they take some getting used to if you’ve been using regular old chef’s knives your entire life, these delicate blades are amazing when it comes to dicing, slicing and mincing produce and boneless meat in the kitchen.
What Is a Chinese Cleaver?
A Chinese cleaver is sometimes also referred to as a vegetable clever or a caidao. It’s a knife that looks like a meat cleaver at first glance, but take a closer look at you’ll see there are differences. Sure, both have a squared-off blade with a ton of surface area and a wooden handle. But Chinese cleavers typically have thinner blades (usually made of stainless steel or carbon steel) that may chip if used on hard materials like bones.
On soft produce and boneless cuts of meat, however, they’re useful for all kinds of cutting methods. You can thinly slice or mince pretty much anything, but the large surface area is also great for crushing garlic and nuts, or for quickly scooping up prepped food and placing it in a pan or bowl.
How To Choose a Chinese Cleaver
When shopping for a Chinese cleaver look for high-carbon stainless steel (which is tough and durable and is relatively easy to sharpen). You’ll also want the blade to be about six to eight inches long and it should have a comfortable wooden handle with an easy grip. You may also want to consider going for a full-tang model (in which the blade extends the entire length of the knife, rather than connecting at the handle). That way it will stand up to even more wear and tear. And, considering this may be your new favorite kitchen tool, you’ll definitely want it to last a long time.
1. TUO Vegetable Cleaver
This seven-inch vegetable cleaver is inexpensive and it comes highly rated on Amazon, which is always a double win in our books. The full-tang, ergonomic design includes a curved, high carbon German stainless steel blade. That blade is flexible enough to mince meat and smash garlic while you maintain a comfy grip. It’s also got a lifetime satisfaction guarantee and it comes in a luxury case, making this a perfect gift for a friend, family member or for yourself.
2. Mercer Cutlery Chinese Chef’s Knife
BEST STARTER PICK
If you’re not sure whether a Chinese cleaver is for you but you want to test one out, this budget-friendly pick is a good bet. It’s made with high-carbon Japanese steel and features a natural rosewood handle for comfy handling, making it a sleek-looking pick that’s good for a variety of uses. Because of the design, you will need to give it a little extra TLC, however, so be sure not to soak it or put it in the dishwasher and clean it by hand instead.
3. Zwilling J.A. Henckels Pro Chinese Chef’s Knife
If you don’t mind dropping a little more money for a high-quality knife you plan on using repeatedly in the kitchen, Zwilling J.A. Henckels is a reputable brand with pro designs. Their Chinese cleaver is no exception with the comfy handle and specially arched design, which is meant to achieve the perfect thumb grip every single time. The seven-inch blade is forged with Zwilling’s Sigmaforge process, which results in a hard but flexible finish. It also weighs in at just over a pound, making it one of the lighter but sturdier picks of the bunch.
4. SHI BA ZI ZUO Professional Chefs Cleaver Knife
This high carbon stainless steel pick also comes in under fifty bucks and it features an ergonomic and anti-slip handle for comfy handling in the kitchen. However, we like that it comes with a non-stick coating. That way, when you’re dealing with finely sliced or minced items they don’t stick to the sides of the blade, slowing down your chop style. We also like that it comes in a box, which protects the knife in between uses or serves as nice gift wrapping.
5. Shun Classic 7-Inch Cleaver
If you want a traditional, Japanese-crafted Chinese cleaver, look no further than Shun, one of the most trusted blade brands in the business. This knife is a chef favorite that’s meant to last a lifetime if you care for it properly, making it worth the investment. The cleaver features Damascus steel, which is just as beautiful as it is practical with its hard but flexible finish and sharp edge. It’s also easy to use and maneuver and is resistant to corrosion and wear. Just be sure to hand wash it and dry it properly after each use.
6. ZHEN Japanese VG-10 67-Layer Damascus Steel
This eight-inch Chinese cleaver is a decent pick that isn’t as pricy as some of the others on this list, but it’s still made with quality Damascas steel that’s meant for long-term use. The knife is corrosion-resistant and has a sharp blade that will last with proper care (so no dishwasher), and it comes in a swanky box that also makes for a nice gift.
7. Winco Blade Chinese Cleaver
If you just need a Chinese cleaver that’s going to get the job done and you don’t want to drop a ton of coin on a fancier model, this basic budget pick is ridiculously inexpensive, coming in under 15 bucks. It still has the features you want in such a knife, too, like the high-carbon steel blade and a long wooden handle for comfortable chopping and dicing. This model is also dishwasher-safe, although if you want it to last as long as possible, you may want to clean it by hand, instead.
8. Victorinox Chinese Classic Chefs Knife
There are two schools of thought when it comes to putting sharp blades in the dishwasher. However, if you just really want to throw everything in and forget about it, this Chinese cleaver will let you do exactly that. The Fibrox handle is made with a non-elastic polymer, which makes it slip-resistant and dishwasher safe. As for the blade, it comes in a seven-inch model for a variety of functions.