Everyone knows that a chef is only as good as his or her knives, and never is that more true than in Asian cuisine. While many of us earnest chefs-to-be have stocked our kitchen with the finest in stainless steel, one incredibly useful and versatile tool that many Western kitchens lack is the Chinese cleaver, or, more accurately, the Chinese chef’s knife. While it certainly looks like the cleaver we use in the West to chop bones (and arm horror movie villains!) that is not its intended use. Instead, the Chinese cleaver has a spectacular range of uses – let’s face it, most of us aren’t butchers, and cleavers don’t exactly appear at the top of our wish-list for knives. But Chinese cleavers are so handy, that once you get the hang of using one, you’ll find yourself using it every day!
So what exactly are Chinese cleavers ideal for?
1. Slicing & Dicing
Well, duh! You would hope your knife would cut well – but the Chinese cleaver is specially designed. The sharper edge of the blade toward the bottom center is intended to use for cutting, while the blunter part of the edge near the top front is intended more for tenderizing meats.
2. Tenderizing Meat
So, make sure when you use the Chinese cleaver that you cut closer to the bottom of the blade for optimum sharpness, but when you need to tenderize meat, use the duller top portion of the blade to pound away and achieve the tenderness you want.
3. Smashing & Peeling Garlic & Ginger
Peeling garlic and ginger can be a real pain! Yet for many of us, garlic and ginger are staple ingredients – certainly in most Asian dishes they are. Instead of ruining your nails trying to peel garlic, or bothering with a peeler to prepare ginger, turn your Chinese cleaver on its side on top of the garlic or ginger, then use the base of your hand to press down on the knife and crush the garlic or ginger beneath it. You’ll be surprised and relieved at how easily the peel falls away, and then mincing is no problem with the cleaver!
4. Transfer food from cutting board to pan
Perhaps our favorite feature of the Chinese cleaver is how easy it makes moving food from one place to another, so you can avoid the hassle of having a food transfer gadget! After mincing or chopping, sweep the food onto the side of the knife and whisk it over to the pan – no hassle, no problem!
5. Pestle (and mortar)
Okay, the Chinese cleaver doesn’t have a built-in bowl for a mortar, but the handle, when you turn it up, makes for a great pestle in a pinch! So next time you need minced garlic or ginger, just flip over your Chinese cleaver up and use the handle as a pestle over your cutting board which can serve as your make-shift mortar.
If you prefer to watch video instruction, click here.
Buy your own Chinese cleaver online: