We all have seen meat cleavers, and without a doubt, it has made us curious about it. Unfortunately, because of its large blade size and the lack of knowledge on how to use a meat cleaver, people tend to steer away from this great kitchen equipment. Meat cleavers do a fantastic job in chopping up meat and large vegetables. Also, with the right kind of cleaver, you can use it effectively to dice, mince, and slice different types of food items.

So, for all those people out there who want to try out a meat cleaver, you are in luck. That is because we will give you a quick guide on how to properly use a meat cleaver along with some tips and tricks that will make you a pro at using one.

Why Should Every Cook Have a Meat Cleaver?

If you are someone who cooks regularly, it is essential that you invest in a good meat cleaver. While some of these are great to do several other cutting jobs in the kitchen, it does not mean that this is the only knife you need to own.

Any good cook will tell you that in addition to the cleaver, you must have five other knives that will help you when you cook. These knives include:

  • Fillet knife
  • Chef’s knife
  • Utility knife
  • Paring knife
  • Serrated bread knife

Cleaver knives are typically large, and their blades are quite broad. This allows you to chop up a carcass not just with ease but also at a fast pace. These blades are designed in a manner that they can avoid any shattering and buckling.

While they are constantly referred to as meat cleavers, they can also be used by vegetarians. If you are a vegetarian, you can use cleavers to chop tougher vegetables and fruits like pumpkins and pineapples. That being said, the use of a cleaver is significantly more for a person who eats meat instead of a vegetarian.

Meat cleavers are ideal for separating chicken thighs, chopping through carcasses and beef bones. This is the kind of work you will have a very hard time achieving with your regular kitchen knife. Most likely, you will destroy the meat or break the knife, or worse, end up causing yourself some serious injury.

How to Use a Meat Cleaver?

To know how to use a meat cleaver properly, it is important first to know how to hold it properly.

Holding the Cleaver

There are two broad ways to grip the cleaver with your cutting hand, and they are:

1. The First Grip

Start by holding the part of the cleaver handle that is closest to the blade. Place your thumb on one side of the cleaver’s handle, the part where it meets the blade, and then curl the other four fingers on to the other side of the handle.

2. The Second Grip 

This is quite similar to the first, but your grip is more focused on the blade itself. Start by gripping the handle of your cleaver at the part where it is connected to the blade.

Then, place your index finger on one side of the blade and your thumb on the other. Make sure that your main grip pressure is distributed evenly between the index finger and the thumb.

Professional chefs often tend to use this technique when they use a cleaver as it gives more control than the first type of grip. On the other hand, they tend to opt for the first grip if they do not need an intricate finish for their work. For instance, chopping up vegetables and bones for a stock.

Using the Meat Cleaver

Below, we will give you some quick steps on how you can effectively use your cleaver to cut meat.

1. Set Up the Cutting Board

Ensure that your cutting board is sturdy. It should sit on a stable counter. You would not want it sliding around while you use the cleaver. Ideally, you can place a wet napkin or a gripper mat under the board to keep it secure.

2. Choose Your Plan of Action

Depending on the kind of food you are going to chop, you will have to use your cleaver in a particular way. Hacking is not always the best option.

For instance, if you want to halve a whole roast duck, you can use your cleaver like a regular kitchen knife. Choose the second grip and use a slight rocking motion to cut through the duck.

If you are just looking to chop meat or poultry, stabilize one end of it with your non-dominant hand. Make sure it is as far as possible from the part where you are going to chop.

3. Cutting

Once you have chosen which kind of grip would be ideal, you can then start using your cleaver. You do not need to exert a ton of force with your arm to hack the meat. Instead, try to make the cleaver’s weight work in your favor by making it do most of the work for you.

When you choose to chop, allow your wrist to pivot and then transfer that momentum from the cleaver’s heavy blade. If you are using a wooden cutting board that has a one-way grain, ensure that you are cutting perpendicular to or even at a slight angle to the train. If not, you will risk splitting the cutting board when you start chopping.

4. Slicing Again (If Needed)

Most of the time, you need to slice the meat again because it takes a while to know how much force you need to support the cleaver’s weight. If you have applied the right amount, you will get a clean cut. However, don’t be disappointed if you need to slice through the remaining bits of poultry or meat again, especially if it’s your first time to use a cleaver.

If you find your cleaver stuck on a bone, you can place your non-dominant hand on the cleaver’s spine. Apply enough pressure that will drive the cleaver downwards and finish the cut.


Knowing how to use a meat cleaver will allow you to get better cuts of large meat and poultry. With this guide, we are confident that you will properly learn to use a cleaver. Just always ensure that you are using the right kind of grip for the right type of cut.


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