Chinese Vegetable Cleavers: How to Choose and Use These Agile Chef’s Knives

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Have you ever wanted to slice and dice with a Chinese cleaver, but didn’t think you had the necessary skills to use it?

Well, the Chinese cleaver, or Chinese chef’s knife, is a beautiful and multi-faceted tool that should have your attention. And it’s not at all difficult to use, provided you get one of decent quality.

These blades can replace nearly every function served by a regular chef’s knife, plus they have the ability to scoop up your chopped and sliced ingredients safely to transfer them to a container or pan.

Bottom Line Up Front: Our 5 Favorite Chinese and Vegetable Cleavers

  1. Shun Classic
  2. Wusthof
  3. Zhen
  4. Zwilling Henckels Twin Signature
  5. Dexter-Russell

A wonderful utensil with broad applications for food preparation, it’s also great fun to use – you can clear a kitchen full of scamps in seconds with just a few overhead swings!

Top view of 5 Chinese Chefs Knifes/Veggie Cleavers on a dark wooden cutting board.
From top to bottom: Shun Classic, Wusthof, Zwilling Henckels Twin Signature, Zhen, Dexter.

In all seriousness, it really is handy to own one. So in this post we’ll take a closer look at this impressive tool.

Table of Contents

Comparing Meat Cleavers and Chinese Chef’s Knives

The Chinese chef’s knife, sometimes referred to as a chukabocko in Japanese versions, is much more delicate than a meat cleaver and can be utilized for finesse work – as well as many other applications aside from cutting.

The chukabocko style is basically the same as a Chinese chef’s knife, but the production techniques used are usually more refined. It’s constructed of Japanese steel alloys, and it’s typically more expensive too.

Traditionally, Chinese cooks use a single knife for all of their kitchen tasks, and their go-to blade is the large, square-tipped Chinese chef’s knife.

Often referred to as a cleaver because of its similar shape, size, and profile, the Chinese chef’s knife is in fact a different tool altogether.

Choosing the Best Chinese Vegetable Cleaver | Foodal.com

Lightweight and versatile, the Chinese chef’s knife is an all-purpose tool that will pound, chop, crush, mince, scoop, and slice food – even the heel of the handle is used for bashing and grinding.

With a narrow cross-section, it’s flexible and able to handle delicate peeling, chopping, and slicing duties – which are beyond the realm of a butcher’s cleaver’s abilities.

It’s primarily a vegetable knife used for chopping, but it also doubles as a slicing knife for shaving fine slivers from meat and other proteins – and it’s definitely not meant for hacking through large bones. You’ll need a much heavier cleaver with a thick cross-section for that purpose, or a butcher’s saw.

On the other hand, a meat or butcher’s cleaver is designed to be swung like a hammer. It’s big and heavy, with a thick, dense blade that won’t chip, crack, or buckle when chopping through hard bone. The cutting edge will also be more blunt, often with a 25° angle compared to 20-22° for Western knives, or 15-18° for Eastern blades.

In comparison, the Chinese chef’s knife has a slender, fine nature with a thin blade designed for slicing and chopping. And while the size and shape are similar, the blade steel is usually much higher in carbon, which makes it hard and somewhat brittle, and prone to chipping if it’s ever used on hard bone.

Much thinner in cross-section than a butcher’s cleaver, Chinese models are intended for more general work in the kitchen, similar to that of a Western chef’s knife or the Japanese santoku.

It has enough height that you can use it to scoop up large amounts of product like a spatula or bench scraper, and enough mass that the spine can be used to pound and tenderize meat. And the flat of the blade has enough surface area to flatten and crush ingredients like garlic, ginger, or nuts.

Another difference worth noting between this and a meat cleaver is that the blade is somewhat heavier toward the tip. This is to encourage the tapping and pushing strokes used by experienced Chinese chefs.

The edge is honed to a tight 15° angle, though a thickness up to 20° is not uncommon. The blade is mostly straight, which makes it excellent for chopping, but it should have just enough of a belly curve to be useful for pushing or rocking strokes as well.

The handle is also lighter than that of a cleaver, suitable for delicate slicing techniques, as opposed to the heft needed to cleave through bone and tough connective tissue.

A traditional handle will be round or oval shaped and made of wood, although modern versions may come in a variety of materials including metal, and may be riveted in place or held with injection-molded plastics. Finger grips are also found on many contemporary styles, and a full tang is the usual construction style.

They’re Not All the Same

A closer look reveals that not all Chinese cleavers are created equal, or designed for the same purposes.
In today’s market, contemporary models come in three different versions: slicers, choppers, and cleavers. The most notable distinction between these is the thickness of the blades.

