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Mar 8, 2011 12:20 PM

Recommend me a cleaver

I have 2 large dogs that go through 3 chickens every 4 days. I use either a 6" sandwich knife or my 9" chef's knife (both wustof classic) to cut themapart, but when I'm hacking through the spine or breast bone, I feel terrible and it kills the edges on my knives. I am certainly not a knife connoisseur, but I do like my knives to be servicably sharp ( I use a Spyderco Sharpmaker to keep an edge on them(I'm sure there are plenty of you gnashing your teeth right now)) I'm thinking that a big fat scary, maybe rusty cleaver would do the job? Is there a specific brand I should be looking for? Just go to goodwill and find SOMETHING that I can put an edge on? Preferably something cheap with some weight behind it to generate destruction upon these chickens.

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  1. LaureitQ,

    Cleavers need not to be expensive. Now, there are big thick meat cleavers with a concave grind. I have one. It is great at chopping through bones, but they are not really good for much else. If you will only chop thin bones, then maybe a medium blade Chinese cleaver is more suitable? It can break small bones and you can also slice and cut with it. The advantage is that you don't have to switch knives between chopping bones and slicing meat. It is really up to you if you want a pure thick bone crushing cleaver or if you want a medium blade cleaver.

    For a powerful cleaver, I think any cleaver with a concave grind is good. $10-25 should be more than enough for a small meat cleaver. Dexter-Russell has some, but most brands will do as long as the grind is correct. For a medium cleaver which can handle small bones, then a medium blade Chinese cleaver is ok. If this is the routine, I suggest Dexter-Russell Chinese cleaver like this one:

    4 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      Chem: I though you were a CCK cleaver fan?

      1. re: petek

        :) I do like CCK knives, but I think for crushing chicken bones, any cleaver will do a decent job as long as the blade is thick enough. Its ability to form an acute sharp edge is not very important. CCK does make some real serious bone cleavers, but those are overkill for the original poster I think.

        1. re: petek

          A lot of CCK are "slicers", not for chopping through bones. Usually people (including myself and I think Chem) are fans of CCK for their chinese chef knife, i.e. vegetable slicers, not their bone hacking ability.

      2. Cooks Illustrated has a dated (2004), but probably still reliable, review of cleavers. There top pick was the Global 6-inch, but of course expensive. Their next highest rated cleaver was also their Best Buy, the LamsonSharp 7-inch cleaver that they reported held a sharp edge and was lightweight. Amazon has it listed for $43.89 at the moment:

        1 Reply
        1. re: PattyOh

          The Global G-12 is probably the best-designed item in their line. Pricey but effective. For chicken disassembly, you'll want heft and blade mass. Chinese style cleavers have to be large and concave to work effectively as cleavers, which most them aren't. The point is to minimize effort, so bigger is best.

        2. I got my cleaver at the local asian supermarket; it was ~$5 and works perfectly for cutting off wing-tips or cutting the back-bone into multiple pieces for stock. I love it and absolutely recommend it (although I keep it in the back of my drawer, since it can freak out company). Be warned, though, that the asian market is a treasure trove of awesome cookware and porcelain; you might come back with more stuff than you expected to purchase!

          1 Reply
          1. re: caseyjo

            I didn't even think to check the local asian supermarket! They have some really great stuff! I'm totally going to check it out. Otherwise, find something with a concave edge and go from there.

            Thanks guys!

          2. I have a Wusthoff Classic cleaver that I bring out whenever I am afraid that my task is going to abuse my knives. My Henkels Chef knife does a fine job on small chicken bones, but I wouldn't use it to separate spare ribs, or cut a chicken thigh bone, I think Chinese cleavers are good for this IF you choose one of the big ones, not a veggie cleaver. The Wusthoff cleaver is really a fine piece of cutlery designed for nasty tasks involving meat and bones. I'd recommend it.

            1. Have you thought of a good set of scissors? Most good shears are take apart for sanitary cleaning, and allow you cut a lot of stuff! I can cut up all but thigh bones (the thick ones) with shears. My favorite roast chicken is a backbone removed chicken, which requires cutting from snout to vent -- to borrow a zoology term -- and shears do a great job; I find them much safer than the ol' hack and slash of cleaver use. If you're cutting up BIG bones, do what butchers do, use a hack saw (or band saw, but it gets a little pricey having a food safe band saw :P).