Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Uses for a cleaver


Recommended Posts

  • 6 months later...

Okay, I am now the proud owner of my very first cleaver--a Chinese-style one.

Only now that I've got it home, I realize that all the cutting boards around here are relatively thin plastic ones. Somehow I have this vision of hauling off to thwack through a chicken carcass, and thwacking right through the board and a good ways into the countertop. :shock:

So, what is the recommended minimum thickness and composition of cutting board on which to be going thwack with this thing? As I'm on a tight budget, low-cost alternatives will be highly appreciated. :smile:

Edited by mizducky (log)
Link to post
Share on other sites

Interesting topic ... I've concluded that it's primarily personal preference whether one uses a cleaver or not.

I was quite surprised at a cooking class at Cordon Bleu in Paris last week that the chef/instructor preferred a cleaver to a large chef's knife. He minced the garlic almost instantly - the way Martin Yan does on TV! - and put whole spices in waxed paper and wacked them to powder.

I have yet to try using a cleaver but one day I'm sure I will.....

*****

"Did you see what Julia Child did to that chicken?" ... Howard Borden on "Bob Newhart"

*****

Link to post
Share on other sites
I have this shiny new Wusthof 7" cleaver.  It shore is purty.  I'm told by snowangel, that I should of course now be able to whack apart chickens.  While that has a certain appeal, I got to wondering what else do you use a cleaver for?

Mine only comes off the knife rack for splitting pig trotters, breaking up bones for stock and once to deter an intruder. A large, bald, angry, yelling cook waving a big chopper is clearly an effective home security solution - I've never seen anyone move so fast. :biggrin:

Tim Hayward

"Anyone who wants to write about food would do well to stay away from

similes and metaphors, because if you're not careful, expressions like

'light as a feather' make their way into your sentences and then where are you?"

Nora Ephron

Link to post
Share on other sites
Okay, I am now the proud owner of my very first cleaver--a Chinese-style one.

Only now that I've got it home, I realize that all the cutting boards around here are relatively thin plastic ones. Somehow I have this vision of hauling off to thwack through a chicken carcass, and thwacking right through the board and a good ways into the countertop. :shock: 

As I get deeper into the testing and research for my knife book, I find myself reaching for a Chinese-style cleaver more and more often. These things are great! I have four now with another on the way for comparison purposes. All are thin bladed cutting machines.

If you have a Chinese style cleaver there are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  • If you got a real Chinese-style cleaver, it's probably carbon steel rather than stainless steel. It'll develop a patina that distresses some people. Doesn't bother me in the least. In fact, the patina is a benign form of rust that keeps the more aggressive and damaging forms of rust from taking hold. Just be sure to dry your cleaver immediately after washing. Rinsing with very hot water will help the blade dry faster.
  • Chinese-style cleavers aren't meat cleavers. They're not designed for whacking bones apart. They have very thin, very hard blades that are amazing on veggies but will chip out if you bang the crap out of them.
  • You do anything with a cleaver that you would normally do with a chef's knife, and then some. Scooping with that big wide blade is great. It's like a combo knife and bench scraper.
  • Cleaver technique is a little different. There is less belly than a chef's knife, so you can't rock quite as well. What you can do, however, is place the cleaver blade on the food to be cut and just nudge the blade forward (not down) a little. The weight of the cleaver and the thin blade will do the rest. It's an extremely efficient cutting stroke. Some Chinese-style cleavers are pretty heavy -- I have one that weighs in at 520g -- so they can be tiring to use for long periods if you don't figure this little trick out. Once you do, though, and stop trying to power slice down through the veggie or meat the way you would with a chef's knife, your speed and economy of motion increase dramatically.

Hmm, a bit long winded. Sorry 'bout that. Thus endeth the cleaver lesson for today.

Take care,

Chad

Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

Link to post
Share on other sites

I used mine last night to trim the hurricane damaged leaves off of my bananas. It was the perfect gardening tool for that task.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

Link to post
Share on other sites
I used mine last night to trim the hurricane damaged leaves off of my bananas. It was the perfect gardening tool for that task.

Brooks I have used a GINSU to strip bark off a cedar tree....

build porch cut tomatoes

just like the commercial

tracey

The great thing about barbeque is that when you get hungry 3 hours later....you can lick your fingers

Maxine

Avoid cutting yourself while slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop away.

"It is the government's fault, they've eaten everything."

My Webpage

garden state motorcyle association

Link to post
Share on other sites
I used mine last night to trim the hurricane damaged leaves off of my bananas. It was the perfect gardening tool for that task.

Brooks I have used a GINSU to strip bark off a cedar tree....

build porch cut tomatoes

just like the commercial

tracey

I, of course, would have been using Ginsu Knives on my fruit trees, but I gave them all away as I don't ever seem to cut any cans in half anymore.

Good thought, though. I'm sure that Chad will devote the better part of an entire chapter to the top of the line Ginsu Products. He pretty much has to.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

Link to post
Share on other sites

Many thanks for the detailed answer, Chad. I do have a couple follow-up questions, for you or anyone else who would like to chime in here.

Okay, I am now the proud owner of my very first cleaver--a Chinese-style one.

