About Meat Cleavers: Buyers guide
A meat cleaver is a special kind of tool that all home chefs should own. It is a large knife with a handle that is either made of a strong plastic or wooden material. Sometimes it’s just a continuation of the blade’s stainless steel material. The blade is constructed from toughened steel but is relatively blunt compared to other kitchen knives. It’s the chef’s swing that provides the downward force necessary to cut through tough meat and thick bones.
A chef without a meat cleaver could end up wasting many hours cutting through tough slabs of meat. These special knives are great for chopping through beef bones, separating chicken thighs, and cutting up carcasses. A standard kitchen knife could easily break from trying to make these kinds of cuts. If making beef jerky, a long slicing knife is recommended instead of a meat cleaver.
Vegans, vegetarians, and pescatarians probably won’t get much use out of a cleaver. But anyone who cooks meat often will stand to benefit greatly from owning this kind of tool.
Things to Know
Not all meat cleavers are created equal. You will want to think about your needs, cooking style, and budget. When considering which one to purchase, there are a few aspects you must know first decide the best meat cleaver for you.
The most common blade lengths for meat cleavers that you will find in a kitchen are the eight or six inch ones. With that said, some blades can get as long as 16 inches.
Why does the length of the blade matter? Simply put, the longer the blade is, the longer slabs of meat you can cut. If you have a short blade, you may very well have to cut the meat multiple times in order to cut it all the way across. And chefs with big hands will probably enjoy a large blade and large handle for the sake of comfort.
Blade height tends to be more of a personal preference and aesthetic quality. Some blades are long and slim while others are rectangular or even square shaped. It really depends on how the chef feels about it but the length of the blade should not affect the cutting that much.
The perfect knife is going to be different for each chef. The weight of the handle compared with that of the blade should feel comfortable when held in your hand. The blade should feel heavier than lighter but not too heavy that you can’t control the cleaver.
A thin blade will not last as long as a thick one. The thin ones are more likely to warp, bend, or even break if pushed hard enough. Thicker blades will be able to withstand tough cuts of meat and will provide you with the blunt force that is necessary to chop through thick bone. With that said, blunt blades are understandably more expensive.
While balance compares the feel of the blade compared to the handle, the weight has to do with how easily you can hold, raise, and chop the entire knife.
Arm strength will definitely be a factor in determining how heavy of a cleaver you want. You want a knife that will be hefty enough that it will assist you in bringing enough force down to chop the meat. You can’t rely on chopping through bones with a sharp blade alone. You need weight and strength to get a good cut.
Common Types of Steel
The best steel for these types of blades either come from Japan or Germany. These ones tend to be the highest quality although they are also the most expensive. Some meat cleavers will be heat-treated and cooled. This helps to make them stronger. Really good blades are going to be die-cut from one billet of stainless steel alloy.
Other blades will be made of high carbon stainless steel. Stainless steel prevents the metal from corroding. It also prevents stains, hence the name stainless steel. Still, moisture can affect the quality of the blade and corrode it over time. It is important to regularly clean the knife and make sure that it is dry when not being used.
Many butcher knives and meat cleavers will be rated on their Rockwell levels. The Rockwell test is used to measure how hard a material is and it is the industry standard for knives. A blade of 58 Rc is one of the toughest stainless steel knives on the planet and can easily cut through all sorts of materials.
Depending on the manufacturer, your blade may be blunt or it may be sharp. A blunt edged knife is useful because it won’t get dull and can be used for many years to come.
For sharp blades, manufacturers will sometimes use laser technology to ensure that the edge is equally sharp along the entire blade. Other manufacturers will have the blades be sharpened by hand. Carbon steel knives that have sharp edges will need to be continuously re-sharpened to maintain their original condition.
A blade left unsharpened for a long enough period of time will present a frustrating and tiresome cutting experience. Home chefs should use a honing rod to hone the blade’s sharpness once a week. Once the honing rod is no longer effective then you should switch to a whetstone.
A wooden handle on a meat cleaver is usually easy to grip and less likely to slip out of your hand. Other manufacturers will make a handle out of polypropylene. These are hygienic and unlikely to break or bend. They can become a little more slippery in sweaty hands though. Many high-quality handles are triple-riveted. Wooden ones might also be laminated and polished.
Although it might not be the first thing you think of, any serious home chef who cooks with meat often should definitely consider owning a meat cleaver. Not only will it add a touch of professionalism to your knife rack but it will come in handy during any time you have to cut through any foods that are especially tough.