A cleaver knife is one of the six most essential knives in a kitchen. The other five that complete the set are; the chef's knife, fillet knife, paring knife, utility knife, and a serrated bread knife.

Its large size fits its main purpose: to chop through bones and cut through large and thick joints. Its broad-faced structure adds an element of versatility to it as it can be used to crush food such as garlic.

While the western cleaver is primarily for cutting meat, Chinese and Japanese cleavers are much more versatile. In fact, the best Chinese cleaver knife serves as a chef knife, thanks to the varied oriental cuisine.

The best Chinese cleaver knife does more than just chop meat. It has a finesse that normal butcher knives lack, allowing it to excel when filleting or chopping shallots and carrots to fine evenness.

It can also be used for cutting hard vegetables. This versatility and unique quality are what makes Chinese cleavers quite in demand. However, the challenge is picking the best Chinese cleaver knife from many options and where a number may be poor imitations.

Shun Kai Classic Meat Cleaver 18.7cm

Shun Kai Classic Meat Cleaver 18.7cm

Here are the most important aspects to look out for: 

The thickness of the blade

Chinese cleaver knives come in varying thicknesses depending on the purpose. Here are the most common thicknesses;

  • 2mm thickness: it is the thinnest option and works best where a fine blade is needed. It comes with a steep angled edge and serves to chop vegetables, skin a fish, and cut carrots to thin consistency.

  • 3-7mm thickness: it is the middle range thickness and serves well in functions such as cutting through thin bones like chicken bones and smashing garlic cloves.

  • 8mm thickness: its heavier blades also wider and comes with a shallow It is excellent at chopping through bones and huge meat chunks. It can also help in wedging and breaking up food.

Material for the blade

The blade material is an essential factor in the excellence of your knife. Previously all Chinese cleavers' blades were made from carbon steel.

Carbon steel is durable and had great natural properties. However, this material is susceptible to rust and also leaves a metallic taste in the chopped food.

The best material currently is stainless steel. It is rust-resistant and leaves no lingering taste in the food, yet it is equally durable.

Mixed blades which make use of both materials are also available and offer excellent quality too.

Furi Pro Heavy-Weight Cleaver 16.5cm

Furi Pro Heavy-Weight Cleaver 16.5cm

Length of the blade

The blade's length varies greatly, with some having 5 inches and others going up to 10 inches long. However, the majority start from 7 inches long, and anything below this will not be ideal for your duties.

Note that long blades are also a challenge and need advanced training and experience to master. So, try working with 7 to 8-inch blades unless you are already comfortable with the long cleavers.


Tang refers to how the blade and the handle meet.

A full tang runs from the center of the handle all the way to the hilt. It is well-balanced, strong, and durable. A partial tang means the handle and the blade are not continuous. The design is top-heavy, and it can break or crack at any time.

Design/specialty of the knife

Most manufacturers design a cleaver knife with a specific intention in mind. As such, they will describe whether the knife was intended for chopping vegetables or cutting through bones.

You may also have to choose between curved and straight blade styles. If you are not a professional chef, the straight blade style will serve you well.

Shun Kai Limited Edition Engetsu Vegetable Cleaver 19.5cm

Shun Kai Limited Edition Engetsu Vegetable Cleaver 19.5cm


The handle affects your comfort and the durability of the knife. Ultimately, material choice is down to what feels right in your hand and a matter of preference. There are many options to pick from, including plastic, stainless steel, wood, and molded rubber.

Generally, handles made from molded rubbers or woods integrated with resins like pakkawood offer excellent grip, durability, and sanitary. While plastic and steel offer the last two aspects, they tend to be slippery when wet. Traditional wood handles are still excellent but demand a lot of maintenance.

Design of the blade edge

Generally, the cleaver knives have a long straight blade edge that is sharp at the blade's periphery. However, some specialty cleaver knives come with different edge types, including:

  • Serrated: these come with tiny jagged teeth at the edge and are used for sawing through meat or bone.

  • Scalloped: have large waves at the edge to help cut through hard crusts or fruits and vegetables.

  • Granton: this blade features hollowed grooves on the sides, making it excellent for cutting thin and even pieces without tearing.

Chinese Cleaver Knife Comfort

A cleaver knife should feel solid in your hands but never heavy.

It should not make your work strenuous, and you should handle it without a struggle. If it is not evenly balanced and comfortable in your hands, your work will be harder, and you may risk cutting yourself too.

Shun Kai Michel Bras No 10 Cleaver knife 20cm

Shun Kai Michel Bras No 10 Cleaver knife 20cm


If you make the right choice, the best Chinese Cleaver knife will be an item that stays in your kitchen forever. Durability is also essential since the knife will be performing regular heavy-duty work, and you cannot have it breaking or failing.

Look for the right kind of material and designs, and while you may have to pay more for excellence, it will be a one-off investment that will spare you frequent replacements.

Final word: Chinese Cleaver Knife

Finding the best Chinese cleaver knife should not be such a hassle. You just need to focus on quality and your needs, and the factors listed above.

Here at House of Knives, we have a great selection of excellent Chinese cleaver knives, including several classic Shun Kai variations. Once you are assured of the knife's quality, which we do, you only have to ensure the knife matches your need.

If you want to pick from a wide variety of classy and top-quality kitchen knives to complete your set then check out this link and shop with us now!

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