Only now that I've got it home, I realize that all the cutting boards around here are relatively thin plastic ones. Somehow I have this vision of hauling off to thwack through a chicken carcass, and thwacking right through the board and a good ways into the countertop. :shock: 

If you have a Chinese style cleaver there are a couple of things to keep in mind:

[*] If you got a real Chinese-style cleaver, it's probably carbon steel rather than stainless steel. It'll develop a patina that distresses some people. Doesn't bother me in the least. In fact, the patina is a benign form of rust that keeps the more aggressive and damaging forms of rust from taking hold. Just be sure to dry your cleaver immediately after washing. Rinsing with very hot water will help the blade dry faster.

Hmmmm ... then I'm not sure what the heck I've got. :laugh: It was indeed made in China, and purchased at a restaurant store that caters to Chinese restaurants, but the box sez it's stainless steel, and it does look like that to me (not that I would mind the patina thing, but I guess that's moot now).

Here's what the critter looks like:

gallery_27785_2788_23601.jpg

For whatever it's worth, the box also calls this a "Chinese kitchen knife" and a "king knife (Chinese)".

[*] Chinese-style cleavers aren't meat cleavers. They're not designed for whacking bones apart. They have very thin, very hard blades that are amazing on veggies but will chip out if you bang the crap out of them.

Now this is a bit of a bummer to me, because I was seeking a cleaver specifically for whacking bones apart (although using it for the veg-chopping techniques you describe sounds like a lot of fun too). Again, for whatever it's worth, the blade on this thing is not what I'd call "very thin". At least to me, it looks pretty darn thick, and feels pretty substantial in the hand.

It was also, admittedly, a damn cheap item (like $10). I suspect that knife mavens such as yourself would probably consider it a piece of crap--which it no doubt is. :biggrin: Given all that, I am tempted to try whacking chicken bones with it anyway. So--my question remains: what weight of cutting board should one be whacking on?

(Yeah, I'm a tightwad--kinda comes with the territory of being on a real tight budget.)

Link to post
Share on other sites
[*] Chinese-style cleavers aren't meat cleavers. They're not designed for whacking bones apart. They have very thin, very hard blades that are amazing on veggies but will chip out if you bang the crap out of them.

Now this is a bit of a bummer to me, because I was seeking a cleaver specifically for whacking bones apart (although using it for the veg-chopping techniques you describe sounds like a lot of fun too). Again, for whatever it's worth, the blade on this thing is not what I'd call "very thin". At least to me, it looks pretty darn thick, and feels pretty substantial in the hand.

It was also, admittedly, a damn cheap item (like $10). I suspect that knife mavens such as yourself would probably consider it a piece of crap--which it no doubt is. :biggrin: Given all that, I am tempted to try whacking chicken bones with it anyway. So--my question remains: what weight of cutting board should one be whacking on?

(Yeah, I'm a tightwad--kinda comes with the territory of being on a real tight budget.)

Ah, okay. I think I know what you've got now. And I think I've even got you beat on cheap! gallery_8529_2752_73907.jpg

There are indeed various sizes and weights of Chinese cleavers. The thin, hard ones are specifically veggie cleavers, though they work well on protiens, too, just like a chef's knife. The thicker ones are indeed the kind of cleaver you were looking for. If it feels hefty enough to cut through bones, it probably will. The steel is going to be a bit soft, so you don't have to worry about chipping so much as rolling and indentation -- both of which are easily fixed by steeling.

As for your cutting board -- stable is more important than thick. When whacking away, you do not want your cutting board sliding around. A damp towel underneath will do the trick. I'd go back to the restaurant supply place for one of those 1/2" thick NSF polyethelene boards (like this one). That should work nicely.

Take care,

Chad

Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, I use my cleaver to cut frozen cheesecake of course.

Bones, chickens, what's all this whacking about???

It cuts frozen cheesecake like buttah. No gooey mess on the knife rippin' up your beautiful confection, no stupid dental floss, no hot water :rolleyes:

I stand on a step, I mean I'm 5'8" but I place the cleaver where I want to cut and just lean on it--my upper body weight does all the work, well the cleaver helps of course and snnnap--beautiful cut, no goo, all clean & pretty.

:biggrin:

Link to post
Share on other sites

My mother loves her cheap Chinese cleaver and I swear she can peel grapes with it, then carve the Last Supper into every green globe. I lack the knack. Same mother gave us a wildly expensive Teutonic cleaver. It's whacked some turkey bones for stock and spatchcocked a couple of chickens untill we decided that 2.99 Ikea plastic-handled paper scissors did a quicker, neater job. It seems I'am not a cleaver person.

Chad: How the hell do I sharpen that freakin' Wusthoff? It weighs about ten pounds and is dull as a butterknife. It is scary-looking though, so, following Tim's example I might keep it in the drawer of the bedside table, the better to terrify intruders. K8, thanks for the tip about frozen cheesecake.

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

Link to post
Share on other sites

I have one from the Calphalon Katan Series and I use it cut everything. It has become my "goto blade" I have others but if im on auto pilot I just grab it ouf of instinct and go at it.