Slicers

Also known as ping knives, these are often referred to as vegetable knives as well. Of the three styles, they have the thinnest blades in the cross-section, and with a tight bevel, are also the sharpest.

They often won’t be as tall or as long as choppers or cleavers, and have an appearance very similar to that of a Japanese nakiri knife.

Slicers are used for cutting up vegetables, mincing herbs, peeling, paring, and slicing very thin strips of meat for stir-frying in a wok. But because of the thinness of the blade, it should never be used on bone.

Choppers

These are the type most often associated with the Chinese chef’s knife moniker, and have a slightly thicker blade than slicers.

But they’re not as thick as cleavers, and may be used for most general duties.

A chopper can be used on meats, vegetables, and herbs, and performs all slicing, chopping, and mincing duties wonderfully. And due to its height, it’s also very convenient to use as a scoop to transfer ingredients from the cutting board to the wok or another dish.

Also, because of the large face paired with its lightweight and nimble nature, this is the perfect knife to utilize if you’ll be prepping mounds of veggies – like the amounts typical at canning and freezing times.

Don’t want your knife to tire you out?

This is the one to choose.

Depending on the type of steel used, and according to manufacturer’s recommendations, some may also be suitable for chopping through soft or thin bones in poultry and seafood. But this is not recommended for most, so please always check the instructions before using on any hard tissue.

Cleavers

Known to Chinese chefs as bone choppers, these have thick and heavy blades similar to their Western counterparts, meat or butcher’s cleavers. They’re suitable for chopping bones such as pork ribs, beef, and poultry, and for cutting through the tough, dense connective tissue of joints.

They have a wide bevel and the dullest edge of the lot, as heft and momentum provide most of the cutting action.

Return to the Table of Contents

Features to Look For

Historically fabricated of carbon steel, today you’ll find many blades made of high tech, super-strong alloys. The material used will often have a high-carbon content combined with stainless steel materials to provide strength and durability, as well as stain, rust, and corrosion resistance.

And like all fine knives, a good Chinese cleaver will be well balanced and professionally constructed, with a fine edge that holds its sharpness well.

Blade Length, Weight, and Construction

Blade length can measure anywhere from seven to eleven inches, with a height of three to five inches. Size selection is really a matter of personal preference.

Due to the large area of the blade, which requires a lot of metal to create, weight can sometimes be an issue. So look for ones that are lightweight with a good balance if you intend to do a lot of prep work, or have strength issues in your hands, wrists, or forearms.

Look for a tang that extends at least three-quarters into the handle, with a full tang offering the greatest strength, balance, and edge stability.

Handles can be of a traditional design and materials, cylindrical in shape and made of wood. Or they might be equipped with a modern handle of molded polypropylene, or hollow stainless steel.

Japanese vs. European Steels: How the Rockwell Scale Affects Performance

Most European brands will be hardened to 57-58 on the Rockwell Hardness Scale (RHS) whereas the Japanese types will typically be hardened to 60-62 RHS.

Though this may not seem like much, it’s a huge jump.

Here’s the thing:

The Rockwell Hardness Scale is not linear. It’s computed according to how far a diamond point under pressure will penetrate, and increasing by 4 or 5 points means the Japanese steel is much, much harder.

This increase in hardness allows the knife to become much more sharp, and even more importantly, allows it to retain this edge much longer.

However, this is not without its tradeoffs.

The harder the steel is, the more brittle it becomes. And most Japanese blades can’t take abuse by being pounded into bone or dropped on ceramic tiles. They will chip.

Japanese blades also need water stones to be resharpened, whereas European models can be sharpened using nearly every variety of sharpening system.

Angle of the Edge

Japanese blades are generally sharpened at 11-14°, which creates an extremely sharp edge. Due to the hardness of the steel, the metal can retain such a sharp angle without dulling for a very long time.

Most European knife makers sharpen their models to 22°. This assists with offsetting the effects of their softer steel and keeps it sharp a bit longer. However, the more obtuse angle means the edge will never become as sharp as one with a more acute grind.

Types of Steel

European makers stick with tried and true alloys of high carbon stainless steel, whereas Japanese manufacturers often use exotic combinations, some of which are not allowed to leave Japan in an unfinished form.

The steels have varying properties and can assist with edge retention, as well as metallurgical properties that assist with sharpening and the “feeling” and “feedback” on the sharpening stones.

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Chinese Vegetable Cleaver Reviews

Now let’s move on to some reviews of the best Chinese cleavers currently available online.

1. Shun Classic: Our Top Recommended Chinese Vegetable Cleaver

After testing five of the best selling models (and no, we didn’t compare those made by smaller smiths and craft shops, due to availability), we found the Shun DM0712 Classic 7-Inch Chinese Vegetable Cleaver to be, by far, the best of the lot for most people.

