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Does getting a Chinese cleaver make sense for me?

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Now that the birds' beak knife question has been so efficiently settled, there's another knife I've been dithering over: a Chinese cleaver. The eternal question is of course, How much am I likely to use it? Unlike the birds' beak, there aren't any under-$10 versions out there, LOL.

It happens every autumn: I see the winter squashes in the produce section and think, Hmmmm... then immediately recall the times in the past when I gave up in disgust (or swore from pain as I re-injured my wrist) trying to cut the thing with an 8" chef's knife. Now that I have a GOOD (Shun) chef's knife I'd never risk that blade on something like a winter squash, so I've been just avoiding them, period. Also, I confess, buying already cut-up chickens when I'm not planning to roast them whole, simply because ... again... I'm not going to use my best knife/knives on anything that has bones in it. Not that we make chicken all that frequently ... maybe once a month? ... but again, holiday season means guests and that's another time that poultry is made more often than usual.

So I'm wondering, is it worth getting a Chinese cleaver that would PROBABLY only get heavy use for 1/3 of the year? Or am I likely to find other uses for it as well, that I haven't thought of?

Many of them seem to be $$$ so I can see that wouldn't make sense. I did, as a result of another post I found here, see there are a couple for under $200 at Japanese Chef's Knife which is where I recently bought a nakiri that I have quickly come to LOVE (my Shun is definitely feeling neglected now, LOL) . There is a JCK Kagayaki "Small size" cleaver (180 mm) for $80 which is currently sold out; and two 220 mm blades for $90 and $95 which seem to differ in the thickness of the blade (?). Should I assume that thicker is better/stronger no matter what?

I also see a Misono for $138 which was recommended on the other thread. Blade 190 mm which is between the other two in size.

Of course the HANDLE that I like best is on the Hattori FH Series which has "Ask for Price" on it... a red flag if I ever saw one, LOL. A few other western-shape handes which are of course all on the $300-plus models. Grrrr. I can't get over the feeling that the other handles look so darn, well... "insufficient". As if there won't be enough to securely hold onto, or is that impression simply because its blade is so much bigger than any other type of knife? I sure wish I had some clue as to how long the handle on these typical cleavers actually are, but the only measurements given are for the blades.

For the uses I've mentioned, and for someone with a wrist that needs to avoid unnecessary stresses, which affordable (under $200, preferably under $150 if possible) Chinese cleaver would you suggest? If it makes sense for me even to get one at all, that is.

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  1. I have one, it is a dexter and i got in in an Asian food market. Very affordable. How often do I use it? Not often. I often buy whole chickens and cut them up my self. The cleaver really is not meant for cutting through bone. I've reversed it and used the broad thicker back of the blade to break through poultry bones. Most often when i am cutting up chickens I use a chefs knife and a pair of poultry shears.

    I sell more expensive cleavers and they are good. I'm just very happoy with my Dexter.

    1. Check out Victorinix and Dexter-Russell for one that's affordable. As I recall, you're a vegetarian and may not find a lot of other uses for it, but sure would help with winter squash though.

      1. There are actually many cheap but decent Chinese cleavers out there. $10-20 is not uncommon. You just can't find them online. Do you have a Chinatown nearby?

        Also, just to repeat my thought from the other thread, CCK (on chefknivestogo) is one of the best values in kitchen knives that I know of. Good steel (carbon steel but not super reactive), great geometry, some rough edges, definitely not the prettiest CC on the market. It'll give you a very good idea of what a Chinese cleaver can be for a lot less than $200.

        1. Keep in mind that the most delicate Chinese cleavers will not do a good job with cutting bones, and, conversely, the heavier ones may not be great for delicate slicing tasks. Just because a cleaver looks big and tough doesn't mean it is -- don't think of a Chinese chef's knife as something you need to break out for heavy duty tasks - the more delicate ones are more comparable to a Western chef's knife. A CCK 1301 or 1303 is great for cutting vegetables, which is what it's primarily used for in our house. A mid-weight one is probably sufficient for chicken bones - we have a bone chopper, which is a real beast. In our mostly-vegetarian house, it mostly sees use for large squash etc.

