The handy meat cleaver, sometimes called a butcher cleaver, is a thick knife with a sharp beveled edge. As the name suggests, it’s typically used by butchers and restaurateurs for the preparation of meat. The wide, sharp blade is ideal for splitting meat from bone, but it can also be put to a host of other applications.
Choosing any knife can be a daunting task – and the hefty meat cleaver is no exception. To help you work out which knife is right for your kitchen, we’ve compiled this handy buying guide. Below, we run through our top 10 kitchen cleavers, so you can make an informed decision, safe in the knowledge that you’ll be purchasing a great quality knife. To help you get the most out of this handy tool, we’ve also answered some common questions about cleavers – what types exist, what they can be used for, and how to properly care for one.
The Best Meat Cleaver
Kicking off our list is Zelite Infinity, with their beautiful – and practical – meat cleaver. Featuring a razor sharp edge, combined with satisfying heft, this Chinese cleaver is perfect for a wide range of tasks. With this knife, you can cut, chop, de-bone, or cleave any meat. It’s great for vegetables, too, making short work of tougher produce like yam or sweet potato.
Heavy enough for a satisfying chop, but light enough for manoeuvrability, the cleaver strikes the perfect balance for comfortable use – even during long cooking sessions. The blade is formed from Germain stainless steel, which won’t rust, dent, or wear out quickly thanks to its high carbon content. This type of steel is known for its excellent edge retention, too, so you won’t need to sharpen the blade very often. At the other end, a full tang, ergonomic handle provides excellent grip and control. Overall, this sharp, durable, and attractive knife will be at home in professional and home kitchens alike.
Chinese style meat cleaver
Suitable for a wide range of culinary tasks
Hefty enough for a satisfying chop
Excellent edge retention
- BrandZelite Infinity
- Weight14.2 ounces
The next cleaver to earn a spot on our list is made by Utopia Kitchen. With a seven inch edge, razor-sharp edge, the knife can make its way through anything from vegetables to bone almost effortlessly. Made from 100% stainless steel, in a sturdy one-piece design, the cleaver is resistant to rust and corrosion – so much so that it’s even dishwasher safe.
Its handle is carefully molded to allow a comfortable grip and easy maneuverability. Thanks to the excellent edge retention, it won’t need to be sharpened often either. Designed and built with professionals in mind, the blade is up to the task of domestic and commercial use alike.
Chinese style cleaver with seven-inch blade
Ideal for slicing everything from vegetables to bone
Rust-resistant and dishwasher safe
Ergonomic handle for a comfortable grip
Excellent edge retention
Satisfyingly weighty with a pleasant balance
- BrandUtopia Kitchen
- Weight14.1 ounces
TUO has also earned a spot on our list, with its Chinese style chef’s knife. The blade is constructed from Japanese Damascus steel, featuring a hammered finish for a beautiful and unique appearance. The steel is extremely hard and durable, making for impressive edge retention, corrosion resistance, and maximum sharpness. All this adds up to a knife that can cut through almost anything with very little effort.
At the other end, an ergonomic handle allows for a comfortable grip, making the cleaver easy to use even for extended periods. It is carved from polished pakkawood, known for its exceptional durability and striking appearance. The cleaver includes an attractive presentation box, making it the perfect gift for the culinary enthusiast in your life. Every TUO knife includes a 100% money-back guarantee.
Chinese style cleaver
Japanese Damascus steel blade
Hammered finish for a unique appearance
Ergonomic handle makes for comfortable use
Presentation box included
Includes a 100% money-back guarantee
- BrandTUO Cutlery
- Weight1.2 pounds
Topchef is a well-known name in the culinary world – producing high quality but affordable products for amateurs and professionals alike. This ethos has clearly been channeled towards their versatile seven-inch cleaver. Its ice-tempered blade is durable and rust-resistant. It’s also designed to retain an edge extremely well, cutting back on the time you’ll need to spend on sharpening.