Shun DM0712 Classic 7-Inch Chinese Vegetable Cleaver available at Amazon

The Shun had a wonderfully sweet grind that is flat for the majority of the blade, allowing for a “push” chop while still having a rounded tip. This rounded end allows for rock chopping of finer herbs and leafy greens. All in all, the perfect geometry for this type of knife.

Also, it comes well past shaving sharp from the factory. Moreover, for those that don’t sharpen their own, Shun has a lifetime free sharpening program. Just send them your knife and they’ll return it to you in a couple of weeks, as good as new.

One caveat – due to the D shape of the handle, all of the products in Shun’s classic line are designed for right handers. However, as we note in our main review below, many left handed users actually like the handle layout.

Read our comprehensive review below or check out prices and reviews on Amazon now.

2. Wusthof Classic: A Notable Mention

We also liked the Wusthof Classic Chinese Chef’s Knife and found that its proportions were similar to the Shun in that it had a very flat cutting edge just past the curved tip all the way to the heel.

It arrived adequately sharp from the factory but not nearly at the level of the Shun (note that we use a lot of Japanese steel and our expectations may be set very high as to the definition of  “sharp”).

Wusthof Classic Chinese Chef’s Knife – 7 in

The Wusthof Classic would be ideal for those who sharpen their knives (or send them off to a sharpening service) in the western manner, using western sharpening techniques. No need to invest in expensive water stones or learn a new skill set with this one.

The X50CrMoV15 stainless alloy that makes up all items in Wusthof’s Classic line will stand up to greater abuse than that of the Shun’s VG-Max steel as well, making it ideal for those who have household members who don’t treat cutting implements with respect and care.

The tradeoff is that the Wusthof will never become as sharp as the Shun, or hold its edge for the same length of time. That being said, it’s a quality blade that will perform much better than most cheaper alternatives.

The Wusthof is also ambidextrous, and unlike the Shun, it can be used by right and left handers equally well.

Read our comprehensive review below or check out prices and customer comments on Amazon now.

3. Shun Classic: The Finest in Aesthetics and Functionality

From Shun, makers of fine Japanese kitchen knives, we have this strikingly handsome Chinese-style vegetable cleaver. From their Classic line of fine kitchen knives, it features the elegant watermark design of Damascus cladding on both sides of the traditional tall, square profile.

Shun Chinese Vegetable Cleaver

You’ll want to display this beauty proudly on a knife bar – not only is it a superb knife, it’s eye candy par excellence!

Shun’s manufacturing process produces a knife that’s equal parts beauty and functionality, and delivers outstanding performance. The high carbon, fully clad blade is tough and strong with a seriously sharp edge, and all components contribute to form an elite cutting tool.

Shun DM0712 Classic 7-Inch Chinese Vegetable Cleaver

The beautiful blade is constructed with a core of proprietary high-carbon, high-performance VG-MAX super steel.

The core is protected with 34 layers of stainless steel Damascus cladding on each side (for a total of 68 layers), which is then ground and bead-blasted. This process reveals a flowing pattern of layered steel, reminiscent of moiré silk, with no two blades having identical patterns.

The VG-MAX formula includes high levels of carbon to improve both strength and durability. It also contains chromium for wear and corrosion resistance, cobalt to enhance strength, and tungsten for a fine-grained steel to create a superbly fine and sharp edge.

There’s also molybdenum for corrosion resistance, and vanadium to counter brittleness with better impact resistance. And all of this is hardened to a rating of 60-61 on the Rockwell Hardness Scale.

The result is a blade that’s extremely sharp, durable, corrosion and stain resistant, and gorgeous to look at.

The cutting edge is honed to a double bevel of 16° – which is much sharper than Western blades that are typically ground to 20-22° – and has a slight symmetrical curve along its length.

Using the Shun Chinese Vegetable Cleaver
The Shun sliced through a bunch of carrots like they were air. No resistance.

We found that the Shun was by far the sharpest out of the box and sliced through a carrot with very little resistance.

Moveover, the Shun has the perfect blade shape for tool of this design. It has an extemely flat belly with a sharp curve up toward the tip. This makes it ideal for push cutting larger vegetables as well as for rock chopping herbs and greens.

Most of the blade is able to lay flat on the cutting board at any given time. This is the proper blade profile for a useful Chinese vegetable cleaver.

Blade profile of the Shun Chinese Vegetable Cleaver
The flat blade profile of the Shun was the only example that was spot on to allow for both rock and push chopping.