          Definitely Nthing the CCK recommendation, and if you have a local source, should be able to get one for in the range of $25-35. You can find Chinese cleavers for $10 or less, but the quality may not be great. I would recommend oiling the handle occasionally so it doesn't crack. Note that it's carbon steel, but has a protective lacquer. If you want to build patina, you can strip off the lacquer. If you don't like carbon steel, they have a relatively lightweight stainless steel cleaver too.

          There are some Chinese cleavers with metal handles too. Personally I prefer the wood handle.

          1 Reply
          1. re: will47

            Winter squashes are actually easier cut well with a thinner knife. A big heavy knife along with a short hard swing will certainly cut a squash, but it can make a mess of it. A super thin (especially behind its edge) delicate-seeming knife glides through thick winter squash like it was a potato. The standard CCK cleavers are pretty decent for this task. Give it a try side by side with the thicker, heavier knife next time you're cutting winter squash.

            You're right that most Chinese cleavers are far too delicate to cut through bones, btw.

          2. Absolutely you need one. But I don't understand the prices that you are quoting. If your intention is just to be able to hack through large squashes, then a Chinese cleaver is not what you want. You need a long fairly heavy knife like the ones we can pick up here in Houston at an Ace Mart Restaurant Supply for around $20. A Chinese cleaner is what you'd use for more finesse work with vegetables, etc. My $30 Dexter with its razor sharp edge is one that has given me service for over 25 years. That's a little more than a dollar a year. For more serious hacking, there are heavy Chinese cleavers available in a typical large Chinese grocery store here in Houston for around $18. They don't have the fine edge of the Dexter, and that's cause they're used for more heavy duty hacking. http://www.google.com/search?tbm=isch...

            1. "How much am I likely to use it? "

              This is a very important question, but also the very difficult to answer. I think it depends on your style. First, what most people refer as Chinese cleavers are really supposed to function more like a Chef's knife. Another thing is that "Chinese cleavers" really refer to more than one kind of a knife. Basically, Chinese cutlery revolves around a very similar rectangular shape. Here, in this following link, you will see various Chinese knives and they are all different even they may look very similar.

              http://www.chanchikee.com/ChineseKniv...

              So this leads to a natural questions: Which Cleaver cleavers are you looking for? There are the thin slicers which work extremely well for slicing vegetables as well as meat, but they have less muscle to handle tougher work. The KF110X series and KF130X series belong to the thin slicer classification. There are the thick meat cleavers, and KF140X series and KF160X series belong to it. Finally, there are the middle ground Chinese cleavers which often called “vegetable knives” – not too thick and not too thin. KF120X series and KF190X series belong to this. In answering your other question directly: yes, a thicker knife is stronger, but also less precise. So we have to balance the need.
              I won’t worry about handle falling off. That is highly unlikely. I know the traditional Chinese handles look so small in comparison to the knives, but this is fine.
              For a thin blade Chinese knife, the CCK KF130X (carbon steel) series is good.
              For a medium blade Chinese knife, Dexter-Russell S5198 (stainless steel) is a good start.

              http://www.dexter-russell.com/2008/Se...

              Neither should require you to spend more than $40.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                How would you compare the Dexter-Russell S5198 to the CCK 1102? Where's the best place to buy either? Are they typically sold in the large Asian markets? Or is it best to just price-shop online?

                1. re: CindyJ

                  Actually I have not seen Dexter-Russell S5198 sold in Asian supermarkets. I have seen them in Asian cookware stores, but not Asian supermarkets. You should able to see "Dexter" on the knife, so you won't mistake it.

                  You can buy it from Amazon now for $42.95 (free shipping) or you can get one from katom for $29.70. Katom is cheaper but it requires shipping fee. So it could end up costing you about the same. Now, if you may more than a few things, than Katom is a great deal.

                  http://www.amazon.com/Dexter-Russell-...

                  http://www.katom.com/135-08110.html

                  *Katom's Dexter Russell 8110 model is basically the same as the S5198 model except it comes with a plastic casing. Here, it shows that 8110 is the same as S5198:

                  http://www.dexter1818.com/Item_detail...

