The Best Chinese Cleavers for Cutting Steak in 2021
Have you ever wanted to slice and dice with a Chinese cleaver, but didn't think you had the necessary skills to use it?
Well, the Chinese cleaver, or Chinese chef's knife, is a beautiful and multi-faceted tool that should have your attention. And it's not at all difficult to use, provided you get one of decent quality.
These blades can replace nearly every function served by a regular chef's knife, which is why they are popular, plus they have the ability to scoop up your chopped and sliced ingredients safely to transfer them to a container or pan. But a Chinese cleaver knife really excels for cutting meat and thick meat like brisket, pork, or steak.
Here we review what is the best cleaver knife for cutting raw meat.
See how to polish your knife and cleaver so it keeps shinny and gleams.
The Best Brands Of Chinese Cleavers
Getting to know the best and most prestigious Chinese cleaver brands will give you peace of mind, as buying from brands that consistently deliver good-quality products will give you confidence.
The blade of Shun's knives is an age-old tradition in Japan. Professionals and home cooks around the world use this Japanese brand of cutlery.
The Chinese cleavers are treated to modern technology which gives them a light and razor-sharp blade. These knives are easy to use and hold their edge well.
Zhen's Chinese cleavers are durable and have amazing edge retention, which means they don't need regular honing or sharpening, even under repeated use.
You don't have to blow your budget when buying a general-purpose cutlery tool because their nifty knives are affordable.
If you're on a tight budget, Winco's Chinese cleavers are a dream come true.
Quality is not sacrificed for affordability, as these knives use a good grade of steel and are comfortable to use. A wide selection of Chinese cleavers with distinctive designs are available to suit people of all styles.
The Chinese cleaver from TUO is attractive and useful. All kinds of cutting tasks can be done with their knives. It will last for many years if you don't use it for heavy-duty bones.
Comparing Meat Cleavers and Chinese Chef's Knives
The Chinese chef's knife, sometimes referred to as a chukabocko in Japanese versions, is much more delicate than a meat cleaver and can be utilized for finesse steak or boneless meat cutting - as well as many other applications aside from cutting.
The chukabocko style is basically the same as a Chinese chef's knife, but the production techniques used are usually more refined. It's constructed of Japanese steel alloys, and it's typically more expensive too and has much better edge retention.
Traditionally, Chinese cooks use a single knife for all of their kitchen tasks, and their go-to blade is the large, square-tipped Chinese chef's knife.
Often referred to as a cleaver because of its similar shape, size, and profile, the Chinese chef's knife is in fact a different tool altogether.
Lightweight and versatile, the Chinese chef's knife is an all-purpose tool that will pound, chop, crush, mince, scoop, and slice food - even the heel of the handle is used for bashing and grinding.
With a narrow cross-section, it's flexible and able to handle delicate peeling, chopping, and slicing duties - which are beyond the realm of a butcher's cleaver's abilities.
It can often be used as a vegetable knife used for chopping, but it also doubles as a slicing knife for shaving fine slivers from meat and other proteins - and it's definitely not meant for hacking through large bones. You'll need a much heavier cleaver with a thick cross-section for that purpose, or a butcher's saw.
On the other hand, a meat or butcher's cleaver is designed to be swung like a hammer. It's big and heavy, with a thick, dense blade that won't chip, crack, or buckle when chopping through hard bone. The cutting edge will also be more blunt, often with a 25° angle compared to 20-22° for Western knives, or 15-18° for Eastern blades.
In comparison, the Chinese chef's knife has a slender, fine nature with a thin blade designed for slicing and chopping. And while the size and shape are similar, the blade steel is usually much higher in carbon, which makes it hard and somewhat brittle and prone to chipping if it's ever used on hard bone.
Much thinner in cross-section than a butcher's cleaver, Chinese models are intended for more general work in the kitchen, similar to that of a Western chef's knife or the Japanese santoku or Japanese meat cleaver.