The D-shaped handle is constructed of PakkaWood, a resin-impregnated hardwood that’s moisture resistant, strong, and hard wearing. It should be noted that handle is designed for right hand use, offering control and stability.

Though the D-shape is designed for right-handed users, with the ridge fitting into the fingers as they wrap around the handle, reverse handles available for lefties through special order.

However, Shun’s blog post on D handles reports that many left-handed customers use, and actually prefer, the right-handed D handle. For lefties, the ridge provides a spot to rest the fingertips in a pinch grip, and this configuration provides the same benefits of stability and control.

The handle is also fitted with a full tang and stainless steel bolster, which gives even greater control along with superb balance. And a stainless steel end cap on the heel finishes it all off.

This high-quality cutlery line is used by professional chefs and home-based cooks alike, and this model is NSF certified for use in commercial kitchens as well.

Shun recommends hand washing and prompt drying to keep the blade sharp and in pristine condition.

Weekly honing with a ceramic or non-ribbed steel, or a leather strop, will help to maintain a sharp edge. Sharpen as needed with whetstones or an Asian-style electric sharpener that will have the correct 16° angle.

Or, better yet, send it to the manufacturer – the purchase includes lifetime access to Shun’s free knife sharpening program. You just have to pay for shipping.

The blade measures 7.75 x 4” with an overall length of approximately 12”, and it weighs 13.6 ounces.

Suitable for cutting vegetables and fruit, this knife is not meant to be used on bones of any size, lobster shells, or for cutting through joints. If you do so, you run the very probable risk of chipping the sharp, hard cutting edge.

Made in Japan, it includes Shun’s limited lifetime warranty to be free of manufacturing defects for as long as you own the knife.

What Others Are Saying

The following comments are a compilation of the most common remarks from verified shoppers at Amazon.com.

The Shun Classic vegetable cleaver gets high grades for extreme sharpness, effortless cutting, and beautiful balance.

With an ultra-sharp edge, it admirably performs a variety of cutting duties such as slicing, mincing, and dicing with the entire length of the blade.

It handles cutting through large items like cabbage and melons with ease, and any cutting motion is smooth and fluid.

It’s also a very versatile blade – the wide edge is great not only for smashing garlic and ginger, you can also scoop up large amounts of prepped veggies for quick, convenient transfer from cutting board to pot or dish.

Sharp from tip to heel, the blade is thin and light, with great maneuverability for such a large surface. It also holds a keen edge very well, even with daily use.

The Classic vegetable cleaver is well balanced, and the handle provides a comfortable and secure grip for all cutting actions.

At the time of this writing, the only common complaint is from those who have chipped or broken the blade when attempting to cut through bone (against the advice of the manufacturer).

Summary

With its fine craftsmanship, light weight, slim spine, and keen edge, the Shun Classic vegetable cleaver does most of the work – you just need to guide it along for effortless cutting.

It offers excellent dexterity for dainty cutting and slicing tasks, and can be wielded with speed and accuracy thanks to the unique VG-MAX steel composition – which provides a superbly sharp and efficient edge that will retain its sharpness for long periods, even with heavy daily use.

Shun DM0712 Classic 7-Inch Chinese Vegetable Cleaver

Though the price of this blade this won’t fit everyone’s budget, it’s an elegant and beautifully crafted vegetable knife that delivers top-notch performance and aesthetics.

Check prices and read more reviews on Amazon now.

 

Wusthof Classic

Wusthof is known for their very high quality line of fully forged kitchen knives, a favorite with chefs and homeowners who want the best of the best. The classic line is made in one of the world’s premier knife-making cities, Solingen, Germany.

Wusthof Chinese Vegetable Cleaver

The Wusthof Classic Chinese Chef’s Knife is crafted with fully forged, high quality X50CrMoV15 stainless steel alloy. In everyday English, this means that the blade is constructed of a high-carbon molybdenum/vanadium material, and hardened to 58 HRC for a keen, long-lasting, and durable edge.

This alloy and hardening  is a good mix of edge retention and durability, still allowing the blade to be sharpened more easily and making it less likely to chip than its Japanese counterparts.

Wusthof Classic Chinese Chef’s Knife – 7 in

Unlike most western knife makers who continue to sharpen their edges to 22° in the European tradition, Wusthof blades are now sharpened to 14° on each side, similar to Japanese knives.

The one-piece, fully forged construction provides a full tang, which is triple riveted to the polypropylene handle for precise and balanced weight distribution, stability, and long-lasting durability.

Blade profile of the Wusthof Chinese Vegetable Cleaver
The Wusthof’s blade profile is much better than most competitors except the Shun, offering a significant flat area for push cutting while still allowing for rocking.

