The meat cleaver ranks among the most favored of knives among professional chefs, but for the average home cook, this blade can be a bit intimidating.
Unlike other kitchen knives, the meat cleaver demands a certain level of respect. With its squared design and large size, this knife can be a showstopper.
Engineered to sever and hack through bones and sinew, as well as other tough food items, the meat cleaver is a routinely used knife for those who frequently work with meat in the kitchen.
But there’s more to this revered knife than just size and heft.
In this guide we’ll take you through the ins and outs of how to handle a meat cleaver safely, reliably and efficiently, enabling you to get more done and make better cuts in the process.
How to Properly Handle a Meat Cleaver
It all starts with the right grip
No matter how much of a rush you’re in, the ‘grip it and rip it’ routine isn’t going to cut it (pun intended). Ideally, prior to use, you should have familiarized yourself with the cleaver’s handle, weight, size and maneuverability in hand.
Practice makes perfect, and the last thing you want to do is slip up when preparing an important dish for friends or family.
Given its unique shape and oversized design, there are several ways to properly grip a meat cleaver. Your hand size also plays a role and you may need to make slight adjustments in order to feel comfortable (this is important). Remember, you should be in control of the knife, not have the knife in control of you.
Grip Option #1 – Using your dominant hand, take hold of the knife’s handle, with your grip starting just behind where the blade meets the handle. Next, place your thumb on one side of the grip while curling your remaining fingers over the opposing side of the handle. With this grip, an equal amount of pressure will be imposed by your index and thumb as will be from the other fingers. This gives you improved control (especially if the knife is heavy or overly large), but less precision over the blade, chops and cuts.
Grip Option #2 – For this grip, follow the steps in “Grip Option #1” above. The difference here is that the majority of pressure should come from your thumb and index finger, with your curled over fingers aiding in stability, balance and support. This modification is often preferred by chefs, giving them greater control over the precision of the cut and a little extra finesse.
How To Use a Meat Cleaver for Meat, Fish and Poultry
This is what the knife was born to do. Centuries of engineering have perfected this one knife’s design to superbly carry out this task.
From slicing and mincing to chopping and cleaving meat from bone and sinew, this blade tackles these challenges and more with stride.
The large blade edge backed by hefty weight, enables any chef to chop with confidence. In fact, the knife is so capable that it can even chop right through smaller bones.
Assume a proper grip. Next, place the wide blade across the area you want to cut. Use the blade’s weight, and if needed, extra help from your free hand, to push down and cleave meat from the bone.
That’s all there is to it!
How to Use a Meat Cleaver On Vegetables and Fruit?
That’s right folks! Despite the carnivorous name, a meat cleaver can be used for more than beef, pork, poultry and more.
Although the first choice here might usually be a vegetable knife or chef’s knife, sometimes large, unruly or tough veggies or fruit (such as those with thick rinds) might require calling in the big guns.
To tackle even the toughest non-meat items, start by securing the food so that it won’t slide around on you. Next, assume the position by employing one of the aforementioned grips.
From here, place the blade on the location where you desire a cut to be made. Just a little pressure should create a notch in the skin or rind. Double-check that this is the right spot, then apply further pressure and force in a smooth and even downward motion. Continue this in a single motion until the edge of the cleaver reaches the cutting board.
How To Use a Meat Cleaver for Crushing Tasks
We bet you didn’t think about using your meat cleaver to crush your ingredients, did you? This lesser-known use is perfect for crushing ginger, garlic cloves and more.
The blade’s wide flat design makes for a safe and ideal surface to crush ingredients as you need them.
Simply place your ingredients on the cutting board. Next, lay the wide portion of the blade flat atop the ingredients. Using your other hand, gently tap the top of the flat blade to crush the contents underneath.
How To Mince with a Meat Cleaver
As versatile as it is ambitious in looks, the meat cleaver can also be used to mince meat.
First, secure a good grip. Next, using your non-dominant hand, place your palm (or a few fingertips) atop of the blade’s spine (dull part of the blade). This hand will act to balance and stabilize the knife during movement. Lastly, lift the cleaver in a rocking motion up and down from back to front over the food item you wish to mince.
The Capable and Versatile Meat Cleaver
As you can see, the meat cleaver is capable of getting a lot more done than just chopping meat from the bone. But having the right type of meat cleaver matters. We might be a little biased, but our line of cleavers and butcher’s knives is Japanese inspired and engineered to perform from first to last chop. Give them a look for yourself and see why so many chefs recommend our knives.