How we tested
Every good cook has a favorite knife. For some it is an impeccably honed chef's knife that can reduce an onion to confetti in a matter of seconds. For others, it is a paring knife so beloved that they do not even own a vegetable peeler. For many of us in the test kitchen, it is a perfectly balanced meat cleaver possessing a blade as sharp as a Lady Bic and as strong as a woodman's axe. But does it matter which brand?
We tested five meat cleavers for their comfort, balance, and performance while cutting through meat and bone. The tests were conducted with chicken parts and were performed by five different members of our test kitchen, possessing various hand sizes and arm strengths.
A cleaver comes in especially handy when chopping up meat and bones for a stock. It's also great when dealing with lobster. Capitalizing on the opportunity to release some stress, the testers chopped chicken wings, breasts, legs, and thighs with each cleaver and recorded their conclusions. The best of the lot featured a razor-sharp blade and perfectly balanced design that easily finished hacking jobs none of the other cleavers could tackle. For a more reasonable price, our Best Buy model offered a comfortable handle, a sharp blade, and a comparatively light weight, which made it popular among testers with less arm strength.
Of the other models tested, two provided good control, though some testers felt the squared-off handles on these models did not provide a secure grip. Bringing up the rear was a model which had two major strikes against it: It featured a wooden handle whose porous construction could cause cross-contamination, and its thick blade was not sharp enough for many testers, requiring the use of a sawing motion rather than a quick chop.
Although the meat cleaver may not be the go-to knife for carving a turkey or peeling an apple, it is certainly an invaluable tool in the kitchen. Its formidable size and weight make it a formidable adversary to even the toughest bone or shell.