Designed in the Chinese chef’s knife style, the Wusthof Classic’s broad blade with double-beveled edge is ideal for prepping vegetables, meat, and fish. And it’s suitable for all cutting duties – slicing, chopping, mincing, scooping, and more.

Using the Wusthof Vegetable Cleaver
The Wusthof was adequately sharp out of the box (although not as sharp as the Shun or the Zhen) and its flat blade profile assisted with push chopping. This is the best of the European offering that we tested.

Please note that this is a vegetable knife with a high-carbon stainless steel blade – do not use it on bones or any tough materials. Hand wash in warm, soapy water, rinse, and dry promptly.

This blade comes with Wusthof’s’s lifetime manufacturing warranty.

Our Findings

This was our second favorite of the models that we tested.

We like the flat profile of the blade, which allowed push cutting of harder vegetables with no “clingers” (those pieces that don’t fully cut) and the round tip allows for rock chopping of finer herbs and leafy greens.

It arrived adequately sharp from the factory but we were able to take it to a keener edge after we conducted our chopping tests.

This model is ideal for the home cook or professional chef who doesn’t want to invest in a set of water stones, which are a necessary accessory for sharpening Japanese steel.

This cleaver can be sharpened on anything including wet/oil stones, diamond pads, and ceramic rods. Or it can be taken your local neighborhood sharpening service with no worries.

This one is a buy.

What Others Are Saying

The following comments reflect the most common remarks from verified purchasers at Amazon.com.

While there are only a handful of reviews at this time, the Asian Precision gets full marks from all reviewers.

It’s lauded for the good quality steel used in production, arrives with a very sharp edge, and has enough flex to make it good for slicing and all other cutting duties (except chopping through bone).

Customers also feel it offers a good value for the price.

Summary

Wusthof has built a solid reputation over the years, and has proven to be very adaptable to market demands. Their Chinese vegetable knife from the Asian Precision line is manufactured in Japan using Japanese steel and craftsmanship.

Wusthof Classic Chinese Chef’s Knife – 7 in

The results are pretty much what you’d expect: a well-designed and constructed knife with an outstanding, sharp edge that’s a pleasure to use.

Check prices and read customer comments on Amazon now.

 

Zhen Light Slicer: Best Budget Model

Zhen has been producing knives in Taiwan since the early 1990s, and uses only imported Japanese VG-10 steel for all of their blades – which creates extremely sharp knives designed for fine, detailed cutting.

Zhen Chinese Vegetable Cleaver

Constructed of high-grade Japanese steel, this knockoff brand known for producing copies from the pros may lack originality, but they do a good job of copying the successful designs of others.

Super sharp with a long-lasting edge, the Zhen is light, agile, and highly functional for all slicing and chopping duties. And with the high quality of the construction and steel used, it would be hard to find equal value for a lower price.

ZHEN Japanese VG-10 3-Layer Forged High Carbon Stainless Steel Light Cleaver

Their 6.5” Chinese cleaver is from Zhen’s Carbon Stainless Steel series, and is forged with three layers of steel. The high-end VG-10 core produces an outstandingly sharp, tough, and long-lasting edge while the clad layers of high carbon stainless on each side provide corrosion and stain resistance.

VG-10 is a staple formula used in many top of the line Japanese blades. It is comprised of 1% carbon, 15% chromium, 1.2% molybdenum, 1.5% cobalt, and 2% vanadium, which is then hardened to 60-62 HRC on the Rockwell Scale.

Lightweight with a broad blade that makes chopping, slicing, and scooping easy and efficient, the blade has a frosted finish for better food-release qualities.

Blade profile of the Zhen Chinese Vegetable Cleaver
The Zhen has a larger belly (a curved edge profile) than we like. However, it is super sharp out of the box.

The edge is double-beveled to a 16° angle on each side, to easily accommodate both left and right-handed users. And with the slightly curved belly, it’s ideal for slicing, chopping, and rocking strokes.

Using the Zhen Vegetable Cleaver
Although the Zhen has lots of belly, its extreme sharpness out of the box made up for this. And that Japanese VG-10 steel will retain the edge much longer than any European offering.

With a full tang, the lightweight design is perfectly balanced for reduced hand and forearm fatigue, and it provides great edge control. The stainless bolster is seamlessly integrated with the blade body, and a stainless steel end cap completes the knife.

The ergonomic oval handle is constructed of durable TPR rubber that’s molded to the tang for a comfortable, slip-free, and antibacterial surface that provides a strong, secure grip.

Please remember that this is a vegetable cleaver, and is not intended to chop bones, joints, or tough connective tissue – doing so may cause the hard core of the blade to chip.

