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If you cook at home, chances are you have a handful of knives at your disposal—most likely a chef’s knife and a paring knife—but once you get deeper into the culinary arts, you may want to add to your budding collection. With more tools at hand, you can tackle a wider range of cooking tasks more easily. As you shop, you may consider a meat cleaver, a great option, particularly for those who regularly work with chicken or other cuts of meat. Like with any knife, the material of the blade, the comfort of the handle, and the quality of the construction will all be important factors to consider.
Here, the best cleaver knives for your kitchen.
Best Overall: Wüsthof 6-Inch Classic Cleaver
Well-known and respected brand
You can’t go wrong with something from a brand as widely lauded as Wüsthof. The German manufacturer has mastered the art of creating some of the best knives, and that includes its cleaver. The 6-inch cleaver is precision-forged from a single piece of sturdy high-carbon steel to ensure durability. The tang is also triple riveted to the handle to add even more strength.
What’s more, the knife is constructed to resist stains and corrosion without any extra care for the ultimate convenience. And because it’s manufactured with Wüsthof's Precision Edge Technology, it’s ultra-sharp (the brand says it’s about 20 percent sharper than the competition), so you can do everything from break down large cuts of meat to slice and dice tough vegetables like sweet potato or squash.
Best Budget: Utopia Kitchen 7-Inch Cleaver
Not as heavy-duty as others
Looking at the rock-bottom price, you’d never guess how powerful this cleaver would be. Though just a fraction of the price, it compares to much more expensive models, thanks to a surprisingly sturdy stainless steel construction.
The heavy-duty 7-inch cleaver knife has a sharp blade that cuts easily through large pieces of food, including meat with soft bones and tough root vegetables. It also has a comfortable angled, ergonomic grip to minimize wrist tension and ensure you have the utmost control while slicing.
And, if convenience is key, you’ll love the fact that this cleaver is technically dishwasher safe. (Just note: For longevity, it’s still recommended that you hand wash any kitchen knife.) The entire knife is rust- and tarnish-resistant.
Best for Amateur Cooks: J.A. Henckels 6-Inch Meat Cleaver
Slightly small for big jobs
If you’re just getting started in the kitchen, the Henckels 6-Inch Meat Cleaver is a worthy option because it’s a bit easier to wield than some other options. Why? At just shy of 1 pound, the knife is a relatively lightweight cleaver, and it has a shorter blade (6 inches). With these kinds of dimensions, beginners won’t feel overwhelmed by the tool in their hand. Still, the knife cuts with precision and ease because it’s forged from a single billet of high-quality German stainless steel.
It also has a satin finish to help reduce resistance and drag, making cuts with less effort. The blade is slightly curved, too, so it’ll feel a bit more like the chef’s knife you’re used to. As a bonus, this knife is also technically dishwasher safe.
Best with Stand: Dalstrong 9-Inch Gladiator Series R Obliterator Meat Cleaver
The Obliterator cleaver combines quality craftsmanship with cutting-edge technology to live up to its name. The heavy-duty knife (it weighs an impressive 2.9 pounds!) has a razor-sharp full-tang blade forged from premium high-carbon steel, then hand-polished to a satin finish for a cleaner cut.
The blade also has a unique design that does more than look cool. It’s carefully tapered for improved hardness and flexibility and is unusually tall to provide ample knuckle clearance. You’ll also get plenty of control from the ergonomic, easy-to-grip handle. To keep the knife safely housed, it also comes with a nice bonus accessory: a stylish, handcrafted acacia wood stand.
Best Heavy-Duty: Juvale 8-Inch Meat Cleaver
Full-tang, ergonomic handle
Ideal for large cuts of meat
Prone to rust
If what you’re looking for is a cleaver that feels heavy and sturdy in hand, the 2.1-pound Juvale Meat Cleaver is a good option. Because of its weight, it cleanly cuts through larger cuts—you’ll be able to break down a cooked chicken in seconds.
The solid stainless-steel blade has a full-tang handle wrapped in attractive wood. It’s also triple-riveted and ergonomic for added control and comfort. The blade itself is hand sharpened and has a honed edge, making it super sharp. It’s worth noting, though—the angle is pretty steep, which makes it better for hacking through bones than it does slicing vegetables.
