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Why a cleaver?

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

I am just a simple home cook that cooks for my wife and soon for our son when he can take more solids.  I was at my full time job and I saw a cleaver in this old butcher block that was in the techs lunch room.  I can tell the cleaver has not been touched since it was donated to them but it does have some wear not like the chef or carving knives that these guys destroy. 


My question is what would a cleaver provide or enhance in my prep.  O and what is the typical sharpening bevel for a cleaver.  I am going to sharpen this and the other knives tonight as I needed a knife the other day and the spoons were sharper than there knives.

post #2 of 6

A heavy, meat cleaver is for heavy, meat work ONLY.  It is NOT a "Chinese chopper" even though it looks somewhat the same from the profile.  It's the completely wrong choice for doing things like prepping vegetables, portioning bone-out meat, etc., and even used carefully it's weight will end up destroying your board.  It will not "enhance" your prep in any way, shape or form. 


They make nice wall decorations though.


The appropriate bevel depends on the particular knife.  Many older cleavers have been so over-used and over-sharpened that the only possible bevels -- without serious re-profiling (i.e., thinning) -- are quite obtuse. 


I have an old Chicago Cutlery carbon-steel meat cleaver, made in the sixties, which is in pretty good shape.  It's sharpened to a 22.5/15 double bevel, and although it's usable it never gets used because I have several knives which do the same things but do them better, with less effort, and require less maintenance afterward. 


If you decide to try using a meat cleaver to hack through bone or whatever -- put it where you want it to cut and lean on it.  Even, if you must, give the spine a rap or two with a rubber mallet.  If you feel an intense emotional need to take a whack at something -- say a venison rib cage -- do it with very controlled force.  Once you're started through the bone, you can usually rock the cleaver the rest of the way through. 


Don't swing it like an axe or you'll wreck your board with one whack.


If you want to try the type of "cleaver" Chinese cooks use for general prep get a CCK (if you can live with carbon and its vicissitudes) or a Dexter-Russel Green River. 


If you go through a lot of heavy bones as part of your ordinary cooking, get a saw.  The kind of rechargeable battery powered reciprocating saws handy men use work better than old fashioned meat saws.  If you split chickens all day long, get some (inexpensive) heavy-duty, spring loaded shears from the hardware store. 



post #3 of 6
A Chinese slicer (thin, about 2 mm. at the spine) cleaver is a much versatile tool for your cooking than an old butcher Western cleaver unless you're really into butchery. It's replicates as a scraper nicely, and, due to the added weight, cuts without effort. If you have a Chinese market around, go there and check. I got this one for about U$18.


It's stainless. I'm done with carbon and its "vicissitudes", lol.
Gebe Gott uns allen, uns Trinkern, einen so leichten und so schönen Tod! Joseph Roth.
Gebe Gott uns allen, uns Trinkern, einen so leichten und so schönen Tod! Joseph Roth.
post #4 of 6

And, uhm ... frown.gif, if you have used a Western Cleaver in the (very long) past as if you had a bit part in a 2nd rate horror movie, how can I touch up my board so I can use both sides of it again ?


Is it best to bring it to a lumber store and ask them to grind the surface smooth again ?


Or throw it away and get me a new one ?


Have a wonderful Sunday, everyone !

Many greetings from Amsterdam,



"We are all amateurs, since life is too short to become a professional" Charlie Chaplin


"We are all amateurs, since life is too short to become a professional" Charlie Chaplin

post #5 of 6

resurface by a pro would be best. cheaper too. then mineral oil / beeswax coating.

post #6 of 6

Most scuffs and scars can be cured with a small electric hand sander.  Use the ordinary progression of medium/coarse, medium, fine, extra fine, finish with steel wool by hand, going to around 00 to 0000#.  If yours is a long-grain board, sand with the grain, never across it.  If it's an end grain board, don't worry about it.


If you've got to sand so deep you're worried about gouging the board with the sander itself, take it to a lumber or carpentry shop and have it planed with a thickness planer on the working side (or both sides, if you use both), removing the least amount of wood possible to get a flat and smooth surface. 


Once the board is scar free and satin-smooth, finish it with whatever sort of board oil you're going to use for ordinary maintenance.  Re-oil daily for a few days to make sure that the oil gets full penetration before returning the board to use.



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