Hand wash your cleaver with mild dish soap, rinse, and towel dry immediately. Hone your edges weekly with a steel or ceramic rod to keep it sharp. Zhen also recommends sharpening with a whetstone at an angle of 15-20°.

The Zhen cleaver has a 6.5” blade with overall measurements of 11.5 x 3” and weighs 9.1 ounces.

Made in Taiwan, Zhen offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee.

Our Findings

Out of the box, the Zhen was super sharp. Unfortunately, we hated the profile of the blade. The Zhen offered no flat portions on the edge. This one is a bargain for the price, but we’d recommend the Shun well before this model if you don’t mind paying a little more.

The VG-10 stainless steel  on this model was superbly tempered and we’re going to keep an eye on Zhen for testing some different knife patterns. They just might be a diamond in the rough.

What Others Are Saying

The following notes are a compilation of the most common comments from verified purchasers at Amazon.com.

While this model isn’t a huge seller online, for those who have bought it, the Zhen vegetable cleaver receives top marks for its superb sharpness, beautiful balance, and the high quality of its design and components.

Surprisingly light and thin, the Zhen proves to be an agile performer and is wonderfully easy to use for a variety of cutting techniques,

Held choked-up on the handle or in a pinch grip, it demonstrates excellent balance and easily slices and chops through all veggies. It also thin-slices through meats and other proteins with great dexterity. Plus, the large blade face makes it quick and convenient to scoop and transfer ingredients.

It arrives with a super sharp edge, and holds its edge without the need for sharpening even after months of heavy daily use.

The stainless steel cladding is also top notch, with no signs of rust or corrosion when hand washed and dried promptly. And the heavy frosting on the face of the blade above the edge releases food easily.

Made of top-quality materials, it also features a comfortable handle for long, fatigue-free prepping, plus impressive grinding and finishing details that make it easy to clean and maintain.

Summary

Known primarily for producing high-end copies of established brands, Zhen replicates the characteristics of Japanese manufacturing by using identical steels, hardness levels, and design features.

The VG-10 steel, forged construction, full tang, and stainless steel end cap are components usually found only from higher priced brands, but the Zhen cleaver delivers luxury performance at a great price.

While it may lack the cachet of better-known brands, it’s an excellent bargain for those who like hard, sharp Japanese steel.

Check prices and read customer review on Amazon now.

 

Zwilling J.A. Henckels Twin Signature: Outstanding Value in a Lightweight Model

From their Twin Signature line, Zwilling J.A. Henckels brings us their sleek and efficient 7” vegetable cleaver.

Henckles Chinese Vegetable Cleaver

A versatile performer in the kitchen, all aspects of the high-quality construction of this model shine, making it a favorite with online shoppers.

At just under 6 ounces, the Twin Signature delivers big results in a lightweight package. With a stamped blade made of Zwilling’s proprietary steel, it proves to be lively and responsive to all chopping duties.

Zwilling J.A. Henckels Twin Signature 7-Inch Vegetable Cleaver

The Twin Signature is the only stamped line of knives produced by Zwilling, designed to offer outstanding sharpness and performance for a reasonable price – ideal for those starting out in their first kitchen, or for folks who just like a good bargain.

Stamped with precision from a single piece of Zwilling’s special formula steel, the blade is ice hardened using Zwilling’s proprietary Friodur process for a blade that guarantees an optimal blend of hardness and toughness, as well as stain and corrosion resistance.

The special formula steel is composed of optimal quantities of iron, carbon, and chromium for excellent hardness, as well as corrosion resistance.

And, after going through the four steps of the Zwilling trademarked Friodur ice-hardening process of heating, cooling, deep-freezing, and tempering, the blades emerge with a hardness of approximately 57 HRC on the Rockwell Scale – with durability and flexibility being key characteristics.

Each blade is professionally hand sharpened and polished to 15° on each side in the laser-controlled sharpening process, which produces a symmetrical, V-shaped edge. This guarantees excellent initial sharpness, long-lasting cutting performance, and edge stability.

Henkles Vegetable Cleaver blade profile
The Henckels has more of a belly (rounded blade profile) than we’d like to see.

Like others, we didn’t like how the belly is shaped. The curved edge hinders push cutting and is more akin to a traditional European chef’s knife than a Chinese cleaver.

Using the Henkles Vegetable Cleaver
The Henkels wasn’t nearly as sharp as the Shun or the Zhen out of the box and we don’t know if it can be made as sharp. And it definitely will not retain that sharpness like Japanese steel will.

The ergonomically designed polymer handle has a bolsterless hilt, and is securely attached to the full tang with a traditional design of three stainless-steel rivets. Tough, resilient, and stain resistant, it also proudly displays the inlaid red and white Twin Signature logo.

