Last updated: 16/10/2022

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Cleavers provide a lot of punch in the kitchen. The large and heavy knives are perfect exactly when you want to cut hard and sturdy things. Due to its heavy weight, however, it is not easy to handle. It takes a lot of practice and routine to handle this axe effectively. But once you have mastered it, there is hardly any knife that can exert a similarly high force.

With our big cleaver test 2023 we want to help you find the best cleaver for you. We have compared hatchets made of damask and stainless steel and listed the advantages and disadvantages for you to make your purchase decision as easy as possible. We also answer frequently asked questions, such as how to clean a cleaver.




Summary

  • Cleavers are large, robust and powerful. They are ideal for heavy and rough work, as their enormous weight and size allow them to exert a lot of force. For delicate work, however, you should use a different knife.
  • The steel of a cleaver is crucial. Damascus looks good and lasts a long time, but is also a bit more expensive, stainless steel is the price-performance winner and is a good choice for beginners.
  • Cleavers should always be cleaned by hand, otherwise they can be damaged. You should never put the cleaver in the dishwasher.

The best Cleaver: Our Picks

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying a Cleaver

What is a cleaver good for?

Cleavers are primarily used to cut bones and do coarser meat work. Due to its size and weight, it cuts up just about anything with ease.

The cleaver, also known as a cleaver or butcher’s cleaver, is mainly used in the meat industry and, due to its robust construction and the size of the blade, is a match for anything that needs to be cut through.

In addition to bones, it can also be used to cut more common household foods, such as vegetables, to size.

Due to its considerable weight of up to one kilo, it is not as easy to handle as a normal kitchen knife, but it makes cutting much easier, especially when it comes to hard and difficult-to-cut things.

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The chopper is robust enough to even crack coconuts without any damage. (Image source: pixabay.com / pashminu)

The cleaver is not suitable for everyone and should not be the first knife in your kitchen. However, for real hobby cooks, in industry or even in gastronomy, it is a welcome helper for rough work.

What does a cleaver cost?

Good cleavers cost between about 30 and 200 euros, depending on the material, brand and workmanship. Of course, there are also individual cleavers for 10 or even some for 1000 euros. However, in most situations you should be well served with a budget of between 30 and 200 euros.

Stainless steel cleavers are the cheaper ones and cost between 20 and 100 euros. If you use the knife only rarely and take good care of it, this should be enough.

Damascus steel cleavers are somewhat more expensive and range in price between 100 and 200 euros. However, knives made of damask are also more durable.

Blade material Price range
Stainless steel 20-100 euros
Damascus steel 100-200 euros

However, due to the great force of this knife, it is recommended to buy a chopping block to avoid chopping up the kitchen. These cost another 50 to 100 euros.

What alternatives are there?

The best alternative to the chopping knife is the Chinese chef’s knife, which is often wrongly called a cleaver. Although it looks very similar to the cleaver, it is somewhat thinner and smaller. The knife is not suitable for cutting through bones, but it should be sufficient for normal everyday kitchen use.

Cleaver Chinese chef’s knife
Bones no problem Not suitable for bones
Not suitable for precise work due to the blunt blade Very sharp and more precise than the cleaver
Very robust More susceptible to damage
Easy cutting due to enormous weight Slightly lighter than a cleaver, yet heavy

The cleaver is roughly like the big, radical brother of the Chinese chef’s knife and is therefore better at heavier tailoring work, but it is also blunter and accordingly not as precise.

What types of Cleavers are there and which one is right for you?

If you are thinking about buying a cleaver, you need to pay attention to the steel.

Most cleavers are made of these two types of steel:

  • Damascus
  • Stainless steel

The two differ mainly in price and maintenance. Both steels have their advantages and disadvantages, depending on what you are looking for and how much you want to spend. In the following we will show you which steel and which chopper is right for you.

Advantages and disadvantages of chopping knives made of Damascus steel

Damascus steel consists of different layers of steel, which are heated and folded several times to create a very beautiful pattern.

This look is a big factor in the popularity of Damascus axes. There are almost a dozen different types of patterns. Each knife has its small variations of this patterning, giving it an individual look.

The advantages and disadvantages of a damask cleaver are:

Advantages
  • Extremely sharp blade
  • Very hard and flexible
  • Extremely durable
  • Very beautiful appearance
Disadvantages
  • More expensive to buy
  • Cleaning only by hand
  • More susceptible to rust

Damascus cleavers are effective, but above all beautiful, and if you know how to look after them properly, they will stay that way for a very long time. However, you have to dig a little deeper into your wallet.

