Meat Cleaver FAQs

Meat Cleaver FAQs

Posted by Ramon Elzinga on

Meat Cleaver FAQs

The meat cleaver is a large, heavyweight kitchen knife that many might find quite intimidating. If you are a movie buff, you can’t help but imagine that these knives are straight out of some blood-curdling and bloody horror movie. Whilst most Japanese knives are the opposite, this blade balances your blades.

Physically, it looks like a rectangular-bladed hatchet. It is a muscle knife that you can use to repeatedly hack through bones and thick meat without worrying about the knife chipping or cracking. This will be your muscle knife in your kitchen cutlery set, one which you can use as your butcher’s knife. 

Due to its size and weight, you can use the meat cleaver to literally slice through any produce with utmost and brutal efficiency. You can use this heavyweight and brawny kitchen tool to hack through some of the toughest produce in the kitchen, including watermelons. It will take on everything that your other knives can’t handle but it is primarily used as a butcher’s knife. In your kitchen knife collection, the meat cleaver will undoubtedly be the largest and also the heaviest knife. Its large size is ideally suited for breaking down carcasses as well as hacking through bones, sinew, cartilage as well as the connective tissues among others and it does it really well thanks to its excellent balance and momentum. You can use its broadside for other purposes such as for crushing your ingredients or tendering meat. 

What is the Meat Cleaver? 

The meat cleaver isn’t a particularly glamorous kitchen knife. It is a broad and heavy kitchen knife with a square blade and straight edge. Some have slightly curved edges. Its build is suited for tasks such as chopping through joints and tough bones, butchering or opening up lobsters among other tasks. The weight is usually a key factor in the rating of meat cleavers and some butchers and professional chefs will know the right weight of the meat cleaver to go with for every job. Not all meat cleavers look like a small and slightly elongated hatchet. Some of them are thoughtfully designed and made from high-quality materials. Some meat cleavers can be just as high-grade as your typical good quality sashimi knives. 

There are various variants of the meat cleavers depending on the culinary traditions. However, these designs might deviate only slightly from the typical Western-style meat cleaver. The Chinese chef’s knife, for example, serves the same function as the conventional meat cleaver and also features the rectangular blade. The Chinese variant, however, has a thinner cross-section and is generally deployed more as a general-purpose kitchen knife than as a butcher’s knife. However, there is a heavier Chinese meat “cleaver” knife that is used for butchering and chopping through bone just like its Western variant.

In the Japanese cutlery culture, the closest to the Western meat cleaver is the Deba Bocho that is used to hack off the fish’s head. However, its blade, with its pointed edge, has a radically different design from the typically square/rectangular Western meat cleaver blade. There are Japanese meat cleavers that look pretty much like their Western counterparts but these should not be confused with the Japanese vegetable cleavers which feature the same blade profile but have thinner blades. 

Where does the Meat Cleaver Fit in Your Kitchen?

The meat cleaver will be your heavyweight kitchen knife used primarily for butchering and cutting through the thick meat, thin bones, poultry and even watermelons. However, as the number suggests it is primarily used in cutting large chunks of meat. 

How Long is the Meat Cleaver? 

The most common blade lengths for meat cleavers is 7 inches to 8 inches or 178mm to 200mm. Some can be as long as 9 inches. This is a heavy knife with a big blade and these are the lengths at which it can be comfortably wielded by most chefs, home cooks and butchers. Due to the large and heavier blade, it generally has a longer handle, typically about 6 inches long for perfect balance. 

What is the Typical Spine Width of the Meat Cleaver? 

One of the handy features of the meat cleavers is their thick spines that contribute to their heavy, tough and sturdy build. This build helps both butchers and professional chefs to easily glide through meat and bones. The robust build also enables these knives to be used in tenderizing meat by crushing it with the side of the knife. The spine width can vary from approximately 5mm (3/16-inch) to 6mm (1/4-inch). 

What is the Blade Profile of the Meat Cleaver Like? 

Meat cleavers are the largest and heaviest knives in any kitchen knife collection (uber heavy in a Japanese Kitchen). While the shapes might vary slightly, they generally have a large rectangular blade with a straight edge. Some meat cleavers have a slight curve in the edge. 

The large blades of the meat cleavers usually have a hanging hole at the blade tip to allow for easy storage. Due to the large and heavy blades, the wood handles of the meat cleavers must be long, strong and provide a sturdy grip. The robustness of the meat cleavers means that they also don’t have to be razor-sharp. They have much a blunter grind compared to other kitchen knives. 

What is the Meat Cleaver Best Suited For?

The considerable size and weight of the meat cleavers make these brutish blades perfectly suited for heavyweight cutting and chopping jobs that are likely to damage your favourite but delicate kitchen knives. You can use them for various tough kitchen tasks such as cutting through soft and thin bones as well as the sinews. You can also use them to chop up a whole chicken, separate chicken ribs or chop through the thin poultry bones. They can also be used on lobster shells, to break down ribs on the meat or to prepare hard vegetables and foods like squash. However, you shouldn’t use meat cleavers to cut through any large, hard or thick bones as these require a bone saw. You will need a meat cleaver when you need to chop off large portions of meat or to cut thick meat and dense cartilage.  

What is the Meat Cleaver Not Suited For? 

This is a large and robust blade that will not work on delicate slicing and chopping work. For that, you might need some slicer or general-purpose kitchen knives. The meat cleaver is also not for cutting fruits and vegetables. While it works well as a butcher’s knife, it is not suited for big, heavy and hard bones that require a bone saw. 

What is the Meat Cleaver’s Core Strengths? 

Meat cleavers are bold, broad and robust knives that are suited for the heavyweight work in the kitchen. Their tough edges can deliver repeated blows on thick meat, cartilage or bones without cracking or chipping. Apart from their resilience and brutal efficiency when it comes to cutting thick meat, meat cleavers are also fashioned from a soft but tough and thick steel material that will not buckle or fracture easily when put into hard use. The size and weight of the knife allow you to leverage its momentum to deliver efficient cutting action. You can use these knives to cut or chop right through the meat instead of taking it through slicing or back and forth sawing motion.

Meat cleavers have a tough and wide blade that allows you to use their sides to crush during the food preparation without cracking. Most of the other thin slicing knives would crack or bend when put to such repeated stress. 

The wider blade of these knives also helps in keeping away the wielder’s fingers from the cutting board. You can also use its wide blade to pick up the chopped-up ingredients from the cutting board and bowl. 

Finally, its wide blade can crush and tenderize your food and ingredients such as ginger and garlic. 

Who Should Use the Meat Cleaver?

The meat cleaver is a heavy-duty kitchen knife that can be used by home cooks, professional chefs and butchers. Apart from their efficacy on thick meat and thin bones and cartilages, meat cleavers can also be used in the kitchen to slice open large melons, large tubers as well as the tough-skinned squash.

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  • Thanks for asking Shaun… yes – we are playing in the shed at present with a few shapes and steels. Hopefully, we end up with what we want and we can start making it for others!

    Ramon Elzinga on
  • So is this an indication that a true “cleaver” is joining your lineup soon?

    Shaun on

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