How to Use a Chinese Cleaver: Why the Asian Cleaver Makes Vegetable Cutting So Easy

How to Use a Chinese Cleaver: Why the Asian Cleaver Makes Vegetable Cutting So Easy

When you think of a stainless-steel cleaver, you often equate the term with meat. Yet, did you know that the Asian cleaver is considered the most effective tool for cutting and slicing vegetables?

This Asian knife is significantly thinner than other knives used to cut through thick meats or bones.

A Chinese chef knife, like a Swiss army knife without the attachments, is extremely versatile. High-quality knives are a must-have in every kitchen. Did you know that there is a wide variety of knives? When it comes to your collection, one often thinks about how to sharpen their knives; but what about the Chinese cleaver technique you can use to ensure you are utilizing your tools correctly?

What Is a Chinese Cleaver?

The Chinese cleaver is also commonly called a Chinese chef's knife or a chuka bocho. This knife is not to be mistaken with the butcher's cleaver, which is used to chop huge bones. Alternatively, a smaller cleaver with a wide blade and an elongated narrow or thin edge has been developed. Additionally, when considering a Chinese cleaver vs. chef knife, the cleaver also contains a shorter handle than standard knives, which provides a stable and comfortable grip to cut the entire surface of food when used correctly.

When it comes to its sheer adaptability, many cooks consider the Chinese cleaver to be their greatest culinary ally. It is genuinely an all-purpose knife in every sense of the term, as chefs may make a wide range of cuts with it, including vegetables, and all of the knife's elements, not just the blade, may be used in the kitchen.

Let us take a further look at the versatile style and functions of the flat Chinese cleaver:

  • Sharp edge of the blade - Allows you to cut a variety of things from thick meat to vegetables.
  • Blunt top edge of the blade - One can use this to lightly score or tenderize meat.
  • Wooden handle butt - You may use this as a pestle to pound garlic, spices, and ginger.
  • Wide side of the blade - When cooking, you can use this to crush or bruise ginger, garlic, or other items and to assist you with transferring the food from the cutting board to the cooking vessel.

When Do You Use Chinese Cleavers?

The use of the proper knife when preparing foods is critical to the final result. The appropriate knife and cut have a big impact on flavor and overall presentation, not just during cooking. It's also vital for the chef's safety; for example, slicing a giant melon with a paring knife would be devastating. Do you know how to use a cleaver?

A Chinese cleaver is usually used for slicing boneless meat and chopping vegetables. It may also be ideal for cutting small bones such as chicken wings, based on the weight and thickness of the blade. It is best to consult the manufacturer's recommended guidelines to evaluate suitability for the task.

The Basic Techniques of a Chinese Cleaver and Cai Dao

Among the first skills taught in culinary school is how to hold a chef's knife properly. With the Chinese cleaver and cai dao knife, the cutting hand can grip it in one of two ways:

The First Grip

Place your thumb on one side of your cleaver handle (where it joins the blade) and curl the rest of your fingers around the opposite side of the handle.

The Second Grip

The grip is identical to the first; however, the attention is on the blade itself. Place your thumb on one side of the blade and your index finger on the other as you grip the handle where it intersects with the knife blade. Make sure the index finger and thumb are sharing the major grip pressure. This is frequently a chef's favored grip since it provides them with more control.

Regarding jobs that do not require a precise finish, such as chopping ginger or vegetables for a stock, several chefs prefer to utilize the first grip. They switch to the second grip for fine work because it gives them more control.

Using Chinese Cleavers for Vegetables

Since the Chinese cleaver or cai dao are mostly used to cut vegetables, there are a variety of methods that can be learned, including julienne, crushing, peeling, slicing, and dicing. The following are a few examples, although there are many more you could search for and learn in order to expand one's cleaver-cutting repertoire to cook more exciting Eastern and Western recipes.

Crushing ( e.g. Ginger and Garlic)

Place the knife's wide, flat side over the food item, with the blade facing away from you.

Hit the top side of the knife's blade with your free hand to crush the item of food. Make sure you hit the soft edge rather than the sharp edge when using this style.

Chopping and Slicing

Depending on the intended result, there are many various techniques to slice and chop vegetables with a cleaver - dice, julienne, rough chop, and so on. The style you use depends on what you are trying to achieve.

