Best Cleaver Knives
- Gladiator Series 'Obliterator' 9" Meat Cleaver
- Phantom Series 8" 'The Crixus' Chef - Cleaver Hybrid Knife
- Gladiator Series 12" 'Crixus' Chef & Cleaver Hybrid Knife
- Shadow Black Series 9" Cleaver Knife - NSF Certified
- Quantum 1 Series 7" Cleaver
- Phantom Series 7" Cleaver Knife
- Phantom Series 9" "The Banshee" Cleaver
- Gladiator Series 7" Cleaver Knife
- Shogun Series 9" Meat Cleaver - 'The Raptor'
- Shadow Black Series 7" Cleaver - NSF Certified
1. The Benefits Of A Good Cleaver Knife
The meat cleaver. On a purely visual level, few knives communicate as much might, as much heft, as much sheer power as the noble meat cleaver. If you’re anything like me, you’ve caught yourself outright staring at the thing while waiting in line at the butcher shop and thinking “man, it’d be cool to own one of those.”
And don’t get us wrong -- looking cool is definitely an important enough piece of criteria when it comes to knife selection (after all, it’s important to feel proud of the pieces we work with and what they communicate about us). But it turns out cleaver knives also serve an important purpose that is often overlooked by many home chefs.
Whether you’re talking about a Chinese cleaver or a more heavy-duty meat cleaver, these tools are invaluable in the kitchen if you’re someone who works with meat very often. Of course, they are also highly versatile, so you can use them for other purposes as well. But it’s when matched against meat, bone and gristle that they really shine.
Why do you need a cleaver?
As much as we love them, and as many times as they’ve gotten us out of a bind, our trusty chef’s knives can only take so much abuse. There’s some tasks that they’re simply not cut out to do, and when attempting to use them for some of these tasks you risk damaging your blade. Cleavers are extremely handy tools in this regard, and will make that work so much easier.
Okay. So why do you need a good cleaver?
We’ve established that, if you’re a person who finds themselves chopping, cutting and slicing meat and bones very often, you definitely need to add a cleaver to your kitchen arsenal. So why should you buy a good one?
Well, the answer is really the same as with any knife we use in the kitchen. Buying an inexpensive cleaver sounds appealing in the short term, but it will eventually lead to an expensive vicious cycle of continuously wearing out or damaging cheap blades and then finding yourself buying more cheap blades to replace them. Not only that, but you’ll find them to be inefficient and hard to use.
Cooking should be fun. It should be a pleasurable experience, not a harrowing ordeal that leaves you tired and sore. This is why I always advocate for getting the best tools available -- because it will make those tasks, even the really arduous ones, feel so much easier, so more pleasurable, and so much less time-consuming.
Simply put, you need the right tools for the job (such as, for example, a good cutting board). A good Chinese cleaver or a meat cleaver will make things more pleasurable for you. Let’s talk about how.
Benefits of a good cleaver knife
- Powerful size and heft, perfect for chopping and slicing through meat and bone with ease.
- Make quick work of poultry, beef, pork, fish, wild game and even fruits and vegetables.
- High carbon stainless steel blades with a sharp edge provides long-term durability and sharpness.
- Sturdy, ergonomic handles facilitate operating the cleaver for long periods of time.
- A variety of sizes and weights allow you to pick the cleaver that works best for you.
Consequences of a bad cleaver knife
- Cleavers that are not properly balanced will be uncomfortable and ineffective to operate.
- Cheap knives seem appealing at first, but they use inexpensive and unreliable materials.
- Inexpensive blades won’t hold their edge for long, creating a safety hazard.
- Flimsy, lightweight cleavers lack the power and heft to accomplish many kitchen tasks.
- Weak handles are uncomfortable and will come apart easily
2. What To Look For In A Cleaver Knife
Of course, not all cleavers are the same. When picking the best Chinese cleaver or meat cleaver to buy, you have to think about what you want, and look carefully at each knife’s specifications to see which one will fit your needs best. Here are some basic elements to be on the lookout for.
