Whether you are a professional chef or enjoy cooking at home, there are plenty of reasons to learn how to use a meat cleaver.
In the right hands, this simple kitchen tool is capable of producing some of the most creative and delicious knife cuts out there. But because it is an old fashioned, less glamorous tool, many people have never been exposed to it, which makes them apprehensive in using it.
If this sounds like you, then read on because I’ll teach you everything you should know about how to use a meat cleaver and prepare delicious meals with it.
What is a Meat Cleaver?
The meat cleaver is a large knife that is used to cut through bone. It was originally used by butchers, who needed a tool that could break down whole animals without smashing the bones. These knives are now used in home kitchens and by professional chefs.
The meat cleaver differs from other knives because it has a very thick blade, which is designed to absorb shock. This helps the knife last for a long time, even with extensive usage. The weight of the blade helps it move easily through flesh and bone, making it an ideal tool for breaking down large pieces of meat. The handle of the knife is usually made of wood or plastic to keep it from slipping in wet hands.
The cleaver can be used for other tasks besides cutting meat. If a cook needs to chop vegetables, he or she can use this type of knife so long as it is kept sharp. A dull meat cleaver will bruise vegetables, which can discolor them and affect their flavor. However, some cooks prefer this knife when they need to chop vegetables quickly since other types of knives may become dull after repeated use on hard vegetables like carrots or potatoes.
A chef may also use the meat cleaver to crush garlic and herbs such as rosemary, sage or thyme.
5 Steps To Use A Meat Cleaver
1. Plum the meat cleaver down on the cutting board.
Place the food item on a wooden cutting board or other stable surface. Make sure the cutting surface is strong enough to endure repeated blows from a heavy knife. Hold the item firmly in place with one hand, and make sure your fingers are curled well away from where you plan to strike with the cleaver.
2. Grip the handle firmly
Hold the handle firmly in one hand so that your thumb and middle finger wrap around it, while your index finger rests on top of the blade near its base. If you’re right-handed, hold the handle in your right hand; if you’re left-handed, hold it in your left hand.
3. Aim for the middle of the bone
If you’re cutting meat off the bone, it’s best to aim your cuts right at the middle of the bone; this will give you the most meat with each slice.) A cleaver is so heavy that if you hit a bone squarely there’s a good chance you’ll break it in two. You can also use it to break joints by giving them a good whack with the wide side of the blade.
4. Split bones with a single stroke
Split bones with a single stroke whenever possible. If you’re cutting through a larger joint, like a piece of chicken or a chop, you may need to strike several times in order to get all the way through the bone and free both pieces of meat.
5. Use a steady chopping motion to cut through meat
Use a steady chopping motion to cut through meat and vegetables. Make sure your wrist is loose and flexible when cutting this way — your wrist should have enough give in it that you can feel your hand shake slightly as you chop down. This will help ensure that you get clean cuts without tearing or ripping the meat apart.
How To Sharpen A Cleaver Knife
Before you sharpen a cleaver knife, make sure you have the proper sharpening material. You need to use the Arkansas stone, which is a whetstone with medium grit. This medium grit will help you in getting it to a fine finish, which is necessary for kitchen knives.
Step 1: Select The Correct Whetstone
You need to select the correct whetstone for blade sharpening. You should choose an Arkansas stone because this type of whetstone has medium grit that will help you get your blade to a fine finish. This is important for kitchen knives.
Step 2: Determine Which Side Of Your Blade Is Sharpest
You should hold your cleaver against the stone and determine which side of your blade is sharpest. If more than 50 percent of the blade edge touches the stone, then it’s not sharp enough yet. If less than 50 percent of the blade touches the stone, then it’s too sharp and you should use a coarser grit stone to go back over it again.
Step 3: Angle The Sharpener At 25 To 30 Degrees
Make sure you angle your knife at about 25 or 30 degrees when you’re using your whetstone. This angle will give you the correct angle when you’re using the Arkansas stone for sharpening. If the knife is sharpened at too steep of an angle, then you’ll end up with a serrated edge.
Step 4: Use The Proper Stroke
You need to use your stropping motion to sharpen your blade with the whetstone. You should hold it by the handle, and move it across the stone from left to right every few strokes. Make sure you alternate the strokes on each side of the stone. Your movements should be in long, sweeping motions that go all the way across the stone.
Step 5: Use The Side Of The Blade That Was Dullest As A Guide
Once you have your angle set and you have your stroke down, you can begin using your blade as a guide for where you need to sharpen it. Use the side of your knife that was dullest as a guide, and keep using the rest of your blade until you have an even tip on it.
Step 6: Repeat If Necessary
If you need to use a coarser grit whetstone, then you can repeat steps 3 through 5 again to continue sharpening your blade. If the blade is already fine, then you shouldn’t need to go back over it with a coarser stone.
Step 7: Clean The Whetstone
You should clean your whetstone before you start using it. If there is any oil or grease on the surface, then it will throw off the sharpening process and make it less efficient. Use water to wet the stone, then just rub it with a piece of paper towel to get rid of any excess dirt.
Step 8: Repeat With A Coarse Stone
If you need to sharpen your cleaver blade again, then you can just repeat steps 3 through 7 to do so with a coarser stone. If you don’t need to go any further, then use the fine Arkansas stone. Use a finer and finer grit each time as you move progressively from side to side on the stone.
How To Store Meat Cleaver Knives
When a cleaver knife is kept in a drawer, it will slowly dull over time. The blade is often made from very hard steel, so it can take some serious damage from hard knocks in a drawer. It’s better to store the cleaver in a block or on a magnetic strip.
Another thing to think about when you’re storing your cleaver is the amount of space you have available for storage. If you have limited space, you may want to consider hanging your cleaver on the wall. You can hang it using a special cleaver hanger that attaches to the handle of the knife and hangs directly on the wall. This method saves space and prevents accidental cuts, because it takes some effort to pull the knife out of its holder.
If you do have some extra space in your kitchen, consider storing your cleaver inside of a wooden block that is designed specifically for this type of knife. The wood will protect the blade and prevent accidental cuts when reaching into the block for another knife. A smaller wooden block that holds just one or two knives can be placed on top of your counter, while larger blocks that hold up to seven or eight knives can be placed on the floor near your other cooking tools.
If you prefer not to use a wooden block, you can simply store your cleaver in the same drawer where you keep your other knives. The metal block will protect the blade and prevent it from getting nicked when you’re reaching for another utensil. Some storage blocks have a glass plate that lets you see which knife is inside without opening the block. If your wooden block has this feature, be sure to take care of it by replacing broken glass when necessary. If it does not, you can still see what’s inside of the block by looking through the spaces between individual knives.
Keeping your cleaver protected makes more sense than simply throwing it into a drawer. It’s important to take the time to correctly store it so that it doesn’t get damaged, so don’t neglect this crucial part of kitchen safety.
A meat cleaver can be a very useful tool in a kitchen, but they are not as easy to use as some people might think. With the right care and training, however, you should have no trouble using an amazing tool that will make your cooking lives easier.