Why I Like Using a Cleaver (More Than a Knife)

By: Santos Loo

I never saw myself as a cleaver-user until Martin Yan gave me one. It was a thank-you gift for helping with a food demo. I was perfectly content with my collection of western-style knives up until then. But after several weeks, I decided to give Martin's cleaver a chance. My life in the kitchen has not been the same since.

In the beginning, this cleaver did typical cleaver jobs like bench scraping and garlic mashing. But this cleaver (Martin Yan's 6 1/2-inch Chef's Cleaver) is smaller than a traditional cleaver and able to do the work of various other knives and kitchen utensils.

I can't give you a complete list because it would take too long. The only other tools I use as regularly are a whisk and tongs.

Here are a few ways I use it:
  • Removing the kernel from garlic.
  • Using the back end of the blade to open holes on cans.
  • Lifting and flipping foods like pancakes, steaks or eggs.
  • As a colander when cooking pasta or blanching vegetables (I put the flat side of the blade against the rim of the pot (I create a dam) and slowly strain out the water.)
  • With the top blunt side of the blade, I hack open coconuts and crush open nuts in shells.
  • If stranded on an island I could use the blades large surface area to reflect sunlight and send out SOS signals, but luckily I haven't had to do that yet.

I think anyone can choose a tool, and when mastered, that tool becomes whatever you need it to be. Once I decided to make this cleaver the main tool in my kitchen, that was the day my cleaver became everything in my kitchen.

Santos Loo is a senior food stylist and Food Person. Browse through a collection of dinner salad recipes he created for Cooking Channel (using his cleaver along the way).

What kitchen tool could you not live without?
Photos: Sarah Copeland
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