It has enough height that you can use it to scoop up large amounts of product like a spatula or bench scraper, and enough mass that the spine can be used to pound and tenderize meat. And the flat of the blade has enough surface area to flatten and crush ingredients like garlic ginger or even nuts. Another difference worth noting between this and a meat cleaver is that the blade is somewhat heavier toward the tip. This is to encourage the tapping and pushing strokes used by experienced Chinese chefs.
The edge is honed to a tight 15° angle, though an angle up to 20° is not uncommon. The blade is mostly straight, which makes it excellent for chopping, but it should have just enough of a belly curve to be useful for pushing or rocking strokes as well. This kitchen knife is the all-around Chinese chef knife and is certainly one you should consider.
The handle is also lighter than that of a cleaver, suitable for delicate slicing techniques, as opposed to the heft needed to cleave through bone and tough connective tissue.
A traditional handle (often a wooden handle)will be round or oval-shaped and made of wood, although modern versions may come in a variety of materials including metal making a very ergonomic handle. The ergonomic handle may be riveted in place or held with injection-molded plastics. Finger grips are also found in many contemporary styles, and a full tang is the usual construction style.
How To Choose The Best Cleaver For Cutting Meat and Steak
A closer look reveals that not all Chinese cleavers are created equal, or designed for the same purposes.
In today's market, contemporary models come in three different versions: slicers, choppers, and cleavers. The most notable distinction between these is the thickness of the blades.
Also known as ping knives, these are often referred to as vegetable knives as well. Of the three styles, they have the thinnest blades in the cross-section, and with a tight bevel, are also the sharpest.
They often won't be as tall or as long as choppers or cleavers and have an appearance very similar to that of a Japanese nakiri knife.
Slicers are used for cutting up vegetables, mincing herbs, peeling, paring, and slicing very thin strips of meat for stir-frying in a wok. But because of the thinness of the blade, it should never be used on bone because of the thinner blade.
These are the type most often associated with the Chinese chef's knife moniker, and have a slightly thicker stainless steel blade (often carbon steel) than slicers, some people will consider these a butcher knife.
But they're not as thick as a traditional cleaver knife, and may be used for most general duties.
A chopper can be used on meats, vegetables, and herbs, and performs all slicing, chopping, and mincing duties wonderfully. And due to its height, it's also very convenient to use as a scoop to transfer ingredients from the cutting board to the wok or another dish.
Also, because of the large face paired with its lightweight and nimble nature, this is the perfect knife to utilize if you'll be prepping mounds of veggies - like the amounts typical at canning and freezing times.
Don't want your knife to tire you out do you?
Choose this chinese vegetable cleaver then.
Depending on the type of steel used, and according to the manufacturer's recommendations, some may also be suitable for chopping through soft or thin bones in poultry and seafood. But this is not recommended for most, so please always check the instructions before using on any hard tissue or tough meat.
Known to Chinese chefs as bone choppers, these have thick and heavy blades similar to their Western counterparts, meat or a butcher knife or cleaver. They're suitable for chopping bones such as pork ribs, beef, and poultry, and for cutting through the tough, dense connective tissue of joints.
They have a wide bevel and the dullest edge of the lot, as heft and momentum provide most of the cutting action.
Features to Look For
Historically fabricated of carbon steel, today you'll find many blades made of high-tech, super-strong alloys. The material used will often have a high-carbon content combined with stainless steel materials to provide strength and durability, as well as stain, rust, and corrosion resistance.
And like all fine knives, a good Chinese cleaver will be well balanced and professionally constructed, with a fine edge that holds its sharpness well.
Blade Length, Weight, and Construction
Blade length can measure anywhere from seven to eleven inches, with a height of three to five inches. Size selection is really a matter of personal preference.
Due to the large area of the blade, which requires a lot of metal to create, weight can sometimes be an issue. So look for ones that are lightweight with a good balance if you intend to do a lot of prep work, or have strength issues in your hands, wrists, or forearms.
Look for a tang that extends at least three-quarters into the handle, with a full tang offering the greatest strength, balance, and edge stability.
Handles can be of a traditional design and materials, cylindrical in shape and made of wood. Or they might be equipped with a modern handle of molded polypropylene, or hollow stainless steel. Choose the hollow for a lightweight cleaver.