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    Asian supermarkets tend to only have very cheap quality knives. There may be exceptions, but that's been my experience. A cooking supply store that's Chinese owned or caters to Chinese restaurants is the best bet if you have something like that nearby. Otherwise, online is the way to go -- there are several shops that sell both the Dexter and the CCK cleavers online.

                    1. re: will47

                      "Asian supermarkets tend to only have very cheap quality knives"

                      Come to think of it, you are correct, Will. The knives offered in the Asian supermarket is lower quality and cheaper than Asian cookware stores. I shouldn't even be surprised by this. This is true for any other stores as well. Western supermarkets offer lower quality knives than the the Western restaurant supply stores as well.

              2. Wow, there's quite a bit more to consider than I first thought, LOL. Let's see if I can break down the knife-usage thing so as to get a clearer picture.

                For ALL vegetables OTHER THAN hard squashes, I'd be using either my new nakiri (first choice!) or the Shun chef's knife. Those two would cover any kind of veggie work other than the hard squashes. As for melons, I would use the chef's knife although for the thicker skinned ones I would reach for a cleaver if I had one.

                For breaking down whole chickens I've been using poultry shears except that I always run into serious issues with the backbone -- I don't do so great on the breastbone either but that may be partly just lack of practice at this point. Although we don't eat chicken as often as most people do, I recently discovered that our most convenient local source for Bell & Evans chickens isn't carrying them anymore, which means a longer trip to the next nearest source and because of that it'd be more sensible to buy several at once and then break down and freeze more of the various parts. Also, I prefer to saute boneless breasts with the skin on, which is never available that way pre-packaged (it's always bone in/skin on, or boneless/skinless). Cooking with the skin on prevents the breast from drying out as much, and then the skin is removed and the excess fat patted off before proceeding with whatever else is being done with it. So the whole breastbone/backbone thing would be easier with a heavier duty knife than I currently have -- right? But the question is, is a cleaver the best knife for that job AS WELL AS cutting hard squashes without feeling like my arm is being broken in the process?

                Guess what I am really looking for is a knife that will do both jobs (hard squashes + chicken breakdowns) better than the knives that I currently have. Obviously even the cleavers are "subdivided" into those that are Optimal for Veggie and Optimal for Poultry, which is something I didn't realize before.

                Never having any experience with carbon steel, I honestly don't know if I would like it or not. Probably best for me to stick with stainless, though I didn't see any on chefsknivestogo that specified which CCK that was.

                Chem, would you say that the stainless (they say 'stain-free', is that what's meant by the protective coating?) Dexter would probably handle both the squash and the chicken jobs with equal efficiency?Meaning better than a heavy chef's knife on both? Also I'm not familiar with that handle attachment method of brass compression rivets, would you explain what that is and how it compares to other handle attachment modes for cleavers? I'm familiar with the tang-and-rivets type of knife handle but are cleaver handle attachments different?

                btw, I'm not concerned about a cleaver handle splitting... more like, is there enough of it to get a really good grip on? LOL. Because you're right, it sure looks SHORT compared to the blade which is see it 8" and the handle on my 8" chef's knive sure looks longer that the cleaver's. Remember, I'm the weirdo who likes big contoured handles and hates narrow flat ones. ;-)

                15 Replies
                1. re: skyline

                  The Dexter is made of stainless steel, not carbon steel with a coating.

                  The handle of the Chinese cleavers tends to be an inch or two shorter than on most of the Western chef's knives I have. With a Western chef's knife, if you're holding it right (i.e., pinch grip; 3 fingers on the handle), your hand isn't actually on all that much of the handle. I have normal size hands, and have no problem holding either of our CCK cleavers; the balance is quite good. As to whether it's comfortable for you, hard to say unless you handle one in person, but the price isn't that high anyway.

                  I have quite a few more expensive knives, but my CCK 1303 is very often the first knife I reach for.

