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Jun 28, 2012 04:56 AM

A (legitimate) excuse to buy a new knife! Help me find one!

So, I've starting making spaghetti squash recently and have fallen in love with this vegetable. The problem is cutting it raw. I know I can cook it whole, but I like cutting and seeding it before cooking. I've stopped cooking butternut squash (another favorite vegetable) for the same reason. It's just too difficult to cut through. My knives aren't up to the task (my largest knives are an 8" chef's and a 10" chefs). I'm beginning to think I need a cleaver type knife. If a $100 one will do a better job or keep a better edge than a $30, then I'm willing to shell it out. If there's a $30 one out there that will do a great job, then I'm all for it. FYI, although I own some Wusthof's, I reach for my Forschner Victorinox all the time. I like that they're great knives and that they're cheap enough that I won't feel terribly if I do something horrible to them (either while chopping or attempting to hand sharpen on my own.) Tell me what type of knife I need and point me to a good one!

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  1. I have only cooked spaghetti squash once in the last 5 years, and embarrassingly, I have to admit that I do not remember which knife I used. I have cut butternut squash many times and I remember using my thin blade Chinese cleaver and some other knives as well. Although it is called a "cleaver", it is actually thinner than German style Chef's knives and even thinner than most Japanese gyutos. What I like about using a Chinese style knife is that the blade width is very width, so I can tap the knife through if it get stuck.

    Conversely, I remember using my thick butcher knife to cleave something as well.

    If you can get hold of a CCK 140X knife, then it is worth a try. It takes a good edge and holds it. It has not problem cutting young coconuts, so it can handle spaghetti squash -- I assume. It is carbon steel, so that may not be what you like.

    It may sound weird, but if you are going for the thick blade cleaver routine, then you may want to consider getting a mallet. It is not a must, but something to think about. The reason is that you don't really want to hack your spaghetti squash with a full swing. You aren't really trying to chop wood here. Once the knife get into the spaghetti, it is better to tap is through either with your hand or a mallet -- assuming if it get stuck.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      Plus one. My knife of choice for thick/ dense winter squash, rutabaga, etc. is an Asian veggie cleaver (CCK –1303 or similiar). It has a very thin blade that doesn’t wedge like thicker blades do and (if needed) is tall enough to use your other hand to push down on the spine of the knife to power through the cut. I stopped using my narrower/ thin bladed knives on very dense things. I once got one stuck in a rutabaga, had to sort of twist the knife free and was lucky to not torque enough to hurt it.

      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        Hi Chem,

        Thank you for your suggestion. I like that a thin cleaver would be just as effective as a thick one. I don't do any butchering on my own quite yet so I don't think I need a thick cleaver. A chinese cleaver, on the other hand, has been on my wish list for a good long time (I'm always always chopping vegetables.) Would I also need a mallet for a thin cleaver?

        1. re: sherrib

          A mallet is not required for a cleaver. You can tap the knife spine with your hand if needed. Of course for people who regularly cut hard objects, then a mallet is nice to have.

          Swing a mallet against the knife spine is much safer than trying to swing a cleaver.

          Now, I would say that it is probably much easier to get hold of a thick blade cleaver (real) instead of a thin blade Chinese slicer.

        1. re: jpf55

          Hi jpf55,

          My chef's knife kept getting stuck in my spaghetti squash (and I mean STUCK!) Mine also wasn't as yellow as hers appears. I wonder if hers is more ripe than mine was??

          1. re: sherrib

            Ever since I purchased this knife, I find that certain foods like squash, potatoes etc don't stick as much to the blade.
            It obviously has to do with the air pockets and it does make it easier but it is not a miracle knife and I don't there is such a thing. I sometimes wet the blade and it sticks even less depending on the veggie. It also has a confortable handle for my big hand. I find I am slowly using the chef knife less and less. One last thing, you shouldn't need an excuse to buy a new kitchen utensil. ;-)

            1. re: jpf55


              I buy way too many things without an excuse. It's just nice that this time, I actually have one ;)

            2. re: sherrib

              Yes, getting a knife stuck is a common problem for cutting many hard squashes. The knife get wedged due to the thickness of the blade. One challenge of the typical German style knives is that they are usually somewhat thick, but not thick-thick like a meat cleaver. This intermediate thickness actually makes it more challenging as cowboyardee has nicely pointed out.

              A thin blade Chinese style slicer/cleaver has less resistance due to its thinner blade. Here is a video of the Devin Thomas thin blade Chinese cleaver cutting butternut squash. If I am correct, it takes on a lot of the same features as the CCK 1303 Chinese cleaver. (most Chinese cleavers you see in the stores are the medium blade, not the thin blade).