Plus, with the curved hilt, it’s easy to use the professional pinch grip comfortably for safe, secure handling.

With the traditional large, squared-off profile and slight convex curve to the blade belly, it’s the perfect knife for cutting and preparation of all vegetables, as well as the delicate, paper-thin slicing of meat, poultry, and fish.

But please be aware that this is not a meat cleaver – it’s for cutting vegetables and should never be used to cut through bones, as the hard steel may chip or break.

Although it is dishwasher safe, hand washing and prompt drying is recommended to retain its sharp edge and looks.

The Twin Signature cleaver has a blade length of 7” with overall measurements of 16 x 4”, and weighs only 5.6 ounces.

Made in Germany, it comes with Zwilling’s lifetime warranty to be free of manufacturer’s defects.

Our Findings

Once again, we didn’t like the blade profile of the Henkels. Though not as curved as the Zhen or Dexter-Russell, it offered no flat areas for push chopping. However, the price is definitely right if you want to try out this style.

What Others Are Saying

The following comments are taken from the most frequent remarks of verified purchasers at Amazon.com.

The Twin Signature scores big with owners for its outstanding sharpness right out of the box, its cutting versatility, and the convenience it brings as an efficient multitasker.

Flexible and tough enough to cut firm squash, the Twin Signature is also delicate enough to slice meat into razor-thin strips, and it handles all vegetables with ease.

Customers state that it arrives with a very sharp edge that’s proven to hold for extended periods before you’ll need to sharpen it (though we didn’t find it to be exceptionally sharp out of the box in our own testing).

It also has enough weight to handle any veggie preparation, with the balance very well-distributed for smooth, effortless slicing.

The shape, dimensions, and overall high quality give it great versatility as well. Users stated that it can quickly chop large quantities of veggies or finely slice proteins, smash and chop garlic, scoop large amounts of ingredients for transfer with the generous blade surface, and make short work of crushing spices with the heel.

Plus, the handle is comfortable for a wide range of chefs. From the hands of petite ladies to those of large men, all claim it offers a safe and comfy grip for great edge stability.

At the time of this writing, there’s only one complaint, and it isn’t about the knife’s performance or quality. The reviewer complains that the vegetable cleaver he bought isn’t meant for cutting bones… which you, dear reader, are already more than aware of!

Summary

The Zwilling J.A. Henckels Twin Signature vegetable cleaver comes in as a bit of a dark horse. From one of their more economical lines, it offers all of the performance, durability, and versatility likely to be found in more expensive models.

Zwilling J.A. Henckels Twin Signature 7-Inch Vegetable Cleaver

It cuts through all sizes and densities of vegetables with ease, and also has the flexibility to finesse fine slicing. Plus, the broad face makes it quick and easy to scoop up ingredients to transfer to a dish or pan. Very lightweight, comfortable, and nicely balanced, it makes handling numerous cutting tasks a pleasure.

Clearly impressive to those who have purchased it, the Twin Signature offers excellent value for a thoughtfully designed and well-constructed vegetable cleaver.

Check prices and read customer reviews on Amazon now.

 

Dexter-Russell

From American knife makers Dexter-Russell, we have the classical styling of this Chinese chef’s knife from their aptly named Traditional line of cutlery, featuring a polished rosewood handle and large brass compression rivet.

Dexter-Russell Chinese Vegetable Cleaver

The Traditional line uses a proprietary blend of high-carbon alloys with stainless steel for consistent, reliable performance.

Dexter-Russell Traditional S5198 8″ x 3-1/4″ Chinese Chefs Knife with Wooden Handle

The high-carbon stainless is blended to combine the best attributes of both carbon steel and cutlery grade stainless steel. It won’t discolor or stain, maintains a sharp edge for long periods, and is easier to sharpen than stainless.

The high quality alloys used for the Traditional line include molybdenum, vanadium, and cobalt to improve strength, edge-holding, and cutting performance.

Each knife blank is heat treated to a hardness of 54-56 HRC, and edges are individually hand ground and honed to a double-bevel profile for flexibility and durability. The double bevel makes it equally appropriate for right or left-handed cutting.

The unique edge geometry, at 20° for the first two thirds of the blade and about 25° for the last third to the heel, is ideal for the cutting tasks expected of a chef’s knife. It also ensures a long-lasting blade edge that’s easily restored to top performance each time it’s sharpened.

Large in area, this blade is fairly thin, but with a softer steel that isn’t as prone to chipping as those with higher HRC ratings. Make no mistake – this is a vegetable knife and it should not be used on bones or other dense, hard materials.

However, it may survive a fall onto tile without chipping, unlike some of its harder Japanese counterparts.

