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Feb 28, 2011 08:19 AM

"Getting Back Into Asian cooking: Which Knife?"

I took Chinese Cooking Classes in the 70's as a way to invite my dates to my house and impress them... it worked! Now I am going to be impressing my grandchildren with my stir-fry skills. I had 3 instructors, including Martin Yan, and my first was a young woman who had just arrived from Taiwan. She was using and suggested a Dexter Chef Knife as the one to get. So I did, but it has gone by the wayside in many moves and haven't done stir-fry in many years.

In reading around, some are saying that Dexter's are not made the same and do not hold an edge.

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  1. I have over a dozen Dexter Chef's Knives/Cleavers.....granted, mine may be older than the the ones you have been reading about....but you can purchase older knives on eBay.

    1 Reply
    1. "I took Chinese Cooking Classes in the 70's as a way to invite my dates to my house and impress them... it worked!"

      Worked for you in 70's, probably not now.

      Dexter-Russell Chinese cleavers are still very much respected. Are we talking about the carbon steel ones or the stainless steel ones? I believe Dexter-Russell still makes both. I have not heard they have changed any formula. If anything, people complain that steels work decades ago are no longer good by today standard.

      If you are interested in a thin blade carbon steel Chinese cleaver, then I highly recommend the Chan Chi Kee brand KF 130X series:

      You can buy one in West Coast Chinatowns or Canada:

      TEL/FAX: (905) 9479688

      Again, this is a ery thin blade carbon steel knife.

      9 Replies
      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        Wow! impressive display at Chan chi kee... I like those narrow slicers too... I fear my wallet is in store for a hit when I go to the Restaurant Supply in Seattle. Thanks for the reply, Chemicalkinetics! And, you are probably right about that not being as impressive now.

        1. re: tedinfridayharbor


          You may able to find a Chan Chi Kee knife in Seattle Chinatown. They definitely sell these knives in California Chinatowns. They should be inexpensive ($20-30), slightly cheaper than Dexter-Russell, but more expensive than typical $10 Chinese made knvies. Better quality of course. CCK carbon steel knives can take a a good edge and have good edge retention. Great geometry. I dare you to search online about "CCK Chinese knife" and find one single bad comment about these knives.

          Altenatively, you can buy one online:

          Good luck.

        2. re: Chemicalkinetics

          Hey chem!: Which CCK cleaver do you recommend? I've never owned a Chinese cleaver and I think it's about time. Pacific Mall has a CCK store I believe and It's not too far from where I live

          1. re: petek

            Hi Pete,

            I recommend the Chan Chi Kee KF1303 model aka CCK 1303. Although it is the "smallest of the small version, it is 20 cm x 9 cm (8 inch x 3.5 inch), plenty big for most people, especially for new users.


            The large Chef's version is 24 cm x 12.5 cm (9.5 inch x 5 inch) which is a big for most people. Our friend cowboyardee has the large one. Maybe he will stop by and share his experience (good and bad) for these knives.

            Saltydog had a really awesome youtube on CCK 1303, but he got really pissed off and removed most of his youtube videos in the last 2-3 days. Maybe he will put it back on one day.

            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              I personally go for the larger 1103 CCK, which I also think is a little thinner overall, but bigger! Although I don't think you can go wrong with the 1303 either.

              However, Andy, the cleaver man, usually recommends getting the Suien ( 4th down on that page -- as the steel is better than the CCK, and not a huge amount of money to spend if you already know you like the shape.

              1. re: mateo21

                Good suggestion Mateo.

                Yeah, many cleaver loyalists like the bigger version better. Afterall, it is the Chef's version. (real Chinese chefs tend to like the bigger one). However, many home cooks like the smaller one -- which really isn't that small by Western kitchen culinary standard.

                Suien ($160) does look good and is a lot less expensive than famous Sugimoto ($320). I agree with you. CCK cleavers are not made with great carbon steel, but they aren't bad. I am pondering the possibility of getting an Aogami Chinese cleaver one day -- due to its stronger corrosion resistance. Just pondering really.

                1. re: mateo21

                  Thanks for the info... some beautiful knives there...

                2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  I just noticed this post.

                  Yeah, I have the large cleaver. Problem is, I don't have any real experience with the smaller cleaver to compare it with. That said, I'm glad I went with the larger one, since I feel it offers a few (minor) advantages once I finally got used to it.

                  Basically, the large cleaver is large. I knew this ordering it, but holding it is another matter entirely. It's a massive hunk of metal. Has a little weight to it. It is also remarkably thin behind its edge, so:
                  a) You absolutely cannot use it like a meat cleaver - even chicken bones will chip the edge, sometimes badly. And...
                  b) It cuts through things with very little resistance. If the edge is nice and sharp, that thinness combined with the weight really make many foods seem to just cut themselves as I move the knife through the air. It's a cool feeling, though I don't think there is any inherent benefit in having so little tactile feedback - some people might even prefer a little more feedback.

                  The large cleaver probably makes a slightly better meat slicer than the smaller one. Of course, many people seldom use Chinese cleavers for meat slicing, even though they're decent at the task. It also is a more efficient scoop for cut foodstuffs, which is one of the great joys of cleaverdom. There is also a lot of mostly-flat edge to work with for things like cutting especially long juliennes or whatever.

                  It probably has a slightly longer learning curve than the smaller version. It is large enough to be awkward for a while. No such problems now. I haven't put it through any real marathon cutting sessions where I'm cutting constantly for several hours, so I don't know if fatigue would be an issue with this knife for a professional cook. It hasn't been an issue for me - actually it's strangely comfortable for longer but not marathon cutting sessions - though I should note I'm a normal sized youngish adult male. It's also big enough that storage might be a concern for a potential buyer.

                  1. re: cowboyardee

                    Thanks for the feedback Cowboy... I'm getting a large and a small one I think. Will be interesting to see what is available at the store I'm going to in Seattle.

            2. I do a lot of Asian cooking and i love my Ken Onion Santoku by Shun. Mine is just under 8", very sharp. I have had a Dexter cleaver for years and i would not part with it.

              1. Thanks to all who responded... got my Dexter knife and other goodies at Dong Vihn Restaurant Supply in Seattle. A basic S5198 for $35 (on Amazon for $45), so that was a good place to go. Best knife they had, with lots of less expensive ones in stock.

                2 Replies
                1. re: tedinfridayharbor

                  S5198 is a good knife. I have it. Of all the Chinese knives Dexter-Russell sells, this S5198 is its best seller. It is a real all-purpose knife because of its thickness and weight. It is much thicker and heavier than a thin slice like CCK1303. I think the CCK1303 is about 1/3rd to 1/4th the thickness, just to give you an idea.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    It works well and is very reminiscence of the knife I bought 35 years ago. I'm still planning on getting one of the CCK small slicers someday.