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How to Buy and Grip a Chinese Cleaver   
by: Ala Luke

The proper cutting technique is one the most important things you will need to learn in order to cook like a professional. Different recipes use different cutting techniques, so it’s important that you know when and how to use each one. Improper cutting can lead to food with an unexpected taste in it, or, worse, a meal that simply tastes terrible. Thus, Wok Fusion presents a guide for those of you who don’t know the difference between slicing and dicing.

It is important to consider two things before you start cutting. These are buying the right Chinese cleaver, and holding it with a proper grip. These two things can have a significant impact on the effectiveness of your cutting skills, so it’s recommended that you read more about these in the follow two sections.

Buying the Right Cleaver

In choosing the right Chinese cleaver, it’s important to decide what you are going to cut. Will it be a thick meat or some meat with bones? If so, it’s important that you use only use a heavy weight cleaver – a light or medium weight cleaver simply will

 not cut through thick objects without significant damage to the knife. On the other hand, if you only need a cleaver to do some light cutting – slicing, dicing, or peeling – a light weight cleaver is ideal due to its light weight size. Of course, the medium weight cleaver is the most popular cleaver; combining the ability for light cutting with the power of the heavy cleavers, the medium weight cleaver offers the best of both worlds. Thus, for people learning how to cook, the medium weight cleaver is the best choice for them to buy. 

Whatever cleaver you choose, it’s important to get a cleaver that is made from high-carbon stainless steel. There is absolutely no alternative to a quality cleaver made from high-carbon stainless steel. These cleavers provide a comfortable feel, nice weight distribution, and are easy to clean and sharpen. 

Other, inexpensive, cleavers are made from traditional carbon steel or, simply low quality stainless steel. These cleavers, however, have huge drawbacks: carbon steel cleavers are easy to sharpen but will rust and discolor acidic foods. As you can imagine, there is nothing worse than seeing rust and discoloration on your meals – simply put, it’s disgusting. On the other hand, stainless steels cleavers are opposed to rust, but are extremely hard to sharpen. Again, it’s very difficult to make your meals properly with a dulled blade. High-carbon stainless steel cleavers eliminate BOTH of these problems and are clean, rust proof, and easy to sharpen. Everyone who regularly cooks will tell you the same thing; high-carbon stainless steel cleavers are the perfect cleavers. So remember – there is NO substitute for a good Chinese cleaver!

How to Grip a Cleaver

Now that you’ve got your Chinese cleaver, it’s important to learn how to hold it. This is a key idea as an improper grip can lead to accidents (both painful and not) and can also cause your hand to begin hurting due to stress. Thus, the idea is to use the cleaver in a way that feels comfortable, but also gives you as much power as possible. As such, there is only grip that chefs around the world suggest as the “proper” grip. 

With your writing hand, hold the cleaver by its handle. Then, move the hand all the way up the cleaver’s handle. Move your thumb onto one side of the cleaver’s blade near the thickest part of the cleaver. Move your index finger to the side opposite of your thumb. With your other three fingers, grip the top part of the cleaver’s handle. Thus, only three fingers of your hand should be holding the handle, with the other two fingers on the actual cleaver blade body itself. While it may seem a little uncomfortable at first, it’s important that you practice using this grip as it allows the highest amount of control, but doesn’t end up tiring your arm.

About The Author

Ala Luke is the author of the #1 Rated The Definitive Chinese Cookbook. His techniques have taught thousands of beginners how to make authentic Chinese cooking better than a restaurants'. For FREE recipes, visit him at



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Last Modified: 11/28/11.