A Chinese cleaver is a knife with a shape very close to a Western meat cleaver but it is used for very different purposes.
The blade is about 20 cm (8 inches) long by 7 ½ cm (3 inches) tall. It can be carbon steel, stainless steel or a combination of carbon and stainless steel. While most people prefer stainless steel — because carbon discolours over time, and some think it imparts a taste to food — some still prefer carbon, because it holds an edge better than stainless when sharpened.
Despite the “cleaver” name in English, it is not really for chopping big bones with, though chicken bones are fine. Larger bones can ruin some of these blades. The back of the blade can be used, though, to tenderize meat. To do this, turn the knife upside down, with the dull top side of it facing down towards the board, then raise the cleaver up and down, banging the meat.
Mostly, though, it is used for preparing vegetables, for which it is as multi-purpose as a French chef’s knife, though owing to its larger size, it doesn’t permit quite the same amount of precision.
It can be used to dice some vegetables, and shred others such as lettuce. It is great for cutting through wide vegetables such as cabbage, eggplant (aka aubergine), lettuce, etc, all at one go.
- To julienne, mince or dice, hold the front tip in place, then move the handle up and down, swivelling on the top;
- To chop, go straight up and down;
- Turn it on its side to crush garlic and ginger.
The side of the blade can be used as a shovel to scoop chopped-up food with.