The Cleaver is quite possibly the most perplexing knife in my knife block. Its unwieldy size and heft is a bit intimidating, but after learning more about how to use a Cleaver, I’ve discovered its many possibilities
If you like to butcher your own meat, this knife can be invaluable. It’s powerful enough to chop through bones and tendons with one whack. However, I’d recommend a subtler, safer approach for doing that. To split a chicken breast, for example, rest the knife on the center of the breast, rest a folded towel on the spine of the Cleaver blade and push down to cut through. It’s safer and allows for a more accurate cut.
Due to the size and heft of the Cleaver, always use caution when working with it. It sounds impressive to whack at what you’re cutting, but in most instances you don’t have to. The safer way is to set the knife on the food where you want to cut and then use a folded towel on top of the spine to press down through what you’re cutting.
Outside of butchering, there are some other uses for a cleaver.
Smashing Garlic or Ginger
The Cleaver is great for smashing multiple cloves of garlic all at once. Lay the blade flat over a bunch of garlic cloves and use the heel of your hand to press down on the blade. It’s also great for smashing fresh ginger.
When you want to tenderize tough cuts of meat like flank steak, lay plastic wrap on top of it and pound the backside of the Cleaver on the meat to break down the muscle fibers.
No bench scraper? No problem. Use the wide blade of the Cleaver as a bench scraper to transfer ingredients from the cutting board to a pot or bowl.
Cutting Hearty Squash
Aside from meat, the cleaver can also be used to power through tough vegetables like hearty squash. To do it safely, microwave the squash to soften it a bit and make sure the squash is sitting firmly on the cutting board. Set the knife blade on the squash, rest a folded towel on the back of the knife and push down to cut through. Remember to always use the right size knife for what you’re cutting. For example, the Cleaver is good for cutting a spaghetti squash crosswise, but it would not be good for trying to cut it lengthwise.
Section Pizza Dough
When a recipe calls for dividing bread or pizza dough, the Cleaver can be used to easily section it. When I tried this is worked like a charm!