Top 5 Best Meat Cleavers For The Money (2018 Review Update)
All good kitchens should have a decent meat cleaver in the rack. After all, they are definitely the best knife for cutting meat, (hacking into a whole chicken with your chefs knife is one quick way of ruining your tools).
And while it is quite possible to go out and spend a substantial amount of dollars in purchasing a durable cleaver, the sensible chef knows that this isn’t always necessary. There are many available at more than affordable prices.
Here we have rounded up just that – 5 top rated meat cleavers you can currently buy in 2018.
The fact is, a cleaver is designed for the most brutal job in the kitchen. It will get beaten up. There is no point in paying over the odds for the razor sharp edge-maintaining abilities of expensive steel. The 5 you see here represent excellent value for money, and will still do the job perfectly.
- Prefer the idea of a butcher knife instead? Head here for our top 5 review roundup
- 1. Dexter-Russell (S5288) – 8″ Heavy-Duty Cleaver
- 2. Utopia Kitchen – Steel Chopper, Cleaver, Butcher Knife (7-Inch Stainless)
- 3. J.A. HENCKELS INTERNATIONAL Classic 6-inch Cleaver
- 4. Tiger USA Full Tang Meat Cleaver (10 Inch Blade & Wood Handle)
- 5. Winco Heavy Duty Cleaver with Wooden Handle
- How to choose Chinese Cleaver? (& what about the Meat Cleaver)
- Using a Chinese Cleaver
- How to use a Meat Cleaver
Top 5 Meat Cleavers Reviewed
1. Dexter-Russell (S5288) – 8″ Heavy-Duty Cleaver
This is a very good meat cleaver. The hefty 8″ blade is made of high carbon steel and is securely fastened to the wood handle using 3 strong rivets. A full tang, well secured blade means it has the heft and strength it needs to reliably endure all that hacking you will be doing.
The rosewood handle is a nice touch too, and means this cleaver looks good (if in a rather utilitarian way).
You are also getting the reliability of the Dexter Russell name. These guys sell a lot of cutlery to butchers and restaurants. If the professionals are using these tools, you know you are on to a winner.
Note: you should also take care to have the proper chopping board when using a cleaver with this much heft. Thin non-wood cutting boards will be destroyed very quickly if placed beneath a heavy-duty 8″ cleaver. You need a sturdy wood chopping block for these tools.
One negative that can be said about this Dexter Russell (s5288) cleaver is that the ‘stain-free’ high carbon steel blade, may suffer from blemishing over time, especially if it isn’t stored carefully. However, this is a small complaint, considering the battering the average cleaver gets over its lifetime.
The Dexter Russell (s5288) is strong, well balanced and is up to the task of any kind of cleaving you can throw at it. A real winner.
2. Utopia Kitchen – Steel Chopper, Cleaver, Butcher Knife (7-Inch Stainless)
At the time of writing, the Utopia Kitchen Cleaver is one of the lower priced meat cleavers in our top 5 list. So what are you getting for your money?
Again, the manufacturers have taken care to get one of the most important parts of the cleaver right; it is a extremely well balanced tool, with a securely fastened handle that feels great in the hand. This cleaver is surprisingly easy to manoeuvre.
The 7″ blade is constructed from a quality, high-carbon stainless-steel that actually holds up well over extended use. The edge retention on this cleaver is definitely above par, however the blade overall is on the thin side, (meaning the Utopia Kitchen cleaver does lack the heft of some of the tools in our list).
The 7-Inch Stainless-Steel Chopper-Cleaver-Butcher Knife, from Utopia Kitchen; apart from from having an extraordinarily long name, is a fantastic low priced meat cleaver.
While it does lacks some of the heft of other cleavers in our top 5, the low price and the quality of the blade overall, make this a worthy addition.
3. J.A. HENCKELS INTERNATIONAL Classic 6-inch Cleaver
The J.A Henckels brand has a great reputation for the consistent high quality of it cutlery range. The company originates from Germany, and has been manufacturing high grade steel instruments for many years. This quality often comes at a price however.
So how has this cleaver entered our top 5 list? Well, the clue is in the name. The Henckels’ International Classic range is a more affordable priced cutlery line made outside of Germany. In short the steel is of a lower quality than what is used in their premier items.
However, this has made our list for a reason; it’s a damn good tool.
Despite not being manufactured in the company’s German factories, the Henckels’ International Classic 6 inch cleaver is still made from high-carbon German stainless steel, with hot-drop forged blades and bolsters, (a process that adds durability).