First and foremost, you want a blade that is able to do the job you intend it for. Cleavers are heavy duty tools -- you’ll be putting them through a lot. It makes no sense to skimp out by buying a product that is made of low quality materials, because it means it won’t be durable and you’ll find yourself buying another in the near future.
The best blade material for cleavers is high carbon stainless steel. This steel will provide resistance to corrosion as well as any stains on the blade, and will make for a ruthlessly sharp blade edge. Of course, you still need to make sure to clean and dry the blade after use in order to avoid unnecessary corrosion from water.
Of course, you’ll find variations on this -- pictured above is our 4.5” mini cleaver, for example, which definitely has its own unique uses. But in general, the ideal length for a Chinese cleaver blade is 7 to 9 inches. This is a range that offers versatility and maneuverability, and is the size range for most cleavers. For more heavy duty work and working with bigger pieces, we also have 12” options available.
Ergonomic handle design and high-grade handle materials
The part of the knife you’ll most directly interact with is the handle, and since cleavers are usually applied to strenuous tasks, it’s important that this handle is both safe and comfortable to use. For this reason, you should look for handles that are ergonomically designed and use high-grade materials. A wooden handle is most common on cleavers, as they are less likely to slip in the hand.
Below, we’ll list our choices for best cleavers, and we’ve made sure to lay out this criteria for you to make your selection.
3. Best Cleaver Knives
The Gladiator Series R 'Obliterator' cleaver serves a single ferocious purpose - to obliterate any culinary obstacle in it’s path with one brutal chop. Forged from premium high-carbon 7cr17mov Steel and heat treated to 60HRC, this 9" steel behemoth weighs in at 2.9lbs and 6mm thick. With a menacing shape inspired by medieval weaponry, this heavy-weight titan is sure to power through anything placed before it with brutal efficiency.
- Precision forged, ultra sharp, wear resistant, single-piece, high carbon steel. It’s as powerful as it looks.
- Painstakingly hand sharpened to 16-18° per side, hitting that just-right balance between sharpness and durability.
- Ergonomic military-grade G10 handle.
- The Obliterator may be intimidating to some home chefs.
- As one of the higher priced cleavers, it may be outside the budget of some chefs.
We start our list off with this uniquely designed powerhouse, the 8 inch chef / cleaver knife hybrid nicknamed “The Crixus”. If you want versatility and power, you’ve got it -- this incredible entry in Dalstrong’s Phantom Series combines elements traditionally found in both a cleaver knife and a chef’s knife to make an all-around kitchen all-star for your collection.
- Made of high-chromium Japanese AUS-8 stainless steel.
- Features the weight and power of a cleaver, combined with the versatility of a chef knife.
- The blade’s edge is painstakingly honed to 13-15° and nitrogen cooled for hardness, flexibility and corrosion resistance.
- Premium-quality laminated Spanish pakkawood handle.
- This is a chef/cleaver knife hybrid, and perhaps you’re in search for the functionality of a full-on cleaver knife.
- Depending on your needs, you might be better served by a larger knife. Such as...
An entry from Dalstrong’s wonderful Gladiator Series, this is another knife that combines elements of a chef’s knife and a cleaver knife, which makes it especially useful for home cooks of varying experience levels. At 12” long, this absolute powerhouse will more than come in handy for a variety of kitchen tasks.
- The blades feature incredibly sharp, full-tang, imported Thyssenkrupp high-carbon German steel.
- You’ll get clean, straight cuts with these blades, with a hand sharpened edge to 16-18° per side, expertly heat treated and honed to perfection
- Smart design and engineering make this a knife to proudly flaunt, which you can do by hanging it up using the stamped hole on the blade.
- A great gift for home cooks. Incredible quality at a fantastic price.
- Another example of a chef/cleaver knife hybrid, which might not be what everyone is looking for. If you want to see some pure cleavers, read ahead!
- At 12” long, it’s pretty big -- we have some smaller cleavers available further down the list.