Japanese vs. European Steels: How the Rockwell Scale Affects Performance
Most European brands will be hardened to 57-58 on the Rockwell Hardness Scale (RHS) whereas the Japanese types will typically be hardened to 60-62 RHS.
Though this may not seem like much, it's a huge jump.
Here's the thing:
The Rockwell Hardness Scale is not linear. It's computed according to how far a diamond point under pressure will penetrate, and increasing by 4 or 5 points means the Japanese steel is much, much harder.
This increase in hardness allows the knife to become much sharper, and even more importantly, allows it to retain this blade edge much longer.
However, this is not without its tradeoffs.
The harder the steel is, the more brittle it becomes. And most Japanese blades can't take abuse by being pounded into bone or dropped on ceramic tiles. They will chip.
Japanese blades also need water stones to be resharpened, whereas European models can be sharpened using nearly every variety of sharpening systems.
The angle of the Edge
Japanese blades are generally sharpened at 11-14°, which creates an extremely sharp edge. Due to the hardness of the steel, the metal can retain such a sharp angle without dulling for a very long time.
Most European knife makers sharpen their models to 22°. This assists with offsetting the effects of their softer steel and keeps it sharp a bit longer. However, the more obtuse angle means the edge will never become as sharp as one with a more acute grind.
Types of Steel
European makers stick with tried and true alloys of high carbon stainless steel, whereas Japanese manufacturers often use exotic combinations, some of which are not allowed to leave Japan in an unfinished form.
The steels have varying properties and can assist with edge retention, as well as metallurgical properties that assist with sharpening and the “feeling” and “feedback” on the sharpening stones. I prefer a Chinese knife style with a high carbon steel blade edge.
Now let's move on to some reviews of the best Chinese cleavers currently available online for cutting steak.
Shun Classic: The Finest in Aesthetics and Functionality
The Chinese-style vegetable cleaver was made by Shun, a Japanese kitchen knife maker. The classical line of kitchen knives has an elegant watermark design on both sides of the tall, square profile.
This knife is amazing and should be displayed proudly on a knife bar.
It is possible to get japanese knives that are beauty, function, and performance, and this is one of them. The blade is made of high carbon and fully clad in order to make it an exceptional cutting tool with a sharp edge.
A high-carbon, high-performance VG-Max super steel is used to make the blade.
The core has 34 layers of steel welded together to form Damascus on each side in a ground and bead blast process. The process shows a flowing pattern of steel with no two blades having the exact same pattern.
The high levels of carbon make the formula stronger and more resistant to damage. It is composed of several metals such as chrome, cobalt and tungsten in order to create a wonderfully fine and sharp edge.
There's also molybdenum for corrosion resistance, and vanadium to counter brittleness with better impact resistance. And all of this is hardened to a rating of 60-61 on the Rockwell Hardness Scale.
The blade is so strong and beautiful to look at it was created from extremely sharp, durable, stain-resistant, and corrosion-resistant materials.
The carrots were all sliced open by the Shun. There wasn't any resistance.
The Shun was the best straight out of the box, slicing through a carrot with little resistance.
The flat blade could be used for rock and push chopping.
A PakkaWood handle is a strong hardwood that's easy to handle and can be tough on the skin. Control and stability are offered by the handle, which was designed for right-hand use.
Superb balance and additional control can be given by the handle that has a full tang and stainless steel bolster. There's a cap on the heel that has a steel end.
Professional cooks use this high-quality line, as well as home-based cooks, and the model is also FDA approved for use in commercial kitchens.
To keep the blade clean, Shun recommends washing it hand and then drying it quite quickly.
A leather strop or ceramic will help maintain a sharp edge. You can use a whetstone or an electric sharpener with the correct 16 angle.
You can send it to the manufacturer for a lifetime of access to a free knife sharpening program. It is up to you to pay for shipping.
The blade measures 7.75 x 4” with an overall length of approximately 12”, and it weighs 13.6 ounces.
It is not meant to be used on bones, lobster shells, or joints. But for cutting things like vegetables and fruit and steak.
It comes with a limited lifetime warranty, which will keep it free of manufacturing defects for the entire time you own the knife.
