Men of the culinary world, assemble! You go gaga over certain kitchen necessities and accessories, and we can’t blame you, especially when it comes to having an arsenal of properly-sharpened and useful blades at your disposal. It starts with a butcher’s block, but it ends with a stellar meat cleaver. We’ve corralled the top ten from around the web to razzle and dazzle you, and explain a couple of questions you’ve always been wondering about in our comprehensive buying guide at the end of this list. Spoiler alert: we’re about to tell you what that hole in the back of the blade is for.
Best Meat Cleavers (Our Top Picks)
1. Utopia Kitchen 100% Stainless Steel Cleaver
Amazon’s top choice and our number one pick coincide, fortifying what nearly one-thousand people already know to be true: Utopia peaks at the top of the meat cleaver game, giving you a perfectly even weight distribution, coupled with a dishwasher safe body (more on dishwashers and cleaver care in our comprehensive buying guide below). Crafted of ABS+430 stainless steel, this 7-inch blade is prime to chop, cut through bone, and works very well as a vegetable smasher if you use it properly. At a price you can’t argue with, you’re about to turn your kitchen cutlery into a Utopia.
- BrandUtopia Kitchen
- Weight1 pounds
2. Dexter-Russell 8” Heavy Duty Cleaver
Okay, so hearing the name “Dexter” associated with a cleaver may not have been the best idea, but once you hold this top-quality blade in your hands, you’ll wonder how you ever used anything else. With a firm rosewood handle, this 8” carbon steel blade sharpens nicely, while retaining an edge for longer than standard cleavers. You can avoid unnecessary accidents with a flat blade tip, and utilize this perfectly weighted, powerful cleaver to fine-chop more delicate meats, such as lamb or Alaskan salmon, all with a clear and clean cut to avoid fraying.
- Weight2.5 pounds
3. Sky Light 7” German Carbon Steel Cleaver
We touch on German and Japanese steel in our buying guide below – German steel is a thick, durable, and expertly-crafted material that stays sharper longer, and keeps you in full power of your kitchen. With an ergonomic handle designed to maintain control over this beastly 7” carbon steel cleaver, you’ll be able to hang it proudly (though it doesn’t come with an integrated hook hole), showing off that you’re a master of fine cutlery in your kitchen. If you’re not satisfied (which would genuinely surprise us), Sky Light offers a 100% money back guarantee. You’ve got nothing to lose.
- BrandSKY LIGHT
- Weight7.2 ounces
4. Spevorix Stainless Steel Chef’s Cleaver
If it sounds French when you pronounce it, chances are, it’s going to be amazing. Spevorix offers power and a sharp edge for an excellent price, while offering a multipurpose tool for bone cutting, precision chopping, and vegetable smashing. Crafted of high-durability Japanese steel, you’ll experience a blade that requires less frequent sharpening sessions than your average cleaver, while still possessing the proper power to master your kitchen. Japanese steel is notoriously tougher, giving you a stronger command over every kitchen rack and catch of the day that hits your cutting board.
- Weight3.53 pounds
5. Sato Forged Heavy-Duty 8” Cleaver
With a heavy body and 8” blade, Sato brings you a bone-chopping, chop-slicing cleaver that leaves absolutely nothing to be desired. Your walnut wood handle transcends into stainless steel, reaching to the blade and giving off a steel Earth color. Weighing 1.6lbs, you’ll have immense power and control over every steak, filet or fresh-caught fish that comes your way. Sato benches on giving you the right power to your blade, while also looking damn good while doing it. Even looking at the picture makes you want to reach out and grab it – after using it, we can attest to that desire.
- Weight1.6 pounds
6. Shun Classic 7” Chinese Butcher’s Cleaver
This model comes at a high price and is intended for vegetable cutting, though it can be versatile for any and every use in your kitchen. Crafted of a thirty-four layer SUS410/SUS5431 stainless steel body, the fantastic metallic designs and chinese character on the blade give you enough show, while the ebony pakkawood handle and lifetime warranty promise control and durability. This blade comes handcrafted straight from Seki City in Japan, giving you a story along with your flashy, functional new cleaver. Command the food and lore in your kitchen when entertaining guests, or simply show-off how much of a badass you are at the grill this summer.