Just look at this thing. Probably the coolest-looking knife you will ever buy. Dalstrong’s Shadow Black Series is a personal favorite of mine for a number of reasons, not the least of which is its incredible, sleek, futuristic design and colors. With a razor-sharp high-carbon stainless steel blade, at 58+ Rockwell, it is as powerful as it looks. And the unique handle geometry, inspired by the F-117 Nighthawk Stealth Fighter, snugs perfectly into your palm.
This is the kind of cleaver knife you want to proudly show off while you have guests noseying around your kitchen. It looks like a prop from a movie, and if you’re anything like me, that’s a plus.
- Menacing but elegant, sophisticated, futuristic look thanks to its black non-reflective titanium-nitride coating.
- Hand sharpened to 16-18° per side.
- Ergonomic handle shape makes this great knife fun and comfortable to operate.
- Light and compact, but sacrificing none of its power as a cleaver knife.
- The titanium cover does require a little bit of extra care when it comes to sharpening the steel.
- This cleaver knife’s extremely distinctive look is, as they say, “a lot.” If you’re looking for a knife with a more understated look, read on.
The best cleavers are synonymous with resilience, holding a razor-sharp cutting edge that fails to chip, buckle or roll, even when subject to rigorous chopping. Built on the most advanced knife technology available, the Quantum 1 Series 7″ Cleaver Knife makes quick work of boneless meats, poultry, vegetables, and fruits.
- Precision forged, ultra sharp, wear resistant, single-piece, high carbon American BD1N-VX steel at an astounding 63+ HRC, with an added vacuum heat seal treatment, earning the "VX" designation.
- The edge is painstakingly hand sharpened to 8-12° per side, maintaining the perfect balance between blade sharpness and maximum resilience.
- Uniquely designed with our “Nova Prime” blade pattern that reduces drag and increases efficiency.
- This seven-incher is among the smallest on our list; great for many uses, but some home cooks might be looking for cleavers with a longer blade.
- This knife is pure quality, but it’s also an investment. This is in the upper end of the price range for this type of cleaver knife.
Masterfully elegant, perfectly balanced, razor sharp and with exceptional performance, the Phantom Series 7” Cleaver is a statement in refinement, beauty, purity and power. Perfect for breaking down smaller cuts of boneless meats and poultry as well as slicing, dicing, mincing and chopping tough vegetables, this is THE knife for serious chefs, pitmasters, home cooks, and knife enthusiasts.
- Carefully tapered for minimal drag, the agile blade ensures swift, precise cuts with effortless ease.
- Beautifully engraved, the blade further features a hand polished spine and ergonomic bolster shape for a natural and smooth ‘pinch grip’.
- Full tang and precision forged from a single piece of ice tempered, high-carbon, Japanese AUS-8 steel.
- A distinct mosaic pin of brass and copper adds refinement and subtle luxury.
- It’s a full-sized cleaver, so you’re not going to get all the benefits of the smaller cleavers listed here.
Another sleek and elegant entry in Dalstrong’s Phantom Series, this 9” cleaver knife (nicknamed “The Banshee”) is a powerhouse tool that will aid in breaking down bone, chopping and cutting all manner of proteins, and make quick work of the most tough-skinned fruits and vegetables.
- Precision forged blade with premium Japanese AUS-8 stainless steel.
- Perfectly balanced with the right amount of weight for the toughest jobs.
- Scalpel-like blade, hand finished to a mirror polish to 13-15° per side.
- Great quality laminated Spanish pakkawood handle.
- This cleaver is a little bit on the lighter side.
- Its clean and elegant presentation might be a bit plain for some.
The Dalstrong Gladiator Series 7” medium-duty cleaver is perfect for breaking down larger cuts of boneless meats and poultry as well as dicing, mincing, and chopping tough vegetables and fruits. The extra-wide blades provide excellent knuckle clearance and allow food to be easily scooped up for simple transfer from cutting board to pot or pan.
- Precision forged, ultra sharp, wear resistant, single-piece, high carbon German ThyssenKrupp Steel at 56+ Rockwell.