Most of the time, use the second approach described above to grip your Chinese vegetable cleaver handle and slice the vegetable in a steady, downward motion, lifting the tip of the cleaver high off the cutting board before making the next slice (this is fairly different from the rocking method utilized for other types of knives).

When slicing downwards, utilize a gently thrusting motion if it is more comfortable. The veggie can then be sliced into the desired thin shape using the same manner.


Hold the cleaver handle and place it horizontally, at a low angle, close to the chopped veggies.

Slide the cleaver below the thin vegetables and collect them on the wide section of the blade with your free hand.

Transfer them to the cooking pan or vessel, anchoring them on top with your free hand to prevent spillage. Avoid putting your free hand too close to the cleaver blade's sharp end.

Using a Chinese Cleaver or Cai Dao for Fish and Meat

A Chinese cleaver is ideal for chopping, mincing, and tenderizing boneless portions of meat. It may also be used to scale fish rapidly. However, because the blade edge of the knife is excessively small and is likely to break or chip if used to slice huge bones, it is not recommended. Instead, use a large butcher's knife.


With cleavers or other knives, you can mince in two ways. The selection of technique is frequently based on personal preference and the knife you are using. To achieve a smooth mincing finish, gather the meat and reassemble it into a pile in both procedures.

One-handed Mincing

Hold the knife in the same way you would a vegetable fork.

Lift the Asian cleaver off the board and then let the knife fall downwards onto the flesh in the same way an ax would (use a much gentler form).

Proceed to swivel the blade from side to side in this manner until the meat is minced.

Rock Mince

Grip the knife in the same way you would a vegetable fork.

Place two or three fingers on the top blunt section of the cleaver blade with your free hand (this hand acts as the stabilizer for your knife when moving it to mince).

Lift the Chinese cleaver, maintaining the tip of the knife in touch with the board, and then lower it, turning the blade from side to side as you mince the meat.


Take hold of the cleaver.

Turn it inside out.

Pound the meat using a crisscross pattern with the blunt edge of your blade.


A horizontal cutting technique works well for butterflying or to uniformly slice the meat with a wide selection of knives:

With your cutting hand, grasp the Chinese cleaver.

Orient the cleaver so that it faces the meat and cutting board horizontally.

To support the meat, place the free hand firmly on top of it.

Slice into the flesh with the cleaver or knife, being careful not to cut into your hand holding the meat.


Take hold of the Asian cleaver.

With your free hand, grasp the fish head.

To descale the fish, slide the sharp blade up and down the piece of fish at a smaller angle.

How Do You Sharpen Chinese Cleavers or Knives?

Have you ever wondered how you could sharpen your knives? A safe knife is one that is sharp. Due to the extra pressure necessary to achieve a sharp cut, dulled tools are responsible for an increased number of accidents. As a result, it is critical to keep your knives, cleavers, and tools sharp at all times in order to be safe.

When it comes to the necessary sharpening angle for a Chinese cleaver, there are several schools of thought. Since a good grade cleaver or knife should have a sharpened edge that allows for intricate work, it may be sharpened anywhere between 20 and 30 degrees. In principle, the higher the angle, the more chopping tasks are done — and thus, more pressure is applied to the knife.

A chef may use a variety of sharpening methods; however, the most successful is the use of a whetstone.

The Whetstone Sharpening Process

Start with the coarse side after thoroughly soaking the whetstone.

Hold the knife at the desired angle and move the entire blade across the surface of the whetstone in a smooth motion.

Repeat this procedure a couple of times more.

Do the same with the cleaver.

Then, flip the whetstone over to the fine side and repeat the process.

Order Your Asian Cleaver Today!

Your search for the perfect kitchen knife has come to an end. Are you ready to take your chef skills to the next level? Make sure you add a stainless-steel Knives Et Cetera Chinese cleaver to your kitchen knife collection. You could master a variety of recipes when learning the versatile techniques this tool brings to the table.

The Asian cleaver can be a great tool in a professional kitchen based on the information supplied. While mastering it takes some perseverance, practice, and patience, it is an excellent method to broaden one's culinary skills and become the chef of the family.


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