Wusthof Classic (Style - Chinese Meat Cleaver - for Cutting Steak)
The high quality of their line of knives is a favorite among chefs and people with good taste. One of the world's top knife-making places is Solingen, Germany and it's home to the classic line.
There is a fully forged X50CrMoV15 steel alloy used for the creation of this amazing knife. The blade is made of a high-carbon material and has its edge hardened to 58 HRC for a long-lasting edge.
The blade of this alloy and hardened is not likely to chip because of its good mix of edge retention and resilience.
The edge of the blades is sharpened to 14 on each side, which is similar to that of Japanese knives making this very sharp.
The one-piece, fully forged construction is triple riveted to the handle for precise weight distribution, stability, and long-lasting durability.
The Double Beveled Chef's knife style is ideal for preparing vegetables, meat, and fish. And it's good for all of the slicing, chopping, and mincing duties.
The Wusthof was adequately sharp out of the box (although not as sharp as the Shun or the Zhen) and its flat blade profile assisted with push chopping. This is the best of the European offering that we could find and test.
The vegetable knife is made with a high-carbon carbon STAINLESS steel blade so it does not work on bones or tough materials.
Hand wash it in warm soapy water to dry quickly.
The blade is covered by the lifetime manufacturing warranty of Wusthof's.
The round tip is good for rock chopping fine herbs, and the flat profile of the blade has allowed push cutting of harder vegetables.
A professional chef or home cook with no desire to invest in a set of water stones can use this model.
The cleaver can be used on any stones, diamond pads, or ceramic rods. It can be taken by the local sharpening service.
Zhen Light Slicer: Best Budget Model Cleaver for Cutting Steak and Meat.
Zhen has been making knives in Taiwan for more than a decade and all their blades use imported Japanese V10 steel, which makes them extremely sharp.
The Zhen is extremely sharp, portable, and very functional for all slicing and chopping duties. It would be difficult to find equivalent value for a lower cost due to the high quality of construction and steel used.
The Chinese cleaver is forged with three layers of steel, which comes from Zhen's Carbon Stainless Steel series. The core produces a sharp edge and it's also clad in high carbon titanium to provide long-term stain resistance.
The staple formula used in Japanese blades is called VG-10. A group of seven elements, which is hardened to a range of 60 to 62HRC on the Rockwell Scales makes this a cost-effective cleaver for steak cutting, slicing, and trimming.
A frosted blade makes slicing and chopping more convenient because it has better food-release qualities.
We like the Zhen's curved edge profile but it has a larger belly. It is also very sharp out of the box.
The Zhen has a lot of belly but it is the sharpness in the box that made it stand out. The edge will be retained more than any European offering. It is great for slicing, chopping, and rocking strokes because it has a slightly curved belly.
The lightweight design is perfectly balanced and provides great edge control thanks to the full tang, which cuts down on hand and forearm fatigue. The blade body and bolster are integrated into each other, as is the end cap.
The rubber on the handle is molded to the side of the ring for a slip-proof surface and a strong grip.
If you want to chop bones or joints, please don't do it with a vegetable cleaver because the hard core of its blade may chip.
It is recommended that you wash your cleaver with dish soap and then rinse and towel dry. You should make your edges sharper with a steel or ceramic rod every week. Zhen suggests sharpening the whetstone with a 15-20 angle.
The Zhen cleaver has a blade that is 6.5 inches in diameter and carries an overall weight of 9.1 ounces.
Zhen offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee, and it's made in Taiwan.
Zhen was very sharp straight out of the box. The sharp blade and price make this one good value for the price.
Conclusions For The Top Chinese Meat Cleaver For Cutting Steak.
Home chefs who like the style and efficient cutting features of the Chinese Chef's knife will not be disappointed the knives are so versatile.
The Final Cut
We're done with the look at the Chinese cleaver.
The Chinese chef's knife is large, sharp, and versatile enough to be used in any knife block. It is easy to use and handles both large volume tasks and more delicate ones with the same degree of ease.
The Shun Classic 7-Inch Chinese Vegetable Cleaver is our recommendation for most people.