How To Use A Cleaver Knife Correctly?

  • katrin moul
  • By katrin moul
  • Published: October 28, 2021
  • Last Modified: May 13, 2022
how to use a cleaver knife
A cleaver knife is one of the most significant and versatile tools amongst professionals. It seems to be tough but it is a gentle giant in a chef’s arsenal. You just need to know how to use a cleaver. It is relatively a large knife and is used for hacking through thin or soft bones as well as vegetables.
You can use a cleaver to dice, slice, and mince various types of food items. A lot of chefs prefer to have a cleaver since it is an all-purpose knife in every sense. A chef can make a wide variety of cuts with it. At first, a cleaver seems a bit overawing but in practical terms, it is easy to use.

What is a cleaver knife?

A Chinese meat cleaver knife has been used for one million years to cut through animal bones and meats. It is also known as Caidao in Chinese, used for all kitchen tasks.
What is a cleaver knife used for? In response to this question, the chinese cleaver technique is mostly used for chopping beef, pork, and poultry bones and cutting through connective tissue. A cleaver made of iron or steel is one of the most important tools of a butcher and a common kitchen utensil. It is a wide blade with an elongated slender edge. It has a shorter handle than usual kitchen knives.

When To Use A Cleaver?

What to use a cleaver for?
Actually, it is used for chopping, pounding, slicing, dicing, and mincing a variety of meat and vegetables. Using the right knife has a large impact on preparing food and overall presentation. It also ensures the chef’s safety.
For example, if you use a paring knife to slice a watermelon, it would be hazardous. A cleaver is primarily used for cutting vegetables and meat. The lightweight cleaver is used for cutting chicken wings. For the correct usage of a cleaver, it is wise to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Let’s dive into how to use a cleaver.

How to Use a Cleaver Knife

1. Set up your cutting board

wood cutting board
A solid wooden cutting board is essential for using a cleaver. Your board should be stable. For this, you can use a wet towel underneath the wooden board to avoid slipping. Now, you are sure that your cutting board is sturdy and it will sit on a stable counter. The fixation of a board decreases the chances of any injury happening.

2. Choose Your Plan of Steps

Understanding how to use a Chinese cleaver and what is a cleaver knife is used for is one of the first skills taught at Culinary School. There are two ways to grip a Chinese cleaver with your cutting hand.

(a) The First Grip:

Begin by holding the part of the cleaver handle that is closest to the blade with your dominant hand. Place your thumb on the cleaver’s handle where it meets the blade, and then curl the rest of the fingers onto the other side of the handle.

(b) The Second Grip:

The second grip is quite similar to the first grip. Begin by gripping the cleaver’s handle where it connects the blade. Be sure that your grip pressure is put evenly between the index finger and the thumb.
Now, you are ready to chop. It will depend on the kind of food while using a cleaver. Hacking is not always thought to be a great option.
For example, if you want to halve a roasted duck, you can use a meat cleaver knife like a regular kitchen knife. You can choose the second grip and use a slight rocking motion to halve the duck. If you are going to chop meat or poultry, use your non-dominant hand to stabilize one end of it. Make sure that you are aware of how to use a chinese cleaver.

3. Chopping Meat, Use a Power Grip on the Cleaver

After selecting the correct grip that will be ideal for you, then you can start using a meat cleaver knife. You need to let the weight of the cleaver do most of the work for you, but chopping motion should emerge from your wrist. Raise your arm slightly and apply reasonable force to chop meat. You need a little bit of practice on how to use a Cleaver.

4. Ready to Cut

What is a Cleaver knife used for?
Actually, a cleaver knife is used for cutting meat as well as vegetables. After choosing the ideal grip, you can start using a cleaver. You should not exert extreme force to hack meat. It is better to make the cleaver’s weight work in favor of you. If you are using a wooden cutting board, make sure that you are cutting the meat perpendicularly. If not, there is a risk of a split cutting board when you are using a cleaver to chop meat.
There are a lot of ways to use a cleaver. It does not only work for cutting meat but also for slicing and dicing vegetables. Use a gentle motion when slicing vegetables and transfer them to the cooking vessel.

5. Slicing now (If needed)

To slice meat according to your intention, you have to know the horizontal cutting technique.
Here is how to use a chinese cleaver knife.
  • Hold the cleaver with your dominant hand.
  • Place the freehand flat on top of the meat to avoid slipping.
  • Use the right amount of pressure to get a clean cut.
  • Don’t get disappointed if you have to slice the remaining bits of meat again especially if you are not used to how to use a cleaver.
  • Apply reasonable force to drive the cleaver downwards to get a clean cut.
  • While slicing, there is a chance of getting stuck your cleaver on a bone, then you can use your non-dominant hand on the Cleaver’s Spine.
  • By using the same method, one can proceed to slice vegetables.

Why Should Every Cook Have a Meat Cleaver?

If you are a professional chef, you should have a meat cleaver. It does a variety of tasks in the kitchen. This does not mean that you should only have a meat cleaver. A good chef must own five other knives in addition to a Cleaver. They are-
  • Fillet Knife.
  • Paring Knife.
  • Utility Knife.
  • Chef’s Knife.
  • Serrated Knife.
A cleaver knife is usually large and its blade is broad. This facilitates you to chop up a carcass easily and rapidly. A cleaver’s blade is designed in such a way that it can avoid any kind of shattering and buckling.
A cleaver is also used by vegetarians. It is used for chopping tougher vegetables like pumpkins or pineapples. To separate chicken thighs, carcasses, and beef bones, a cleaver is a useful tool. If you use other kitchen knives instead of a cleaver, you will probably destroy the meat or break the knife, or end up being injured.
A cleaver is also used to do some other tasks apart from slicing and chopping meat and vegetables. It is used for
  • Peeling the kernel from garlic.
  • Opening holes in cans.
  • Opening coconuts and crushing open nuts in shells.
Thus, a cleaver knife is important both for vegetarians and non-vegetarians.


How to use a Cleaver is an art. It allows you to get better cuts of meat and vegetables. To achieve mastery over how to use a Chinese cleaver knife, you need a little bit of practice, perseverance, and patience. In this site we also discus How to Sharpen Chef Knife. You can learn more here.
From the above information, it bears the testimony that a cleaver knife is a galaxy star at a culinary school. Just ensure that you are using the right kind of grip for the right type of cut. At the same time, be sure that you are not dragging the edge of the blade against the board. This can make your blade blunt.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: When should you use a Cleaver?

Ans: A cleaver is not only a butcher knife but also a kitchen knife intended to hack through thick or thin bones as well as thicker vegetables. A lot of chefs prefer cleavers as they do versatile tasks to prepare food and food ingredients.

Q: Can you use a Cleaver for everything?

Ans: A Chinese cleaver is a really light and thin knife. It is also known as a ‘vegetable knife’ (Caidao). A cleaver is used for everything to prepare food.

Q: How heavy should a Chinese cleaver be?

Ans: The thickness of a Chinese cleaver is 3 to 7 mm. It serves well for chopping and slicing meat and vegetables.

Q: How long is the Meat Cleaver?

Ans: A meat cleaver is 7 to 8 inches in length or 178 mm to 200 mm. As it is a large and heavy blade, it has a longer handle usually 6 inches long for perfect balance.

Q: What is the purpose of a Meat Cleaver?

Ans: The purpose of a meat cleaver is not only to cut and chop meat but also vegetables. Some chefs use them to crack coconuts, to crush garlic, ginger, or lemongrass.

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