A Meat Cleaver Review
I don't chop through bones too much. Every once in a while I've sawed through em, but I've never bothered getting a meat cleaver. The well-reputed ones (the big CCK bone cleavers, the old warhorse knives by Wusthof and the like) were too expensive to justify for a knife I'd use only rarely, while I don't particularly trust some of the widely available cheap options (farberware, etc). I figured a meat cleaver was the kind of thing I'd maybe pick up at a yard sale when I saw one for a good price.
More on a hunch than anything else, I decided instead to buy a knife off Amazon. Not many reviews, no reviews AFAIK on the knife forums. Shipping was very quick. And I must say I'm impressed. Selling for $14, I got one heck of a cleaver.
This thing is a massive, 2 pound beast of a knife. The edge was sharp when it arrived (despite the obtuse edge angle and obvious coarseness of the sharpening grit) and sharpened up well and easily once I took it to the stones. Blade is 9 inches long, all of it very usable edge. Stainless. Full tang. The remaining questions:
- How's the edge retention?
- Does it chip?
So first I chopped some bones. The blade performed very well, and all that extra mass meant I didn't need much of a backswing - which in turn meant that I could chop accurately. At the edge itself, the bones seemed to leave almost invisibly small dents in the extreme edge - significantly smaller than 1 mm, only visible as light glints off them. With the exception of these tiny marks, the edge was perfectly intact, and the cutting board seemed to cause no folding in the edge. The knife still cut paper easily afterward - it would take a lot of heavy chopping before this knife felt dull.
So next, I took a honing steel and... whacked it against the edge, both head on and from the side (yes, I actually did this). Where I hit the knife, the edge warped a bit (any knife would). But no chips. And nothing that was even difficult to sharpen out.
If I was to nitpick, I should note that one of the handle scales is imperfectly fitted to the tang - there is a tiny crevice between the metal and the wood. And also the spine was a little sharp (easy to fix). Certainly nothing special fit and finish-wise.
But for $14, I'm thinking this is a very good deal. If anyone else out there was holding off on buying a meat cleaver because they didn't think they could justify the price, this blade is pretty easy to justify given its massive size, quality, and low cost.
I don't know where my camera is now, but I might include some pics in the next day or two.
The edge itself might be hollow ground very slightly (while sharpening I seemed to hit the shoulder and the edge slightly more than the middle of the bevel) but it's close enough to flat that it doesn't really matter. The relief bevel is definitely hollow ground. I know normally that's sub-ideal, but I'm not concerned about food release in a meat cleaver, and anyway the relief bevel and knife as a whole is so thick that I can't imagine having any real risk of damage. It may be hollow ground, but it's also twice as beefy as most of the meat cleavers I see widely available. I'll post a cross section shot later maybe.
Not disparaging it at all, just not that familiar with heavy cleavers being anything but convex-or flat-ground.
If you're smashing bones, the heft is great. How thick is the stock? Depending on how heavy the use (and the bones being chopped), the only issue might be edge support. But for $14, who cares? Good buy.
You probably already know this, but if you place the edge against the bone and then strike the spine with a cudgel or mallet, you're less likely to ding/fold the edge. No doubt where the edge will fall, either. ;)
Turns out my camera is at my in-laws, so there might be some wait on those pics.
At the heel, it's a bit over 3.5 mm thick from the spine down to the top of the relief bevel (just over a half inch from the edge). Face of the blade seems to be dead flat. At the 'tip' of the knife, the spine is about 3.2 mm thick, and again no thinner at the top of the relief bevel. This isn't really a distal taper though - the spine only thins less than a half inch from the 'tip.'
From there it tapers to just over 1 mm thick at the top of the edge bevel. The edge itself seems to be set to about 30 degrees/side.
Just offhand, this seems to compare well in terms of mass and thickness to what I remember from more commonly seen meat cleavers. It's possible the mass of the knife is fooling me a bit - undoubtedly part of the reason it's so heavy is because it's long and tall.
"You probably already know this, but if you place the edge against the bone and then strike the spine with a cudgel or mallet, you're less likely to ding/fold the edge. No doubt where the edge will fall, either. ;)"
I did know that, but it's a good tip that bears repeating nonetheless. Still, chopping is fun.
I acquired an inexpensive meat cleaver recently as well. A $13 Asian one courtesy of my last trip to the restaurant supply, 7" long x 3.5" tall. Turns out to be one of the best things I've bought for the kitchen in years. It now seems crazy that I've cooked 25+ years without one.
I routinely break down 10-20 chickens at a time, and I can't believe how much easier and faster the job is with the cleaver vs. a chef's knife. I suspect my annual Thanksgiving turkey de-backboning/spatchcocking, aka "turkey wrestling" is going to be unworthy of the title from now on.
Even if that's all I ever use it for, it's completely worthwhile. I made it a custom-fit leather case so I can stow it in the utensil drawer for the 360 days a year I'm not using it.
Thanks. I have never seen this cleaver brand. A 9" blade cleaver is big. Wow. Sound like the blade is soft and tough which is good for some really serious works.
<I should note that one of the handle scales is imperfectly fitted to the tang>
My other stainless steel cleaver also has a similar problem. Actually worse... then handle scale seems loose.