The cutting edge has been hollow ground to reduce the risk of ingredients sticking. This impressive blade flows seamlessly into a full steel handle, connected to a non-slip coating that keeps the knife firmly in your control, helping to prevent any kitchen mishaps. It’s deliberately shaped for a comfortable hold, so you’ll have no trouble using it for long periods of time. At under $20, Topchef’s cleaver is a sound investment for any budding chef, designed to last for years to come. With seven inches of blade, it’s the perfect length for general use. It also has a little weight behind it, easily supporting your chopping.
Chinese style cleaver with a seven-inch blade
Ice tempered blade retains its edge well
Hollow ground to reduce ingredients sticking
Non-slip handle coating
Weighty enough for a satisfying chop
- BrandTop Chef
- Weight1.38 pounds
This Dexter cleaver is the next knife to make it onto our list. At over two pounds, it’s the perfect heavy-duty option – for when you need a little weight behind your chopping. This design makes the knife ideal for meat preparation. It can smash, or slice through, bone without a second thought. Although it’s heavy, the knife has been carefully designed for balanced use, making it surprisingly comfortable to handle.
Made from high-quality steel, the blade itself is strong, durable, and offers excellent edge retention. At the other end, a handle provides the stability you need for safely tacking tough foodstuffs. This handle is carved from attractive rosewood, known for its resistance to decay, and regular grain. The wood is securely connected to the blade tang with a series of brass rivets, for maximum security. It’s a little longer than many cleavers on the market, offering a blade length of eight inches.
Ideal for preparing meat and bone
Well balanced for comfortable use
Offers excellent edge retention
- Weight2.5 pounds
The next cleaver to earn a spot on our list is by Epica. Their professional quality knife is ideal for home and commercial kitchens alike. It’s perfectly weight balanced, allowing comfortable usage time after time. Thanks to its precision cut, hollow ground edge, it’ll slice through almost any ingredient with ease, and without sticking.
Made from high grade, ice tempered steel, the blade itself retains a razor-sharp edge, and won’t ever rust. The handle is ergonomic, too, carefully shaped for comfortable cutting, even during long periods of use. A grip is bonded seamlessly to the handle, providing an extra larger of comfort and maneuverability. Each Epica cleaver comes with a 100% lifetime warranty, demonstrating the faith that they have in their product. Users say this excellent value knife is easy to use, super sharp, and durable too.
General-purpose heavy-duty cleaver
Precision cut, hollow ground edge slices easily with minimal sticking
Retains its edge well
Lifetime warranty included
- Weight1.25 pounds
Dalstrong have also impressed us, with their heavy duty “Ravenger” knife. The versatile blade is ideal for chopping vegetables, meats, and more. It features a razor sharp blade, achieved with high carbon German steel, hand polished for a long-lasting edge. Its award-winning design looks great in any kitchen – weighty enough to slide through ingredients with ease, and featuring a full tang pakkawood handle. This extra thick handle is ergonomically shaped for improved manoeuvrability, and triple-riveted for a lasting finish. Thanks to its laminated and polished blade, the knife is incredibly easy to keep clean, too. The carefully tapered blade offers the perfect amount of flexibility, while minimising slicing resistance. Over 75,000 chefs have switched to Dalstrong, and we can see why.
Heavy duty “Ravenger” cleaver
Perfect for meat, vegetables, fruits, and more
The award-winning design looks great anywhere
Extra thick handle for easy maneuverability
Easy to clean thanks to a laminated and polished blade
Carefully tapered for minimal slicing resistance
- Weight2.69 pounds
If you’re searching for the ultimate Chinese vegetable cleaver, look no further than Shun. Their carefully crafted knife isn’t just a tool – it’s practically a work of art! The beautiful seven inch blade is made with 32 layers of Damascus stainless steel, known for its durability and excellent edge retention. It’s easy to sharpen, too, saving you considerable time in the kitchen.
The unique wood grain pattern on the blade not only looks amazing, it actually reduces friction while you cut, making for an overall smoother experience. Its ‘D’ shaped handle fits into your palm with ease, offering ultimate comfort and control during use, helping you to chop with confidence. Each Shun knife is produced with care in Seji City, Japan – the home of samurai sword making – so you can rest assured it comes with an impeccable pedigree. Overall this knife is a melting pot of Chinese and Japanese cleaver styles, making it a great all-rounder for any kitchen. Bear in mind that unlike some cleavers, this option isn’t designed to cope with bone.
