Best Cleavers

Updated October 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

20 Models Considered
6 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
200 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best cleavers

Last Updated October 2019

For those who love the culinary arts, having the best possible tools is crucial. Just as Michelangelo couldn’t have painted the Sistine Chapel with finger paints, a great chef can’t prepare a life-changing meal with subpar cutlery. Cleavers are the workhorses of the kitchen, and having a good one is essential for proper food prep.

If you’re wondering what goes into making a great cleaver, there isn’t one single factor that determines its quality. Rather, it should have a number of design and quality aspects that come together to create a worthy culinary tool. Personal preference also comes into play when choosing the best possible cleaver for your needs. For instance, do you want one that’s lightweight, or do you like the feel of a hefty two-pound cleaver? Would you prefer a cleaver with a curved ergonomic handle or a straight one?

To learn more, keep reading our buying guide for tips on how you can make the right choice. If you’re ready to buy, take a look at our top picks.

Practice different holding techniques with your cleaver for different types of cuts. Personalizing your use of your cleaver will make you more effective at using it.

Key considerations

Cooking and food prep is a sensory experience in every possible way. That means that everything about your cooking tools needs to work ergonomically and functionally for you to do the best job. The following are a few factors that you should consider when shopping for a cleaver. Doing so will help you find the right cleaver for your own personal cooking needs.

Weight

When it comes to a cleaver’s weight, there is a lot of variation. Weights range between 13 ounces up to two pounds. Whether you want a lighter or heavier cleaver will depend on a few different factors. One is the types of meals you tend to prepare. If you need a cleaver to cut through large bones, then a heavier option may be better. Another factor is personal preference. Many cooks who have less upper-body strength actually prefer a heavier cleaver because it gives them more leverage when cutting.

Ergonomics

Some cleaver handles are designed with a curved style to make handling the cleaver easier on your hands — which is especially beneficial if you regularly cook and have a lot of heavy chopping to do. Some chefs prefer this handle style over a straight-handle design in order to prevent aches and fatigue. The size of your hands and your own personal movements when cutting will determine which handle style you prefer. It’s all about the “feel” of the knife.

Blade shape

There are two types of cleaver blades: curved and straight. What’s best for you will depend on how you use your cleaver. Some cooks use the front of the blade for trimming, while the middle or back of the blade is used for cutting through bone. If you don’t have a lot of strength, a curved blade allows you to rock the cleaver back and forth to get through those hard-to-cut pieces more easily.

Blade material

Most modern cleavers are made of carbon steel or iron. Both are extremely strong and maintain their sharpness through many uses. Iron tends to be slightly heavier than steel, which leads some who prefer a heavy instrument to favor iron cleavers.

EXPERT TIP

Consider using rubber gloves when cutting meat with your cleaver. It makes cleanup easier and reduces the risk of passing bacteria between foods.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

Premium wood handle

Many meat cleavers have a premium wood handle, which gives the cleaver a classic look. The most common is pakkawood, although other woods, such as walnut and mahogany, are available as well. While a wood handle is certainly more attractive than one made from a synthetic material, you’ll need to decide whether you’ll mind washing it by hand to prolong the life of the wood.

Knife sheath

A cleaver is an important tool for any cook, so some would like to give it the respect they feel it deserves. Some cleavers come with an included knife sheath to protect the blade when not in use. To keep your cleaver as sharp as possible, keep it sheathed when not in use. The sheath is also handy to protect you from accidentally cutting yourself.

Hook hole

In the past, almost every cleaver produced had a hole in the upper tip of the blade. This hole is to either hang the cleaver on a hook in the kitchen or a hook on the cook’s apron. Because the use of cleavers has become much more widespread among home cooks, not all cleavers still come with a hook hole in the blade. If you think this may be useful for your storage purposes, then consider choosing one that has a hook hole.

CAUTION

Never use a cleaver that has cut raw meat for slicing other cooked food unless you have washed it first. This can cause serious illness.

Cleaver prices

Inexpensive: From $10 to $400 is the inexpensive range for cleavers. Even though they are not the most expensive, you can still find extremely high-quality options within this price range.

Mid-range: Between $400 and $800 is where you’ll find cleavers that tend to have ice-hardened stainless steel corrosion-resistant blades for major durability.

Expensive: The priciest cleavers will set you back between $800 and $1,500. These tend to be used primarily by professional chefs. They are sometimes made of Blue Aogami Super Steel, which is extremely hard but also easy to sharpen.

EXPERT TIP

Don’t sharpen your cleaver too regularly. It is intended to be less sharp than most other cutlery and sharpening it too often will cause it to wear out before its time.


Alissa  | Child Care Professional

Tips

  • Make sure you have a cutting board that is thick and sturdy enough before starting to cut or chop with your new cleaver.
  • One of the strengths of a cleaver is that you can use its weight and leverage to cut rather than your own power. Learn to wield the cleaver efficiently to get the most out of it.
  • If you are not experienced at cutting through thick cuts of meat and bone with a cleaver, don’t get frustrated. With a little practice, using this powerful kitchen tool will become second nature to you.
  • Place your thumb on the spine of the handle if you feel you need some extra power and precision. This is a time-tested technique used by butchers and chefs alike.
  • Always be aware of the position of your non-cutting hand when using your cleaver. This can be a dangerous knife, and it needs to be used carefully.
  • Before each use, check to see that your blade is still sharp enough for the impending job. If it’s dull, sharpen it to your taste.
  • Don’t rely on other people’s suggestions for the best cleaver. Only you know what you need for your kitchen needs. Assess your personal preferences and cutting and cooking style in order to choose the right cleaver.

Other products we considered

When it comes to cleavers, there are more than plenty to choose from. We’ve included a few others that we think you should consider when shopping for your own cleaver. A special cleaver that we found in the inexpensive range is the Dalstrong Shogun Series-X Cleaver. The nitrogen-cooled blade is solid and sharp enough for any of your kitchen needs. Another cleaver that we think is worth considering is the HP Japanese Cleaver. Its high carbon-content steel blade offers the perfect mix of performance and durability. For a top-of-the-line selection, we suggest the Takeda Aogami Super Chinese Cleaver. One of the few completely handmade cleavers available, this knife will make you the envy of every other chef in town.

Review videos online for the best techniques for using a cleaver. Doing so will give you ideas that you may not come up with on your own.

FAQ

Q. How often do I need to sharpen my cleaver?
A
. Because a cleaver is used for heavy cutting, it doesn’t need to be as sharp as most other knives. You probably won’t need to sharpen your cleaver more than once or twice a year.

Q. Can’t I use a smaller knife for cutting through bone?
A.
No. A cleaver is specially designed for cutting through bone and thick pieces of meat. If you use a smaller knife for this purpose, it will dull the blade prematurely and damage the longevity of the blade.

Q. Is there one right way to hold and wield a cleaver?
A.
No. There are some trusted techniques, but your own style and needs will dictate how you use it.

Q. How often should I wash my cleaver?
A
. You need to wash your cleaver thoroughly after every use. Because it is used primarily for cutting through raw meat, you have to be sure that no bacteria remains on the blade after using it.

The team that worked on this review
  • Adam
    Adam
    Writer
  • Angela
    Angela
    Editor
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Jennifer
    Jennifer
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer

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