              You can see the knife essentially sliced through the squash. Even had it got stuck, the knife blade is so wide that the knife spine would be exposed and you would able to tap the knife through the squash.

              Alternatively, the thick cleaver is a great efficient method as well, as you can see from this CHOW video:


              What you do not want to do is to swing the cleaver toward the squash. Yes, you can do it if you are skill, but most people have less control than they think and they usually miss their marks, which makes it dangerous:


              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                I would definitely lose a finger (or two.)

                1. re: sherrib

                  <I would definitely lose a finger (or two.)>

                  You mean if you swing the cleaver, right? Yeah, it is good option if you know what you are doing. Otherwise, it is much safer to tap the knife spine with a hand or a heavy object like a mallet.

          2. I basically agree with what Chem says. You either want an exceptionally thin knife (especially a knife that is thin behind its edge) or a very thick heavy knife... and nothing in between. I'm partial to the very thin option myself. Personally, I use a very thin gyuto to cut winter squash. There are a few gyutos that feature the kind of super thin geometry I like for this (and many other) jobs. The Konosuke gyutos (the HD gets especially good reviews), Sakai Yusuke (which I have), Suisin inox Honyaki, Tadatsuna and a couple others are good examples of this kind of extreme geometry. Thing is, they're expensive knives, and they also are less forgiving in sharpening than other options, if you're not a veteran sharpener (it would be an easy job to botch for someone newer to sharpening). Still, they can make splitting butternut squash feel only marginally more difficult than cutting a potato.

            I like Chems suggestion that you try a CCK. They sell both big, heavy duty cleavers that you could use to split squash with brute force and also very thin cleavers that you could more easily push through the squash. In either case, the height and length of the knives would allow you to tap on the spine with a mallet if you need help to get through the squash. They aren't super expensive either, which is a plus. They are often made of carbon steel, but aren't super hard to take care of as carbon steel knives go.

            That's their thin-bladed cleaver, and it's a great knife and a great buy in general. You might find many uses for it beyond winter squash.

            This is one of their thick choppers. Maximum carnage guaranteed.

            4 Replies
            1. re: cowboyardee

              <You either want an exceptionally thin knife (especially a knife that is thin behind its edge) or a very thick heavy knife>

              Very well put -- much better than I did. Yes, I like to re-iterate your points. A very thin knife can slide through these food items with less resistance. A very thick knife, on the other hand, can split the food items as it enters -- almost like you pulling them apart. When I use the thick cleaver, I can often see the dense foods crack/open below the knife edge -- which supports the idea that the thickness of the blade was parting the food.

              Strangely, the medium blade knives give the most trouble because the wedging results in great resistance, but the wedging is not enough to split the foods like a very thick cleaver.

              1. re: cowboyardee

                HI Cowboyardee,

                I don't mind springing for the pricier knives. I'm just not there yet as far as sharpening goes. I'm still definitely a novice sharpener so, until I get better at it, it might be better for me to stay away from knives that chip easily. The one and only reason I haven't gotten the cck 1303 is that I don't trust myself to care for a carbon steel knife. I'm kinda the "leave it sitting there until I have time to wash it later" sort of person. That's why I have hundreds of everything. What's involved in the care of this knife? I know I should constantly wipe it as I use it. I also know it should be washed and dried right away when I'm done with it. Anything else? Would I need to season it or anything like that? Would it rust just by sitting around in a drawer? The aesthetics of a patina wouldn't bother me. I really only care about function.

                1. re: sherrib

                  The CCK is fine as long as you wash it and dry it after each prep session. Basically, don't leave it wet or covered in food for hours. And no dishwasher. No seasoning needed unless you feel like spiffy-ing up the handle. Not especially high maintenance as carbon steel goes. It's a very rustic looking knife, so a little patina won't hurt the aesthetic. Most of the face of the knife is non-reactive anyway.

                  If you do get the 1303, just be aware that you can't hack away at bones or take swinging chops with it - it's not that kind of cleaver. But it will be fine slicing through winter squash, other vegetables (not coconut shells), and boneless meats.

                2. re: cowboyardee

                  <I'm partial to the very thin option myself. Personally, I use a very thin gyuto to cut winter squash.>

                  Thin is in!! :-D

                3. "My old ones are dull" Works for me.

                  1. My knife of choice for squash has always been a serrated bread knife. In this case a Henckels. It starts easily and is stiff enough that I can lean on it to get through. I’m also not concerned about dulling my Chef this way.