- Weight13.6 ounces
7. Global G-12
You want control, you got control – this 6 ½” stainless steel cleaver is going to deliver on every single aspect. This is one singular piece of steel, crafted to extend from a unique steel grip on the handle blending seamlessly to create the blade. Just like Japanese steel is known for, this blade comes at a precise 15 degree angle to give you a sharper cut, and more defined presence in the kitchen. To give you a perfect weight distribution, the handle comes hollow, allowing you to literally balance this on one finger just under the space where the blade meets the hilt. You haven’t experienced full dominating control of your kitchen until you can perform agile moves with this cleaver.
- Weight1 pounds
8. Victorinox Cleaver
Come on, Gear Hungry doesn’t make a lot of guides without a Victorinox product. We love these guys, no doubt, but that comes with heightened expectations when we try something of theirs that out of the norm. We were blown away by this 8” Swiss-made stainless steel blade, complete with Chinese characters and authentic curvature, distinct to Chinese culture. The handle comes with a distinct grip and command over the blade, while the 3” of height give you enough room to properly smash vegetables, and use the blunt side to tenderize thin chops as well. Way to go, Victorinox – you did it again.
- Weight1 pounds
9. Wusthof Classic 7 ½” Stainless Steel Cleaver
Made exclusively in Solingen, Germany, Wusthof’s classic butcher cleavers have been a staple in German culture for years. Crafted out of a single piece of high-carbon German stainless steel, this cleaver comes with enough power and sharpness to precisely slash through bone, while the laser testing on the blade ensures long-term sharpness and durability. When you go Wusthof, you’re making a twenty-plus year commitment to your kitchen, because this blade isn’t going anywhere.
- Weight1.88 pounds
10. J.A. Henckels International Forged Premio 6” Cleaver
Last but not least, we get to the shortest blade on the list, and one of the most cost-effective. Crafted of high-quality German stainless steel, construction to have a seamless blade edge, this triple-rivet designed cleaver grants you what you’ve always wanted: a perfect, laser-precise cut on your meats and fish. With a curved handle for comfort and a satin finish to the steel, you’re set to shop, chop, sharpen, and do it all over again. German steel doesn’t quit on you; make no mistake, this is an investment.
- BrandJ.A. Henckels International
Buying Guide & FAQ
People who say, “It’s just a meat cleaver,” clearly aren’t ultimate kitchen masters. But you are, and you understand that much like EDC knives, no two blades are built the same, no matter what. Let’s break down which type of steel you should be using, explain a few questions you’ve always been wondering about, and talk about technique.
German vs. Japanese Steel
If you never knew there was a difference, prepare to be shocked. If you’re wondering which type is going to give you the edge, you’ve got two main methods to look at. For one, Germany has been crafting the most reliable engineering for as long as anyone can remember, and that generally involves steel. On the flip side, Japan has an ancient history of steel crafting from samurai swords, a method that’s still used today to make their epic blades. So which is better?
We’re going to talk about tang. No, not that dead beverage from the 90’s - it refers to how much of the blade is sharp. When a blade is razor sharp from tip to the height of the hilt, that’s called a full tang. When it doesn’t reach all the way down to the handle, it’s called a half-tang, or partial tang. For the most part, German-made knives are going to have a full tang, and Japanese-made will have a three-quarter or partial tang.
That’s not really the main difference, however. It comes down to the steel itself. There’s a system called the Rockwell scale, one that defines the density and toughness of steel. German-made blades generally rank 56 to 58, while Japanese-made steel is harder, and rates somewhere between 60 and 61. In short, Japanese steel is tougher, but they’re also angled differently.