Chinese style vegetable cleaver
Strikingly unique design
Excellent edge retention and easy sharpening
Ergonomic ‘D’ shaped handle, made from resin-protected pakkawood
Made in Japan’s home of samurai sword manufacturing
- Weight13.6 ounces
For meat-lovers, this Chinese meat cleaver could be everything you’re looking for. Forged from German steel, the blade offers excellent strength, durability, and rust resistance. It also holds an edge very well, so it won’t require too much sharpening, either. Each blade is mirror-polished by hand, for ultra-thin slicing with very little effort.
The knife’s handle blends seamlessly into its blade. This ergonomic contact point is secured in place with three solid rivets, keeping blade and handle firmly together for confident chopping. A protective bolster at the end of the handle keeps your fingers safely away from the cutting edge. Meanwhile, the surprisingly lightweight build of the knife makes it comfortable to use for almost any chopping task. Although it tackles meat with ease, bear in mind that this particular blade is too fine to smash through bone.
Chinese style meat and vegetable cleaver
Rust and corrosion-resistant
Holds an edge well
Mirror polished by hand
Lightweight enough for easy maneuverability
- BrandSKY LIGHT
- Weight13.4 ounces
No knife buying guide would be complete without mentioning Chicago cutlery, and their 6.5 inch Belmont cleaver is here to nab the final spot on our list. The professional quality blade can easily slice through vegetables, thick cuts of meat, and even soft bones. Precision sharpened for a smooth cutting experience, the stainless steel blade offers excellent performance for everyday use.
The cleaver also features a sturdy full-tang handle, coated with durable polymer for a smooth and comfortable grip. A full-tang handle helps to reinforce the blade, adding balance and control when you need it most. Because of its carbon content, the steel can stand up against rust for years – in fact, each Chicago Cutlery knife includes a limited lifetime warranty.
Slices easily through meat, vegetables, and soft bone
Durable polymer handle ensures a smooth and comfortable grip
Excellent quality at its price point
- BrandChicago Cutlery
- Weight15.2 ounces
Best Meat Cleaver Buying Guide & FAQ
These 10 cleavers are the best of the bunch, and we’re confident you’ll find something on our list to meet your needs no matter what. To help you decide, and to get the most out of your new knife, we’ve put together this handy buying guide. Below we discuss what to look out for in a cleaver, what uses it can be put to, and more.
What to Consider When Buying a Meat Cleaver
When it’s time to choose your own cleaver, there are some key considerations to bear in mind:
- Size and Weight
When it comes to choosing a cleaver, size and weight are important considerations. Cleavers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, each of which is tailored to a slightly different set of ingredients. For instance, if you’ll use the cleaver primarily on meat and bone, it’s a good idea to choose a knife with some weight behind it, and a relatively long blade. On the other hand, a lightweight option may be your best bet if chopping fruit and veg is your main concern.
The materials from which a cleaver is made from will have a significant impact on its quality. Look out for a stainless steel blade, ideally made with high carbon steel, known for its hardness and the ability to retain an edge. As for the handle, you’ll have a few different options to choose from. Steel handles are perhaps the most practical, since they’re easy to clean and tend to be dishwasher safe. However, wooden handles may be more comfortable to hold, and many chefs find them more attractive.
It’s no secret that many knives require a hefty investment. However, as long as you keep your eyes open for high quality materials, there’s no need to break the bank if you want to buy a meat cleaver. A good quality cleaver can be had for as little as $20. At the other end of the spectrum, pricier models tend to feature rarer materials, such as rosewood, and be hand finished.
Why You Should Use a Cleaver
Cleavers can perform a wide array of functions in your kitchen, including:
- Splitting meat from the bone
- Slicing thick meats, such as beef and pork
- Splitting thick, large vegetables
- Chopping tough fruits
- Cutting through bones (with certain cleavers)
In many kitchens around the world, cleavers actually take the place of a utility knife, performing everyday chopping tasks.
Type of Steel: German Vs. Japanese
Most good cleavers feature a stainless steel blade, usually made from German or Japanese metal. Each type of steel has its own pros and cons:
German steel is the workhorse of the knife world. It’s a little softer than its Japanese counterpart, making it durable and easy to sharpen. In fact, it’s durable enough to hack through bones, so probably the best bet for a meat lover.
