Do I need to buy a cleaver?

Among my mother’s cookbooks are some volumes from a series on cuisines around the world. I don’t recall now the name of the series, but I do remember flipping the pages of these gorgeous coffee table books over and over when I was a child. The one on Chinese cooking fascinated me no end because there was an entire section (complete with pictures) on how to wield a cleaver – not only for slicing, dicing, and mincing, but also for tenderizing, roll-cutting, and a few more glamorous tasks. I did eventually own a small cleaver (one of those mail-order Ginsu ones, I believe), and I did become somewhat proficient in its use. Once I went to culinary school, I discovered that really the only tools necessary to make just about anything in the kitchen are a good chef’s knife and paring knife (although I admit I usually opt for the vegetable peeler now that I’m not required to use the latter so much).

If you are serious about cooking, spend the money for a quality professional chef’s knife and learn how to use it as well as sharpen it the old-fashioned way, with a stone and a steel. All those wonderful kitchen gadgets? Put them away!  You’ve just made a new best friend – your chef’s knife. Eventually you will become so attached to it that you will resent when others use it….

To start your search, go to a store that sells high-quality knives and speak to a knowledgeable salesperson – you don’t need to buy then and there, but spend some time holding a chef’s knife in your hand – they are not light, so you need to be able to use its balance to your advantage.

There are several considerations to make: do you want a full tang (meaning that the blade back runs through the handle) or one where the handle is separate from the tang? what sort of metal are you looking for (high carbon steel is expensive, but it’s durable and keeps its edge longer)? do you want 8″, 10″, 12″?

Armed with your research results, go online and do some research as to where you can buy the knife you want at the best price. Some resources you may want to try:

F. Dick

Wusthof

Chef’s Catalog

Sur La Table

Crate & Barrel

My absolute favorite? Wusthof: 10″ high carbon full tang. I own 2 of them and they are my most prized possession in the kitchen.

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