                  1. re: skyline

                    You have a number of concerns:
                    1/ cutting melons and squash
                    2/ boning chicken
                    3/ carbon steel staining
                    4/ handles

                    I have some question regarding your, (not mentioned in this thread but important), carpel tunnel:
                    1/ one hand or both?
                    2/ do using the poultry shears hurt?
                    3/ do you use or have a boning knife or fish filleting knife - is there pain when using?
                    4/ thinking about pain and knife use - what hurts - what doesn't?

                    Below is a photo of a number of my knives - left to right
                    1/ French Sabatier 230mm - chef knife
                    2/ CCK 1301 240mm - vegetable slicer - carbon steel - little patina
                    3/ Dexter 200 mm (or something close) - slicer - carbon steel - patina galore - no rust
                    4/ CCK (old model unknown) 200mm - stainless steel - chopper
                    5/ Wingen Solingen 160mm - stainless steel - heavy duty chopper
                    6/ not shown rubber mallet

                    I use:
                    1/ CCK 1301 for large cooking job 6 or more guest and lots of vegetable slicing - great for squash and melons. could lighty use a rubber mallet to help if pain is a problem

                    2/ CCK chopper for cutting through chicken bones - with the rubber mallet
                    3/ Wenger Soligen for tougher bone jobs with mallet - bigger jobs require a saw.
                    4/ the other knifes I don't use - just for illustration

                    The CCK 13xx series is a slicer only - can be purchased in stainless steel - different series numbers but otherwise identical - same profile - no rust worries and less worry about chipping through misuse. I really like my smaller Stainless steel CCK for abuse with the mallet.

                    The handles on the CCK are utilitarian only - no beauty

                     
                    1. re: rosetown

                      Sorry for posting to self but to add:
                      The CCK vegetable slicers are great for rough work with little knife skill, and handle grip style matters little. They will slice cleanly through a bunch of celery with one stroke with only the weight of the slicer. Safe knife handling matters.

                      1. re: rosetown

                        It's my right hand only. I gave myself a repetitive stress injury while doing a home improvement project about 8 years ago. For the next couple of years my wrist reacted to pretty much everything, but with a combination of always wearing the brace at night plus avoidance of any additional aggravation, it has slowly recovered to the point where I can do things like digging with a trowel, using a hand weeder, using keyboard/mouse, etc without pain or tenderness as long as the action has "breaks" in it and is not 'intense'. In other words I now can use a hammer to hang a picture, or to hammer a 2" nail into wood that isn't very hard, without aggravating the wrist; but there's no way I could hammer more than one or two nails without the my wrist letting me know that it was a Bad Idea. Shock/vibration is something I know I need to avoid. And even with precautions, and the night brace, if I use a mouse continually for, say, an hour or more, my wrist will be achy and tender until the next day. At my age this is as "healed" as things are ever going to get, which is live-with-able as long as I respect the condition and don't do things that I know will unduly aggravate it. I'm neither a drugs nor a surgery person and so this approach works for me.

                        To answer your other questions, yes I can use a boning knife without any complaints from my wrist, because even though there are some fine movements/twisty movements, they are not being repeated exactly (same angle, same twist, same pressure) over and over. And there is no vibration and no real pressure. If I had arthritis in that hand (as does my SO) I assume I would indeed have a problem with tasks like that.

                        Shears and scissors don't cause a problem as long as it's not an extended repetitive movement OR it's not a job that requires applying a lot of pressure. For example I could easily cut out a clothing pattern for one shirt but not 3 of them one after the other (no pressure, but a lot of repetition). When cutting branches, I can't use a bypass pruner – have to use a ratchet cut pruner instead. The wrist complains about the one-shot heavy pressure that a bypass pruner requires; the ratchet cut "eats away at" the initial cut with multiple smaller less-pressure cuts (which I can "rest" between doing) until the blades are all the way through.

                        I have an older (cheapie) 8" chef's knive that I have tried to use when cutting a butternut squash and quickly found that the pressure I had to exert in order to make any progress was something my wrist was instantly unhappy about. I guess that's what gave me the notion that if a cleaver would enable me to halve or quarter a squash with one whack (letting the weight of the knife blade do most or all of the work) followed by a slicing motion once the blade is into the less dense flesh, that would solve the problem. But from the latest posts it seems that I didn't have a really accurate notion of how a cleaver should be used. Also, I would have to learn to use a pinch grip which is something I don't do/don't find particularly comfortable (which is probably why I favor a large contoured handle that "fills" my hand as much as possible).