On the other hand, Japanese steel is harder but more brittle. Knives made from this type of steel will have a sharper edge and hold it better. However, Japanese steel is more prone to chipping or breaking. In general, this type of steel is best for precision work, as they can slice through ingredients without causing much damage.
How to Use a Meat Cleaver
If you’ve seen enough horror movies, you might feel a little intimidated by cleavers. In reality, though, they have plenty of uses besides frightening potential victims. Provided you use them correctly, they are safe and easy to cook with.
Below are our top tips for effective usage:
- Always use a sturdy, unwarped board that won’t slide around while chopping
- Use the knife’s leverage and heft to slice food rather than hacking carelessly
- Allow the weight of the cleaver to do the work for you, chopping from the wrist
- Always grip the handle firmly, as if you were shaking hands with it
Meat Cleaver FAQ:
Q: What is a meat cleaver?
A: As their name implies, meat cleavers are a type of knife specially designed for splitting meat from the bone, and slicing it. They can also be used to tackle tougher fruits and vegetables, such as melons and sweet potatoes. These knives are most often found in restaurants and butcher shops. However, many home chefs also choose to keep a cleaver about because of their power and versatility.
They are usually thick and heavyset, with a sharply beveled edge. The blade as a whole is much taller than your average knife, providing the clearance required to tackle large vegetables and tick cuts of meat.
Q: Why does a cleaver have a hole in it?
A: As you may have noticed, many cleavers feature a small hole at the top of the blade.
This design choice stems from the fact that butcher cleavers were traditionally stored on hooks. This storage method was safe, and made the knives easy to access. Today, many manufacturers continue the practice of drilling a hook hole into their cleavers.
Q: Are meat cleavers dishwasher safe?
A: Some cleavers are safe for the dishwasher, while others must be hand washed. Always check the manufacturer's advice before placing any knife in the dishwasher, since doing so can damage certain blades.
Whether your cleaver is dishwasher safe or not, it’s generally best to wash them by hand if you have the time. This is because dishwashers can dull their edge more quickly, gradually reducing the knife’s lifespan, and increasing the frequency with which you’ll need to sharpen it.
Q: How do I sharpen a meat cleaver?
A: Like all knives, your new cleaver will need to be regularly sharpened if it is to maintain a useful cutting edge.
To sharpen your cleaver, you will need:
Bowl of water
Steel honing rod
- Begin by soaking the whetstone in water, until no more bubbles emerge from it. Next, place the stone on a non-slip cloth, and splash some extra water onto it.
- Place the knife’s edge onto the coarse side of the stone, before tilting it to form a 22 degree angle.
- Hold the knife by the handle in your dominant hand, and rest your index finger on the non-cutting side of the blade for control. Rest the fingers of your non-dominant hand on across the rest of the blade, to apply an even pressure.
- Push the blade onto the whetstone, dragging its length towards you. Splash extra water onto the stone every few minutes to control friction and prevent damage.
- Repeat as many times as necessary, before flipping the knife to repeat the process on its other side.
- Repeat the process, on both sides, using the finer grit side of the stone. Use only light pressure.
- Even out your cutting surface by ‘slicing’ the knife down the edge of a wooden cutting board.
- Use your steel honing rod to properly align the blade, by taking a few passes on each side.
If in doubt, you can always outsource your sharpening to a professional. This will cost a little more, but could be worth the money for expensive knives, since a professional sharpener will have access to a wider range of tools.
Our Top Pick
For us, Zelite Infinity comes out on top - nabbing the coveted first place on our list. Made with a full tang handle, high carbon stainless steel, and a razor sharp edge, the knife is as effective as it is durable.
The design is hefty without being heavy, and features an ergonomic handle for comfortable use. It’s ideal for slicing, chopping, and cleaving most meats and a variety of vegetables, too. Every Zelite knife includes a 100% money back guarantee, so you can rest assured they have great faith in their products. Overall, this attractive and durable cleaver is the best of the bunch. For just under $50, it’s a great investment for professional chefs and enthusiastic home cooks alike.