I used it a while back for a terrine where I minced some chicken.

I use it for mincing garlic

Quick chopping of veggies for stir fry then right to the wok with it, makes a great scooper for transporting from board to wok.

Link to post
Share on other sites
My mother loves her cheap Chinese cleaver and I swear she can peel grapes with it, then carve the Last Supper into every green globe.  I lack the knack.  Same mother gave us a wildly expensive Teutonic cleaver. It's whacked some turkey bones for stock and spatchcocked a couple of chickens untill we decided that 2.99 Ikea plastic-handled paper scissors did a quicker, neater job.  It seems I'am not a cleaver person.

Chad: How the hell do I sharpen that freakin' Wusthoff? It weighs about ten pounds and is dull as a butterknife.  It is scary-looking though, so, following Tim's example I might keep it in the drawer of the bedside table, the better to terrify intruders. K8, thanks for the tip about frozen cheesecake.

Like your mom, I tend to favor the Chinese cleaver. I find the western style cleavers too heavy for general use. For chopping meats, hard squashes (baton the back with a rolling pin) and bones, though, heavy cleavers are hard to beat.

As for sharpening your cleaver, I'd just go about it as you would your chef's knife. I just put a new edge on an inexpensive Dexter Russell Chinese cleaver and found it pretty easy going. The only thing to keep in mind is that you want to maintain whatever belly might be there. The Wusthof is going to be somewhat wedge shaped and have fairly soft steel (54-56Rc, I believe), so it shouldn't be too hard to put a new edge on it. Before you do, though, check for a rolled edge -- it's just like checking for a burr (there's a photo in the eG class). Could be that you just need to hit it with a steel.

For those of you who haven't dozed off yet, here is the elusive ChanChiKee Chinese cleaver from Hong Kong. They're pretty cheap, have decent carbon steel and make for a good intro to Chinese cleavers. This one looks like it's been dragged behind a truck for a while, but it should clean up nicely. If you have a large asian population in your area, you might find one of these at an asian market or restaurant supply catering to asian restaurants. You might have to ask for it, though. From what I've found, they tend to keep the carbon steel cleavers behind the counter or in a display case rather than out on the shelves. Dunno why. I learned about the ChanChiKees from Andy Lynn, a cleaver fan who has written an intro to cleaver usage at knifeforums.com.

gallery_8529_2752_50905.jpg

gallery_8529_2752_73246.jpg

gallery_8529_2752_38158.jpg

Chad

Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

Link to post
Share on other sites

From what I've found, they tend to keep the carbon steel cleavers behind the counter or in a display case rather than out on the shelves. Dunno why.

Uh, Chad. Did you take a good look at that thing? I wouldn't leave it hanging around either. I still can't find mine, hid it good! It's the one Martin Chan's wife was selling a while back. I think so anyway. I'll look again, but it may have been used for yard cleaning back in Sept.

Patty

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...

How do you mince with a Chinese cleaver?

I have this Cutco knife, which was given to me as an unsolicited gift:

1735.jpg

Cutco calls it a vegetable knife, but it looks pretty similar to some other knives which are marketed as Chinese cleavers.

I rarely , as the relatively straight blade makes mincing difficult, at least using the normal chef's knife rocking motion. Also, the handle is too small and light, making the thing feel unwieldy and poorly balanced. But the blade is razor-sharp and relatively thin compared to my Henckels chef's knife, so I have no doubt it would work well using the forward motion slicing technique mentioned above (although it's not very heavy, feeling only slightly heavier than my chef's knife).

By the way, I don't remember seeing Cutco knives mentioned in any of the various threads on knives I've read here; anybody like their stuff?

EDIT: I've been doing some Googling, and it appears that Cutco knives are, aside from Cutco salepeople and their relatives, pretty much universally regarded as crap. I also have a Cutco paring knife, which was also a gift, and I have to say I like it quite a bit. The handle, while of the same basic form as the vegetable knife, feels better on this smaller knife. And the paring knife, like it's larger brother, takes a very sharp edge, owing perhaps in part to the well-defined back bevel on the blade, which is missing entirely on my Henckels knives.

Edited by phatj (log)
Link to post
Share on other sites
Well, I use my cleaver to cut frozen cheesecake of course.

Bones, chickens, what's all this whacking about???

It cuts frozen cheesecake like buttah. No gooey mess on the knife rippin' up your beautiful confection, no stupid dental floss, no hot water  :rolleyes:

I stand on a step, I mean I'm 5'8" but I place the cleaver where I want to cut and just lean on it--my upper body weight does all the work, well the cleaver helps of course and snnnap--beautiful cut, no goo, all clean & pretty.

:biggrin:

Sort of like the frozen cheesecake, we use it on frozen-solid ice cream sheet "cake". Any nearby children are carefully moved out of the way first... This way, we ignore all that business about taking the cake from the freezer x number of minutes before serving and then watching it melt because we're not ready for the cake yet. I guess we're the only ones around here who do this because there's usually a collective gasp when we start cutting.

We also use it for cutting pizza (on a wooden cutting board.) We just never got around to buying one of those pizza slicers.

jayne

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...