Oct 01, 2021
By: Daniel Modlin
is one of the most recognizable knife shapes, but also one of the most misunderstood. While it is traditionally used for cutting through animal bones, make no mistake: it is one of the most versatile tools found in any kitchen.
To help shed some light on how and when to use a cleaver, we reached out to our friends at
, Austin’s premier butcher shop and restaurant that focuses on wild game and exotic cuts of meat. “I think it’s really versatile—not just for meat but for vegetables, too,” said Executive Chef Janie Ramirez. “The more you use it, the more comfortable it becomes in your hand, and then you can practically use it for everything.”
But before you make it your go-to knife, it’s worth breaking it in. Here are five of Chef Janie Ramirez’s favorite tasks for her cleaver.
“I really love cleavers for crushing garlic. It can be a struggle to crush with other knives and so if I’m going to mince it, it’s nice to give it a little smack on the side because then you can go back and mince it and it won’t be wobbling around.”
“To split open a watermelon or a large butternut squash, or any kind of winter squash, I get the knife in and once it is, I use a mallet to tap it in half.” While Chef Janie likes to use a mallet, you can also use your hand, although it is more dangerous. “The cleaver goes through pretty cleanly and you have a nice split squash that you can scoop the seeds out and roast in half on a sheet tray.”
“Because a Cleaver is really flat and because of its weight, it’s really nice for slicing boneless meats into strips. It is strong enough to cut through plenty of strips at once in order to make cubes, and you can even mince meat finely enough with one to make a tartare.” Chef Janie says you can do this with any boneless meat, whether that’s chicken for meatballs, or beef or venison for tartare.
“If I do any mincing, I’ll hold the edge where the hole is and the handle. I’ll rock, so I go across, back and forth, and then up and down, keeping the tip of the cleaver down."
"One of the best things about a cleaver is how big the face is. This lets you pick stuff off the cutting board with ease and drop it into a bowl or into the pan on your stove without dropping anything. Especially when you’re at home and don’t want to dirty another bowl, it’s nice to have a knife like this."