Considering its diminutive size, (a 6 inch cleaver is one of the smallest you can buy) it is nicely balanced and is actually heavy enough to do most of the work for you. You really will notice the difference when you start hacking through whole chickens in 3 or 4 easy strokes.
However, for those looking for a really hefty cleaver this might not be the one for you.
Some have complained about its lack of weight, and if you are used to using a cleaver that makes its presence felt in your hand and wrist, the Tiger USA Full Tang Meat Cleaver with 10 Inch Blade, (see review below) would be a better option.
On the plus side if you prefer the smaller option, the full-tang triple-rivet handle of the Henckels feels good in the hand, and is thin enough to aid manoeuvrability. In fact some users insist that it is slight enough to dice vegetables too.
While this cleaver is dishwasher-safe, hand washing is recommended. J.A Henckels also offer a lifetime limited manufacturer warranty on this item.
An excellent 6 inch cleaver option that is small enough to fit nicely in the hand, while having sufficient weight and balance to make short work of most meat cutting. Not so good on large bones, and may not be for those looking for something with real heft.
4. Tiger USA Full Tang Meat Cleaver (10 Inch Blade & Wood Handle)
The Tiger USA full tang meat cleaver is for those of the mindset that bigger is better. This is the heaviest and largest cleaver in our top 5 list; with the 10 inch blade and handle combined it comes in at 15.5 inches in length.
And while the quality of the steel is not as good as the Henckels’ International Classic or the Dexter-Russell, combined with the weight you will find yourself hacking through large chunks of meat and bone with relative ease.
What’s more, the fact this cleaver is so competitively priced means you will have little to lose by getting to work on the blade with your own sharpener. A few strokes on an appropriate graded sharpening stone, and the Tiger USA Full Tang Meat Cleaver, will acquire a sharpness beyond the formidable.
It may not be as nice to look at as the other cleavers in the list, but this is a good option for those that want a simple, hefty, no nonsense tool to get the job done.
5. Winco Heavy Duty Cleaver with Wooden Handle
Currently the lowest priced cleaver to make the list is the 8 inch (13 inches with handle) heavy duty meat cleaver from Winco. And while 12 bucks seems an almost absurd price for a decent cleaver, the Winco does do a good enough job of balancing quality with budget, to be a worth a look.
The trade off is the strength of the ‘highly corrosion resistant stainless steel’ blade. Mass produced in China, the blade quality does not live up to the other 4 cleavers in this list.
Having said that, for most uses in the average kitchen, the Winco will be more than suitable. The weight is good, the overall length of the tool is good. And while the blade may not take a sustained beating and remain particularly sharp, the fact that it is a sturdy wedge of steel, (8 inches by 3.5 wide) means it will still carry on doing the job it is designed to do.
Furthermore, there is plenty of scope for resharpening. And let’s not forget the price, you are getting a cleaver that does the job very well. That is exceptional value.
If you don’t want to spend much money on your meat cleaver, yet you want a nice hefty tool to take care of meat hacking needs, you need look no further. You won’t be disappointed.
How to choose Chinese Cleaver? (& what about the Meat Cleaver)
When choosing what cleaver to buy, you may question which is better for you – a Chinese cleaver or a meat cleaver. Well first lets look at the difference between the two.
To give a generalisation, Chinese cleavers are used in a similar way as a chef’s knife. Chinese cleavers are thinner than meat cleavers and are used on softer foods.
A meat cleaver on the other hand, (as we have explored with out meat cleaver reviews above), is designed to tackle small and medium sized bones. With a meat cleaver you can chop meat and bones a lot more efficiently than with a Chinese cleaver.
For large bones and animal carcasses, a butcher will use all sorts of tools including axes and bandsaws, and then a meat cleaver to chop the meat into smaller pieces for sale.
However, as we said above there are small variations to this rule.
Chinese cleavers do come several sizes and thickness. For instance, when buying a Chinese cleaver you will see that they graded from 1 to 4. If you opt for a grade 1 Chinese cleaver, its thickness will be very close to a standard western meat cleaver.
The Japanese also use a numbering which varies slightly from Chinese way of doing things. However, everything above the #4 grade is thin, and should not be used to chop up hard bones and meat.
Using a Chinese Cleaver
The video above helps demonstrate how to use a chinese cleaver. As you can see, it is being used to chop soft chicken breast meat. As we have said, the thinner blade of the Chinese cleaver means its use is more akin to a chef’s knife than anything else.
How to use a Meat Cleaver
And finally, this video will help demonstrate the difference when using a western meat cleaver. Here the guy is chopping through a rack of ribs with relative ease. A job that would quickly ruin the edge of a Chinese cleaver. These differences are important to understand, when deciding which is the right cleaver for you.