                        1. re: skyline

                          Just a thought - you might benefit by starting a new thread:
                          'Knives & knife handling - Solutions - carpel tunnel & repetitive stress injury'.

                          There are a lot of people who avoid threads by 'knife nerds' (no offence intended), who may have wisdom to share.

                          1. re: rosetown

                            "There are a lot of people who avoid threads by 'knife nerds' "
                            _______
                            Why is that?

                            That's a real question - I'm not trolling and I won't argue with your response. I'm just curious.

                            1. re: cowboyardee

                              While I would not necessarily have used that term ; ) I do understand the sentiment. I like knives. As you may or may not know I now have quite a few Wusthof and Henckels knives that I bought from thrift stores. I don't have any sharpening stones and I won't be buying a new Shun anytime soon. While I do read the knife threads, at some point they usually get into far too many details for my interest level. It's sort of like how I feel about computers. I still want to know enough to write code and be a hacker, I just don't want it bad enough to actually learn how to do it.If I ever do have a knife question though, you and Chem are my go to guys.

                              1. re: John E.

                                "I still want to know enough to write code and be a hacker, I just don't want it bad enough to actually learn how to do it"

                                If you good enough to be a hacker, then you are already very good.

                                "I now have quite a few Wusthof and Henckels knives"

                                We remember. You bought them at low low prices, like $2-8 per knife.

                                1. re: John E.

                                  In response to cowboyardee as well - I overstated by saying a 'lot of people who avoid etc'. I don't know that for a fact. The term 'nerds' was not intended to offend. I appreciate the fact that the detail in knife threads is of interest to many, including me.

                                  I'm more like John E., the threads sometimes overwhelm my interest level. The point I was trying to make was that there might be some, who don't normally read the knife threads, and have pain when handling knives might bring some good ideas to the table.

                                2. re: cowboyardee

                                  I think some people may be intimidated.

                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                    Filtering - 'avoid' was the wrong word. Without filtering the internet is all noise. We all make filtering choices.

                                    In this forum, I filter out those threads that deal with All Clad, Creuset, or those that have 365 posts and others as well. This doesn't mean that they don't have value. I don't have the time.

                                    In the Home Cooking Forum, threads often move to the 2nd page in less than 1 day. I can't possibly deal with all. Additionally, I visit other busy forums. And that is just forums.

                                    The internet is a blessing and a curse.

                                    edit:
                                    Please respond if you wish.

                                  2. re: rosetown

                                    'knife nerds'

                                    It's knife knerds btw... :D

                                  3. re: skyline

                                    Skyline,

                                    Have you also considered getting a Dexter-Russell Duo-Glide Chef's knife? I have never used one, but it looks ok and have won the 2010 Houseware Design Awards Finalist and endorsement from the Arthritis Foundation.

                                    http://www.dexterduoglide.com/

                              2. re: skyline

                                skyline,

                                I agree with will. Rosetown's comments are great. (I didn't know you have carpel tunnel?!)

                                Most of the Dexter Russell Chinese chef's knives you see are made of stainless steel (Dexter calls them stain-free, but they are truly stainless steel). They are not cladded knives, so they are made of one single steel, unlike your Hattori Nakiri. The Brass compression rivet used by Dexter is much like the traditional Japanese handle method -- the knife tang is inserted into the handle. The brass rivet clams down the entry. I had a conversation with a Dexter employee (John). He told me that the knife tang extends 40% into the handle and the knife will withstand a 500 lbs pull test.

                                If you hold your knife with a pinch grip, I don't think there should be a problem with the handle length. The Chinese cleaver handles are usually shorter than other knives. This includes the Dexter-Russell knives, and the CCK knives.