Blade profile of the Dexter-Russell Chinese Vegetable Cleaver

We found that the blade profile didn’t make a lot of sense. It was completely curved, making it a great choice for rock cutting herbs and small greens, but this made push cutting more of a chore. We’d like to see a MUCH flatter profile in a knife of this type.

Using the Dexter Vegetable Cleaver

Also, it required a lot more force to slice through a carrot than the Zehn, which has a similar blade profile (although it also costs more). That may have to do with sharpness of the factory edge, or it may be a problem with the blade profile itself.

We also weren’t impressed with the fact that the blade had one of those evil stickers attached, and tons of effort is required to get the residue off without scratching up the blade. We resorted to Goo Gone along with some Flitz Metal Polish, and it still didn’t get everything.

Dexter-Russell, please invest in some stickers with the easy release glue!

Dexter-Russel Chinese Vegetable Cleaver with Goo Gone to clean off residue.

The durable natural rosewood handle is securely attached to the half-tang with brass compression rivets, and the carved, oval shape provides a comfortable, secure grip for all chopping duties.

The Traditional Chinese cleaver should be hand washed in warm, soapy water, rinsed, then towel-dried promptly.

It has a blade that measures approximately 8 x 3.25” with an overall length of 11” including the handle, and it weighs 12 ounces.

Made in the US, it comes with Dexter-Russell’s limited lifetime warranty to be free of manufacturing defects.

Our Findings

Once again, the curved edge makes this one an underperformed. We’d love to recommend a made in the USA product, but we can’t get past the design.

What Others Are Saying

The following notes are a compilation of the most frequent comments from verified purchasers at Amazon.com.

The Dexter-Russell Traditional proves to be another highly popular model with online shoppers, who give it top marks for its sharp edge and edge retention, comfortable weight and balance, and solid construction.

The edge geometry and thin, flexible blade make it a versatile knife for all cutting tasks, and it’s particularly adept at both thin-slicing of proteins and chopping vegetables.

The quality of the high-carbon stainless steel is another highlight, as it merges the best attributes of both carbon steel and stainless. It arrives with sharp edge that it retains well, is easy to hone and sharpen, and it will remain corrosion and rust free with prompt hand washing and drying.

The weight and balance also get their share of compliments. It has a solid, sturdy build with a good hand feel, and the weight is equally distributed for effortless, fatigue-free cutting.

The overall quality is rated highly as well, with each individual component described as being well-designed and constructed to make this a versatile and efficient tool.

While there are only few complaints, there are two common themes worth noting:

A handful of users note that although it arrived sharp, the blade lost its edge in a relatively short period of time.

A couple of reviewers also felt that the balance is somewhat off, and both point to the small, lightweight handle and half-tang as the culprits.

Summary

The Traditional Chinese Chef’s Knife is a popular option with home shoppers who enjoy the heritage styling, efficient cutting features, and Made in America construction.

Dexter-Russell Traditional  Chinese Chefs Knife

The steel proves to be strong with a reliable and sharp cutting edge, and the overall construction is robust. By far, the majority of reviewers find it to be a comfortable and efficient knife to work with.

Check prices and read customer reviews on Amazon now.

 

The Final Cut

That brings us to the end of our look at the venerable Chinese cleaver.

Large, nimble, and sharp, the unique characteristics of the Chinese chef’s knife make it the most versatile implement in your knife block. And don’t let the large size fool you – it really is easy to use, and handles both large volume tasks and those that require a deft touch of finesse with equal ease.

Overall, the Shun Classic 7-Inch Chinese Vegetable Cleaver is our recommendation for most people. It may be on the pricier side, but a blade like this will last a lifetime with proper care.

How about you, readers: do you have any encouraging experiences with a Chinese cleaver to share, or maybe a question we haven’t covered? If so, let us know in the comments below. We always appreciate your thoughts!

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Photos by Mike Quinn, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Isolated product photos courtesy of Kershaw, Wusthof, Zhen, Zwilling, and Dexter-Russell.

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About Lorna Kring

Recently retired as a costume specialist in the TV and film industry, Lorna now enjoys blogging on contemporary lifestyle themes. A bit daft about the garden, she’s particularly obsessed with organic tomatoes and herbs, and delights in breaking bread with family and friends.

Do you want an efficient knife to save prep time in your kitchen? One that works smoothly for multiple tasks and duties? Then you need a Chinese cleaver!

1 thought on “Chinese Vegetable Cleavers: How to Choose and Use These Agile Chef’s Knives

  1. Thanks! Ordering the Shun now.

    One thing, your cutting board in the pics, looks like my board that I made from a die cutters base.

    Can you tell me about it??

    Thanks,
    John

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