What is a Cleaver Knife Used For?

  • By: Jack Mancuso

What is a Cleaver Knife Used For? - Cuso Cuts

If you ask anyone who loves to cook, there are some essential knives that should be in your kitchen. Everyone knows about Chef Knives, but few have ever used a cleaver. There’s no question it looks a bit daunting, but it has a specific role to play in your culinary efforts. So what is a clever knife used for?

Cleavers are blade-heavy, so they suit heavy-duty tasks where you need more force. A cleaver like our Cuso Cuts Cleaver is suited to efficiently cut through heavy pieces of meat, including cartilage, and bones. Beyond that, it makes short work of squash and pineapple, for example. Root vegetables? Piece of cake!

The versatility of a cleaver doesn’t end there. It can pound, dice, slice, mince, and crush cloves of garlic easily. 

Using a Cleaver

The question, “what is a cleaver knife used for,” leads to a natural second question, how do you use it properly? A cleaver can take a little practice to get used to, but there are steps to help ensure perfect results. First, it’s essential you have a thick wooden chopping board that’s sturdy and stable. 

  • Step Two: The Perfect Grip

Cleaver slicing bell pepper

Hold the cleaver close to the blade. Place your thumb on one side, and clutch the handle with your other fingers on the opposite side. 

  • Step Three: Cutting

Cleaver dicing bell pepper

The weight of a good cleaver should do most of the work for you. Use your wrist to direct your aim and give it force. Don’t worry if you have to use a second stroke. It’s not unusual with denser items. 

Slicing, Mincing, and Tenderizing

Once you master basic cutting with your cleaver, now it’s time to try its other functions. 

When you’re slicing meat, you hold the cleaver horizontally to your cutting board, rather than above it at an angle. Grip the cleaver with your strong hand, and use your other hand to secure what you’re slicing. Just be careful that you watch the stabilizing hand. Stop when you get close. 

Mincing is fun. Pick up your cleaver. Put two-three fingertips on the top (blunt) part of the blade. Keep the tip of the cleaver in contact with the cutting board. Bring the blade down repeatedly, moving from one side of the meat or vegetable to the other. Gather the pieces and repeat the process until you achieve the desired results. Slide the cleaver underneath the minced item using the wide part like a tray for transferring into a bowl or cooking pan.

In order to tenderize meat, you’ll need to hold the cleaver upside down. You’ll be using the blunt edge to pound meat. Create a crisscross pattern. 

PitMaster’s Memo

The word cleaver comes from the Old English cleven, which means to split by force. In the Old Saxon it was kiloban, and in German, klieben. All these languages with similar words for cleaver are but a few. 

The first cleavers probably appeared around the first millennium BC. When the Iron Age arrived, metallurgical arts grew. For a time, it was a tool of combat with a consistent appearance until the beginning of the 16th century. Pirates used it to cut ropes for sailing ships, while hunters used it to swiftly portion their prize.

As with many bladed items, it wouldn’t be too long before cooks discovered its usefulness for making many meals from what hunters gathered. This is why butcheries are associated with cleavers. 

In thinking about the question, “what is a cleaver knife used for,” it’s worthy of note that the traditional meat cleaver is hunky and powerful. There is another option, however, namely a Chinese cleaver. The blade design is thinner, and the blade angle is 25 degrees (a meat cleaver is 30). It is lighter and often sharper than a meat cleaver, too. The Chinese cleaver is well suited for vegetables and, indeed, is often dubbed a “vegetable cleaver.”

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