                                If you are looking for a Chinese cleavers to cut squash and chicken, then I think the Dexter-Russell S5198 should be sufficient, but of course, it depends what you mean by cutting chicken. Do you mean "deboning a chicken or breaking down a chicken"? Or do you mean chopping chicken like those Chinese barbecue shops? You can get a really heavy duty Chinese cleaver and cut a chicken in one stroke, but they may not be what you want. Of course, the Chinese BBQ Chef's knife would also work great. Those are the KF15XX series as well as the slightly heavier Kong Chopper knives like KF14XX series

                                http://www.chanchikee.com/ChineseKniv...

                                Here are some nice videos if you have too much time :

                                )

                                http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uiFZ_x...

                                http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TkV4Z2...

                                Yes, the term "Chinese cleaver" is very confusing. In truth, there are dozen of knives in Chinese cutlery. They are all referred as Chinese cleavers, but they can be very different.

                                1. re: skyline

                                  Hard squashes and bones are best cut by two very different knifes. Those two jobs call for pretty much the opposite characteristics in a kitchen knife. Though technically speaking, you can get a big, heavy bone-chopper and then use it to massacre your squash. It'll work. But a very thin blade with a gentle pushing-forward cutting stroke works better.

                                2. What's the point of buying nice chef's knives if you are scared to use them? Chef's knives are _TOOLS_, not designer accessories!

                                  1. I bought a Dexter-Russell for $5 at a thrift store. Every time I use it I wonder why I do not use it more often. It is actually sharp enough to use for vegetable chopping in place of a chef's knife. I also use it to remove the backbone from poultry and cutting squash. I have an even heavier one that I use on bones when needed.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: John E.

                                      I feel silly responding to myself, but I bought another Dexter-Russel cleaver today for $4.50. I don't really need it, but I suppose I'll give it to somebody some day. (That goes with many of my knife purchases. Again, I didn't need it but I bought a Chicago Cutlery 10 inch roast beef knife today for a buck. I don't think it has ever been used or washed. It certainly has never seen the inside of a dishwasher.

                                      1. re: John E.

                                        Nice. Does it look like a standard S5198 or S5198-PCP?

                                        http://www.russell-harrington.com/200...

                                        I suppose they all look kind of alike. Let us know how you like it or dislike it.

                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                          You're right, other than the measurements, they do all look the same to me. What exactly is the difference between the S5198 and the S5198-PCP?

                                          The new one I just bought is 3 ounces heavier than my previous purchase.

                                          So far, I mostly just use it for squash and cutting the backbone out of poultry. I might use it for chopping vegetables just to see how it works. If it's good enough for several billion Chinese, it should work for me.

                                          1. re: John E.

                                            "What exactly is the difference between the S5198 and the S5198-PCP?"

                                            Same knife, different package. If you scroll down in the following website, you will see the definition of "PCP". It is just clear plastic casing.

                                    2. Having grown up using Chinese cleavers, I can tell you that it is more important that you learn how to use a cleaver properly, than what kind of cleaver you are buying.

                                      In the hands of a skilled user, even a $10 cleaver will out-do the job of a $1000 cleaver in the hands of an amateur.

                                      1. While I've had several Chinese cleavers, and a good German chefs knife, the ones I use now are nakiris and santukos. A couple are thinner Japanese models (but not particularly expensive), and couple are inexpensive Western copies, and bit heavier.

                                        For a squash like a kabocha the sharp tip of the western santuko starts the cut fine, and the blade is thin enough that there isn't much of a wedging action.

                                        And, contrary to expectations, I rather like using a lightweight nakiri to cut up a chicken. For leg, thigh and wings finding the joint is more important than the knife weight. I don't finesse the wing tip cut, but the nakiri is tough enough for that chop. Also it is fine for cutting through the ribs to separate breast from back. Or I can use the shears for that. I break the back into pieces for the stock pot. And I rather like the rounded nakiri tip when separating breast meat from bone.

                                        1. My SO asked me last night "Why not just use one of those electric knives that people use to carve turkeys, to cut through hard squashes? They have serrated blades, and you use a serrated knife on your chocolate, so why wouldn't that kind of blade work well on the squash?" I had no idea, never having thought of that before. Duh. You have to admit it does sound, well, logical. Leaving aside the fact that it would be "knife heresy" –– would it work?