Japanese knives are trimmed-down to a 15-degree angle, or in some cases, an even finer point. German blades tend to be around an 18-20 degree angle. When it comes time to sharpen these knives, you’re going to have an easier time sharpening German blades due to its less dense steel. If you prefer thicker-bodied knives, German is the way to go. While Japanese knives can be less dense and sharper, they’re also more lightweight and come with less to the build
Why Use a Cleaver Rather Than a Knife?
Believe it or not, cleavers have more than their intended use. Butchers used meat cleavers in the past to cut straight through bone when hacking off pieces of a large animal, but since most men don’t have a dead cow in the next room, it’s also good for other features. For one, it cuts through meat better than a standard steak or kitchen knife. When you swing down, you have more weight, and a more angular edge than most knives, so you bring additional power plus a sharper, finer edge. This is essential when preparing or cutting and serving delicate meats, like veil or filet mignon.
On top of that, the broad, rectangular shape is excellent for crushing-up tough foods, such as a head of garlic (most common use). When you use a standard-sized kitchen knife for this, you’re dancing with the edge of the blade, and subjecting yourself to unnecessary risks. When you use a cleaver, your fingers don’t have to go anywhere near the blade thanks to all the room. You’ll be able to use this in lieu of a garlic smasher, standard blade for vegetable cutting (especially helpful to cut through dense vegetables, like potatoes), and cutting through fish without botching the delicate nature of the meat.
All About Sharpening
Sharpening your blade is essential to maintenance - in reality, it’s the only maintenance you really need to perform on your meat cleaver. If not you’re going to be the proud owner of a blunt object on a handle. We recommend a high-quality sharpening stone like Diamond Sharp Sharpening Steel Whetstone, which works to keep your blade sharp at all times. Even if you command an exemplary set of cutlery, this one sharpening stone will be more than enough to last you for over a decade.
But how often should you sharpen? Truth be told, there’s no real way to tell. Steel is steel: if you unsheath a 300-year-old samurai sword, it’s still going to be as sharp as when it was put into that case. It all comes down to how much you use it. On average, if you’re using it to prep three meals a week, that’s about twelve times per month - we’d recommend once every three months. By then, it’s had enough use and enough washes to dull it a bit. If you fell that it’s still sharp enough after three months, hang it up and carry on - it’s all up to your use.
What is the Hole in the Blade For?
If you’ve been hanging up your cleaver by the little hold, you’ve got butcher’s blood in you. Way back when, these would hang by meat hooks in the back room of a butcher’s shop. They didn’t want to hang it by the handle on a leather strip or piece of rope, because back then, they were still ultra sharp knives, but with no modern conveniences/safety protocol to put in place. You would just walk into a butcher’s back room and lop off an ear if you weren’t careful. And so, butcher’s hung them by the holes that were specifically requested when they ordered blades, and it’s just become a staple and signature look.
Proper Cleaving Techniques
If you’ve ever Googled, “How to use a meat cleaver,” you probably came up with some sketchy responses. No matter; we’ve taken that out of your list of concerns. You’re going to run into three types of cleavers: heavy, light, and somewhere in the middle to serve multiple purposes. It’s going to come into play when you’re using the cleaver.
You’re not going to have both hands on your cleaver - it wouldn’t make sense. Whenever you’re cutting, have your hand on the food you’re cutting, but curl your fingers inward to form a fist-like tightness. When you’re constantly aware of your digits, you’re focusing on keeping them safe instead of taking a mishit with the cleaver.
Due to the broad side of a cleaver, you’ll have to hold it extra tight. While most meat cleavers are going to be evenly distributed and not force any weight issues, the last thing you want is the blade swinging sideways and smashing onto your hand. Hold it tight, curl your fingers in, and never take your eye off the cleaver until it’s safely put away again.
Should I Put my Cleaver in the Dishwasher?
Most are going to come dishwasher safe, but it’s never recommended. If you’re not handwashing your cleavers, (and for that matter, any stainless steel cutlery you own), then you’re doing it wrong. It preserves the sharpness on the blade, and prevents hard water building from getting in anywhere that a small screw or crevice may be. In truth, handwashing your cleaver is going to keep it cleaner and more sanitary than a dishwasher ever could.