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Forged high-carbon stainless steel blades are strong and hold sharp and durable edges.
Full tang construction ensures strength, rigidity, and balance.
Molded rubber and impregnated wood handles are durable, sanitary, and easy to grip.
The cleaver is a massive knife. Although its applications are limited, there are some things that can not be done in the kitchen without it. It is absolutely necessary for butchery, especially when chopping through bone or large joints. The flat of the blade is ideal for pounding out veal cutlets or chicken breasts and the spine is the only thing in a kitchen you can use to crack open a coconut. Cleavers are not absolutely necessary for the casual cook, but they are guaranteed impress a friend looking through your knife drawer.
Chinese and Japanese cleavers are entirely different knives from western-style cleavers. Chinese cleavers play the role of the chef's knife in Chinese kitchens. The longer, squatter Japanese cleavers are used primarily for chopping vegetables. For more information, please refer to our Buyer Guide for Asian Knives.
Cleavers are short, thick and heavy, rectangular in shape, and usually no longer than 15 or 16 cm in length. Although the cleaver is primitive in its use and function, its construction should be as refined as possible. You should always choose a cleaver forged from a single blank of high-carbon stainless steel. The blade must be heavy enough to power through bone and joints, sharp enough to chop through meat without damaging it, and hard enough to retain sharpness through rough and heavy use.
Ceramic blades are extremely hard, extremely sharp, and will hold an edge for months or years. The disadvantage to ceramic knives is that they very brittle and can be quite expensive. Ceramic knives will chip or crack if misused or dropped, and they must be sent back to the manufacturer to be sharpened.
The first thing to look for in a handle is a full tang. The tang is the part of the blade that serves as the core of the handle. A full tang can often be seen running down the center of the handle all the way to the hilt, though they are sometimes fully encased in molded rubber or altogether replaced with precisely weighted stainless steel handles. Full tang knives are strong, durable, and well balanced. Avoid partial tang knives entirely as they are top heavy will crack or break in time.
In our opinion, the best handles are made from molded rubbers and woods impregnated with hard resins (such as Pakkawood and Staminawood) as they are durable, sanitary, and provide excellent grip. Plastic and stainless steel handles are also acceptable, but many chefs find them slippery, especially when wet. Some manufacturers like Global compensate for this with uniquely shaped and textured handles. Traditional rosewood handles are still considered ideal in some circles, but they require careful attention and regular maintenance otherwise they will warp and crack.