The meat cleaver is like your muscle in the kitchen. A big and brawny brute there to take on the toughest tasks that other knives just can’t handle. As the largest and heaviest of kitchen knives, it’s specifically designed to break down carcasses and cut through bones, cartilage, sinew, connective tissue and more.
While none of this sounds particularly glamorous, the cleaver itself can be. You needn’t settle for a hunk of subpar metal affixed to a flimsy handle. These days, cleavers can pack as much thoughtful design and premium materials as high-grade sashimi knives.
Meat cleavers always have a rectangular-shaped blade and typically have an overall length of around 12 inches. The blade height, width and cutting edge will vary, but high-carbon stainless steel is the material of choice for most top chefs.
To help you pick the perfect tough-as-nails companion, we’ve pulled together four of the best meat cleavers you can buy.
1. Kamikoto Chuka Bocho Cleaver
Forged from high-grade steel from Honshu, Japan, this meat cleaver artfully delivers both power and precision. Fitted with a razor-sharp 7.5-inch cutting blade, it can chop its way through even the toughest carcass. The comfortable non-slip handle is perfectly balanced with the blade and allows chefs to maneuver the cleaver without any fatigue. It’s a powerhouse utensil that will do the hard work for you. On top of that, the durable cleaver is resistant to rust and corrosion.
Pros: The cleaver comes in an elegant ash wood box and makes for a great gift.
Cons: Unlike the classic designs, it doesn’t have a hole punched in the corner for hanging from a rack or hook.
2. Zwilling Pro 6-Inch Meat Cleaver
Zwilling’s meat cleaver pairs classic style—yes, it has the all-important hanging hole—with the latest and greatest in knife tech. The 6-inch blade was forged from a single piece of the brand’s special formula stainless steel, then ice-hardened for added durability and sharpness. It’s full tang and triple riveted for added control. The cleaver also features an innovative curved bolster to support a professional pinch grip, as well as a comfortable POM handle. This means you can break down large cuts of meat without exhausting your wrist.
Pros: It’s the only cleaver on this list with a curved bolster grip for added control.
Cons: Tipping the scales at around a pound, it could be too light for some.
3. Dalstrong Obliterator Meat Cleaver
As its moniker implies, the Obliterator meat cleaver is built to, well, obliterate anything it comes across in the kitchen. It tips the scale at a lofty 2.9 pounds and is almost a quarter of an inch thick. The 9-inch blade is forged from premium heat-treated high-carbon steel and takes a menacing medieval shape. With a scalpel-like sharp edge, it is capable of cutting with both brute force and precision. And thanks to the extra-thick pakkawood handle you can wield the behemoth with the utmost efficiency.
Pros: It’s by far the most affordable cleaver on this list.
Cons: It could be too beastly for some.
4. Shun Classic 6-Inch Meat Cleaver
From the artisans at Shun, this 12-inch cleaver is another gargantuan knife suited to heavy-duty tasks. It has plenty of weight and thickness behind the cutting edge to power through large cuts and dense bones with ease. The 6-inch blade is forged from a single billet of high-carbon stainless steel and is as strong as it is sharp. The cleaver is fitted with a durable pakkawood handle, which is not only elegant but also non-slip to provide a comfortable, secure grip while chopping.
Pros: The cleaver re-sharpens easily when needed.
Cons: That high quality comes at a cost. It’s the most expensive option on the list.