Best with Wooden Handle: TUO 7-Inch Cleaver
Prone to rust
The high-quality German steel blade on this knife is hand-polished by skilled blacksmiths using the traditional three-step Honbazuke method, which includes high-tech vacuum heat treatment and nitrogen cold treatment to improve performance and durability. And because each side of the blade measures only 18 degrees, it’s suitable for chopping a range of foods, including cuts of meats and vegetables.
Another major draw? The design of the wooden handle. The stylish combination of tan and black looks exceptionally sophisticated. You’ll get more than good looks, though. The handle is perfectly ergonomic to ensure you get the most comfortable, secure grip possible.
Best Lightweight: Zhen 8-Inch Damascus Steel Cleaver
Good for scoring, dicing, and chopping
Not suitable for chopping bones
Though just 12 ounces, this cleaver is constructed of high-grade Japanese steel for exceptional sharpness, edge retention, and durability. Because it’s also heat-treated to achieve HRC 60-62, the blade readily slices through everything from bread and veggies to fish and chicken. (Just don’t use it to chop through bones, as it’s too delicate for that more rugged task!)
You’ll love the handle of this knife just as much as its sharp blade. It has a full-tang non-slip handle that feels balanced and comfortable in hand to help give you more control as you cut. This means you can score and dice just as well as you can roughly chop.
The Rockwell scale measures the hardness of a material. The HRC (Hardness Rockwell Scale) is often used for rating the harder steels used to make knives. An HRC rating of 52-54 is considered soft, but it can still make a great everyday kitchen knife. Experienced cooks should look for an HRC rating of 55 and above in the knife, and most premium knives fall in the 59-64 range.
Best Chinese: Shun Classic 7-Inch Cleaver
A Chinese cleaver is slightly different from a regular meat cleaver because it’s often used in place of a chef’s knife for a wide variety of cooking tasks, from slicing and dicing vegetables to hacking apart meat. As a result, it’s a very versatile tool. This is important to note when assessing this cleaver because it helps justify the price tag.
When in hand, you’ll notice the difference from a traditional cleaver. This one feels solid, yet has a bit more flex for more nimble slicing and dicing. It also has a D-shaped handle that’s made of ebony Pakkawood, a hardwood infused with resin, making it supremely water-resistant and durable enough for constant use.
Our best overall choice is the Wüsthof Classic Cleaver (view at Amazon) because it’s exceptionally durable and sharper than most of the competition, so you’ll be slicing through big cuts of meat and tough vegetables with ease. We also love that the knife is backed by a very well-lauded brand known for the quality of their German-engineered knives. If you're looking for something more affordable, the Utopia Kitchen 7-Inch Cleaver (view at Amazon) gets high marks for its ergonomic design and rust-resistant finish.
What to Look for in a Cleaver Knife
Because you’ll presumably be cutting through some tough stuff, it’s important to have a well-constructed knife. Look for durable materials that feel heavy and substantial in your hand. Similarly, it’s important to find an adequately sharp blade.
Though some cleavers come with wood handles, these require a little bit more TLC. You shouldn’t put any of your knives in the dishwasher (this can dull them faster), but wood needs to be conditioned even after repeated handwashing. Materials like steel, on the other hand, don’t require the same kind of maintenance.
Look for a handle that’s comfortable to hold to ensure you can get a good grip. Since what feels right to you might not feel just right to someone else, it’s a good idea to hold the knife before making your purchase if you can.
What is a cleaver knife used for?
A cleaver is a type of chef’s knife. It has a large, rectangular blade and is most commonly used to butcher animal meat since it can cut through bones, cartilage, and thick cuts of meat.
What's the difference between a meat cleaver and a Chinese cleaver?
A Chinese cleaver, also called a vegetable cleaver, is shaped like a meat cleaver—large, rectangular blade—but is more commonly used as a universal chef’s knife to slice and dice everything from meat and fish to fruits and vegetables.
How do you sharpen a cleaver knife?
To sharpen a cleaver, you can buy a knife sharpening tool, like a whetstone—a fine grainstone—and glide the knife back and forth on it. That said, the average home chef may be more comfortable taking their knife to a professional for sharpening services.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
This article was written by Brigitt Earley, a freelance writer who has spent the last 10-plus years researching the best home goods and kitchen items for various digital publications, including The Spruce and Good Housekeeping. Brigitt also has a degree in culinary arts. Between breakfast, lunch, and dinner, she cooks her family of six no less than 20 meals per week with the wide variety of knives she has at her disposal.