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Various knives made of damask steel with typical patterns. ( Image source: unsplash.com / Takafumi Yamashita)

If you want a cleaver for life with a beautiful grain, but also high maintenance, a hatchet made of damask is the one for you. However, you have to be careful with it. You should never wash it in the dishwasher, otherwise the cleaver will get gouges and become dull, as the aggressive salts extremely affect the steel under the high temperatures.

Advantages and disadvantages of stainless steel cleavers

Most knives are made of stainless steel, including cleavers. Stainless steel is comparatively cheap compared to other steels and performs well as a knife steel. Due to its low price and the good cutting performance, a stainless steel chopper is especially suitable for beginners.

The advantages of stainless steel cleavers are:

Advantages
  • Cheaper
  • Hardly susceptible to rust
  • Remains neutral in taste
Disadvantages
  • Not as sharp as damask
  • Dulls more quickly
  • More difficult to resharpen

The stainless steel cleavers are not as sharp as the damask ones, but they can do everything a damask cleaver can do, including chopping bones.

For beginners on a budget, the stainless steel cleaver is the better choice. Like any knife, it needs a lot of care to really last, but not quite as much as the Damascus cleaver. Overall, in terms of price-performance ratio, it is the better cleaver, as the beauty of the Damascus steel is not an objective criterion.

Buying Criteria: Use these Factors to compare and evaluate Cleavers

Once you have decided which steel you want for your cleaver, there are other criteria for choosing your cleaver:

And find out which one is most likely to suit you. In the following, we will take a closer look at the criteria and explain what is good for what.

Handling

A knife should not feel like a foreign body. The hand and the handle should fit well together.

The most important thing about any knife is how it handles. The material of the handle and the shape are crucial here. The easiest way is to go to a shop and try out a few different handles. The material of the handle should also not be too cheap. Wood or metal are much more comfortable than plastic and other synthetic materials.

There are countless variations. Just try it out a bit and see which one is the most comfortable for you.

The knife should not be too heavy, otherwise you will have problems using it effectively. More on this below.

Brand reputation

Since it is difficult for a layman to see how good the quality of the material and the workmanship really are, it helps to orientate yourself towards renowned brands. Such brands have already convinced many customers and will deliver reliable work.

German manufacturers of cleavers are, for example:

  • WMF
  • Zwilling
  • Wüsthof
  • Dick

Internationally, there are other good brands such as “Key Europe” from Japan. However, the more regional you order, the better, especially as the quality is not necessarily better just because the knife comes from Japan.

Weight & size

The bigger and heavier a cleaver is, the more force you can apply. Normal cleavers have a blade length between 15 and 20 cm and weigh between 300 and 500 grams. If you only want to buy a cleaver to cut things like vegetables or the like, you should rather consider a smaller one.

However, if you are looking for a cleaver to cut through bones, for example, then it makes more sense to buy a slightly larger cleaver. There are cleavers with blades over 30 cm long, but they can weigh a kilo or more.

You should make sure that the axe fits you. If you are 160m tall and weigh 50kg, you should not buy a 30cm axe that weighs 1.5kg.

If you are physically able, there is nothing wrong with a bigger and heavier cleaver as the weight helps with cutting. However, it is not for everyone to cut effectively with a 40-50cm long and one kilo heavy blade.

Facts worth knowing about Cleavers

How do I sharpen a cleaver?

You should always have your cleaver professionally sharpened, otherwise you risk damaging it.

Sharpening a cleaver is a little more difficult than sharpening a normal knife. You should not do it yourself, but have it professionally sharpened. Otherwise you run the risk of damaging the cleaver.

If you absolutely want to resharpen it yourself, it is advisable to buy a machine to do it. But even then, the risk of damaging it is extremely high if you don’t know what you are doing.

How do I clean a cleaver?

A cleaver, like any other knife, should not be put in the dishwasher. The aggressive salts attack the material and damage it. The consequences are gouging in the blade and rapid dulling.

The best way to clean an axe is by hand. Simply take a sponge with a little washing-up liquid and rinse carefully under warm water. This way your cleaver will be with you for a long time.

Why is there often a hole in the blade?

Due to the enormous size of the meat cleaver, there were only a few ways to store it. For this reason, a hole was made in the upper corner of the cleaver to hang it on a hook on the wall. This was especially important in the industry, as the large axe was often used and was therefore always at hand.

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An ordinary cutlery drawer hardly offers enough space for a cleaver. Hanging it up is the best way to store such a large knife. (Image source: unsplash.com / Jarek Ceborski )

Image source: Raths/ 123rf.com

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