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: skyline

                                            I bet it would work just fine for the initial cuts. Wouldn't really want to use an electric knife to turn a whole big squash into bite sized pieces though.

                                            ETA: there's also the potential to damage your cutting board with an electric knife if you're not careful, so keep that in mind if you try it.

                                            1. re: cowboyardee

                                              I still have a couple of polystyrene cutting boards on hand for when I do work with raw poultry, so that I can ultra-sanitize the heck out of them afterward with a strong bleach solution, superhot soapy water, etc etc. I don't use either of my wooden boards for that. So I could just use one of those for electric-knife cutting of squashes, then transfer the pieces (if I'm not merely baking them halved or quartered) to the wood board and use the chef's knife to create the 'skinless' smaller pieces.

                                              I am sure that I'm going to hear about this (the electric-knife idea never occurring to me) for QUITE a while, LOL! Especially I remember a relative mentioning, while carving their turkey during last year's holidays, that she's had one for years but never uses it because "it's so noisy". Sounds like a good idea to ask if I can borrow it to conduct a 'squash test'. Assuming she hasn't decided to give to Goodwill or something since then.

                                              Boy do I feel stupid for never thinking of that option. It won't help for chicken, but after watching that CNN special last night, we're probably going to be eating even less of that from now on anyhow, so it may be a moot point. :-/

                                              1. re: skyline

                                                Let us know how it works if you try it. I suspect your off-hand will have to do a decent job of stabilizing the squash as you cut it. But you said you don't have problems with your wrist in your left hand, so that may not be a bad thing.

                                          2. If you're already allocating so much brain space to thinking about it, you should just get one. Go to a Chinese grocery store and get a cheap one, I'm sure the space freed up in your brain is worth the $20.

                                            1. I own a Chinese Cleaver but I'd like to throw a different potential option out there...a Forschner 8 in Breaking Knife.

                                              http://www.knifemerchant.com/product_...

                                              I bought one specifically to make salmon steaks from whole salmon which it has for about 18 yrs. I also use it when I need something to do heavier work than my Chef's knife or when working around bones and bone joints (ribs, chicken, etc.).

                                              The Breaking knife blade shape allows for a push cut as opposed to the up down cut of a Cleaver. Cutting through chicken rib bones, halving chickens etc. it does fine and it is much more nimble to work with as compared to a Chinese Cleaver for making a St Louis ribs cuts from full spares or boning out whole chickens.

                                              The last time I used my Chinese cleaver was when I was prepping for a Vegan Chef who wanted wedge cuts out of large hard sweet potatoes (2 cases worth).

                                              1. Another option for winter squash - microwave or bake it first to soften.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: paulj

                                                  Good point.

                                                2. As an update to the (not so) bright electric knife idea, I borrowed it the other day, tried it on a small spaghetti squash, and.... nope,not a workable option. I don't know if it's the fact that there are two blades, or that the blades are thin and flexible, or that they are serrated... most likely a combination of all three. Oh well it was worth a try. I asked my relative if she wanted the electric knife back and she said "Don't bother, just put it in with your next Goodwill or Vietnam Vets donation". Which is probably a good idea, since the holidays are coming up and I'm sure someone would have a use for it.

                                                  I did the "nuke trick" since the elec knife did manage to make a small cut (about 1/4" deep) in one end, and then used my older German chef's knife after that to trim the ends off and cut it lengthwise. It was still not all that easy though, and I definitely would NOT have wanted to try it on a larger squash. This one was only between 5"-6" long and less than 3" diameter (the smallest one I could find).

                                                  1. A real boning knife is best for chicken, because if you hack a chicken up with a large cleaver you will get bone chips. My Russell (not a Dexter-Russell) is my best knife, and worth it. I also have a heavy and inexpensive Chinese cleaver which I've had for 35 years and which I use rarely. I recently used it to chop a pumpkin in two. It's the only knife I own which I'm willing to hammer on, which was necessary in this case.

                                                    $200? I'm sure I only paid a few dollars ca. 1975, and a similar cleaver can be bought online for under $40 today. Best to go to Chinatown, if you live near one.