- The edge is painstakingly hand sharpened to 16-18° per side, maintaining the perfect balance between blade sharpness and maximum resilience.
- Tall blade height gives knuckle clearance to assist with food preparation and chopping activity.
- Premium quality laminated G10 Garolite handles for superior strength, refinement, and beauty.
- It’s a full sized cleaver, so you’re not going to get all the benefits of the mini cleavers listed here.
- This is another knife that is an investment -- you get what you pay for, which is a premium, high-end product.
Another entry in Dalstrong’s Shogun Series, this one is a little smaller at 9” but no less stunning in its design and functionality. Nicknamed “The Raptor,” this cleaver knife is a menacing powerhouse tool of ruthless chopping and cutting efficiency.
- Makes for a fantastic meat cleaver and vegetable cleaver, designed for slicing and breaking down large pieces of bone, meat, poultry and fish, but versatile enough to effortlessly glide through fruits, vegetables, garlic and herbs.
- Hand-finished to a mirror polish at 8-12°degree angle per side using the traditional 3-step Honbazuke method.
- Ultra sharp AUS-10V Japanese super steel cutting core at 62+ Rockwell hardness.
- Its military-grade, ultra-premium G-10 handle is impervious to heat, cold and moisture.
- Though this series has been acclaimed for Dalstrong’s distinctive “Tsunami Rose” pattern on the blade, some folks might be drawn to cleavers with a cleaner design.
- For a larger cleaver knife with a similar design, check out the Shogun Series Extra-Long 12" Crixus above.
We end the list with another example from the always-dazzling Shadow Black Series. This time it’s a 7” cleaver that maintains the series’s distinctive and futuristic look.
- Precision forged, ultra sharp, high carbon steel (7CR17MOV-X).
- Black, non-reflective titanium-nitride coating for corrosion resistance (and a super sleek look).
- Fiber-resin military grade ergonomic G10 handle; feels as great as it looks.
- Very powerful and very easy to clean; a low-maintenance powerhouse.
- If this is your only entry from the Shadow Black Series, it will likely stick out a bit among your knife collection and kitchen tools.
4. Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between a meat cleaver and a Chinese cleaver?
A Chinese cleaver is thinner than a meat cleaver, which makes it especially adept at cutting through softer foods, while the thicker meat cleaver is better for cutting and chopping through bones. Unsurprisingly, you’re likely to see Chinese cleavers in Chinese food restaurants, whereas you’ll find a meat cleaver at a butcher shop.
That said, Chinese cleavers are extremely versatile, and can be used for a large number of tasks. For most home cooks, a good Chinese cleaver will be more than enough to fulfill their kitchen needs.
What is the difference between a butcher knife and a cleaver?
This is a natural comparison to make, since butcher knives and cleavers are often used for very similar purposes (in fact, some categorize cleavers as a type of butcher knife). The main difference is in the size; cleavers tend to be massive (and tall) blades especially engineered for heft and power, while butcher knives are more similar to standard chef’s knives in size and weight.
How thick should the blade of a cleaver knife be?
Think of an axe. Cleavers are designed to deal with bone and gristle, so for the heavy-duty jobs you want a cleaver that’s on the thicker side -- around the 3/16"-1/4" thickness range.
Why is there sometimes a hole stamped through at the top corner of the blade?
It should be noted that this hole is not on all cleavers. It’s there to hang the cleaver when it’s not being used, either on a wall mount or on the belt of the butcher. It is also used for leverage when cutting through bone. For more details check out our handy guide.
How does one sharpen a cleaver knife?
Sharpening any knife is important. Not only will it help your knife work better on your food, but it will make it easier and safer to use. This is an extremely important aspect of knife ownership that probably doesn’t get talked about enough. Always follow proper usage, storage, and sharpening steps. For information on how to sharpen a knife, check out our thorough explainer.
You can also check in with our Expert Knife Finder Quiz and get specific recommendations based on your needs.
Written by Jorge Farah
Born on the coast of Colombia and based in Buenos Aires, Jorge is a cooking enthusiast and kitchenware obsessive with a tremendous amount of opinions.