Epicurious has a good article on using the Cai Dao Chinese vegetable cleaver), AKA the Chinese vegetable cleaver.
Any other good tips or videos out there? I’ll see if I could find the scattered YouTube clips that taught me some techniques—- I rarely cook meat and find the Cai Dao indispensable for cutting everything from butternut squash to herbs, but always feel like I’m not doing things exactly right.
I’ve got a couple Chinese cleavers. They’re great for cutting vegetables and being to transfer them quickly to bowls or the hot pan-like a spatula and knife, all-in-one. Chinese cleavers are awkward if you’re going to core peppers, remove eyes or bad spots from potatoes, etc., where a thinner, lighter knife would be easier to use. Traditional Chinese stir-fry vegetables were primarily cut into pieces that were easy to pick up with chopsticks, in about the one-inch range. This also helps keep the vegetables from sweating out as much liquid. Most Chinese dishes I make use the cleaver and a paring knife.
Onto the blades: They are often high carbon or high carbon stainless. Rinse and dry them quickly if the former. They’re usually very easy to sharpen as the blades are very thin; the wide design adds strength. The thin blade does make them vulnerable if cutting meat with bones. I do use them to cut deboned meat. Hard vegetables, such as winter squash, are not a problem. A fine sharpening stone, like an Arkansas Black, quickly gets these blades sharp enough to shave hair. Often, these knives are very inexpensive if you visit an Asian market and not a fancy store. Since the blade is wide and the handle set high, your knife hand is well above the cutting board, so you’re not knuckle-rapping. (I recently bought some antique Theirs Issard knives which put the handle too close to the cutting board.) Since the distal tip is not tapered to a point, it’s easier to get extra control by using two hands: one on the handle and one gripping the back (spine) of the blade.
Downside is, some models are kind of heavy. If made with high carbon steel, you’ll want to dry them and wipe the blades with oil before storing. (Mineral oil works.) They feel awkward until you get used to them.
I looked around, and unfortunately, am unable to find any good video specific to Chinese kitchen knives. I think bogman said a few good tips. Despite the name “Chinese cleavers”, most of the so called Chinese cleavers should not be used as a cleaver. Chinese cleavers, due to their rectangular shapes, do not have a good pointer, which means they are not good for detail works. Therefore, pairing a Chinese cleaver with a pointy paring knife is a good combination. Another thing I like to combine is pairing a thin blade Chinese cleaver (or Chinese slicer) with a heavier thicker real cleaver. This allows me to cover both slicing works (95% of my works) and heavy chopping bones works.
Because Chinese cleavers have very wide blade (distance between spine to blade), this comes with some advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is that a Chinese slicer can be made very thin, and still have a good decent weight behind the cutting edge. This provides some extra momentum. Another advantage is that you can put your knuckle fair high to guard your knife motion, and you won’t have to worry about the blade go above your knuckles and then cut into your knuckles.
Here is a video of Saltydog accidentally cut himself. Saltydog is one of the best kitchen knife users I know. So I am not making fun of him. The point of the video is to show that he bought his knife a little higher than his guard fingers and then the knife went slightly behind the guard position. As the knife comes back down, it slices his fingers.
Now, imagine if you put your guard fingers/knuckles a little higher, this would reduce the chance the knife go behind the guard position…etc. Long story short, a wider Chinese blade cleaver allows you to put your guard position a little higher.
Hey, I couldn’t believe it. The first thing Christopher Kimball talked about in this video is the slightly safer aspect of the Chinese vegetable slicer.
Below (the milkstreet link) if you jump to 17:26, you will see a slightly more detailed demonstration of the Chinese knife:
After years of internet and words of mouth praising, I guess many people know about Chan Chi Kee knives. Here, the knife Christopher Kimball using a Chan Chi Kee knife. It is actually not the easiest brand to get, so someone must have gotten it for him.
Here is the knife Christopher Kimball used in the video. It retails for $79.00 from chef knifes to go
Sales has gone up since he did the video.
My mother, (RIP )could have gotten a job at the japanese restaurant Benihana , the way she uses the cleaver to chop everything. She is so versatile and fast with it. It is just an art watching her.
I have been toying around with the idea of buying one as I cannot find the one which my husband kept in the pantry for watermelon and cantaloupe which he loves tduring summer months. It was my first knife when I arrived in the US, purchased from DC Chinatown which no longer exist, I have not been able to find it. I wander if I can use it to hack my pomeranian’s treats like lamb puzzles and bully sticks as they are too big for their small mouth. This is a little too pricey for that purpose alone and I thought I would keep it in the entry’s sink just like my husband did.
I have oto beg my son to hack those pizzles for me,
I got a Dexter Russell S5198 because the CCK’s were temporarily priced well over $79. I should have waited—- I can go several meals without honing my chef’s knives or $10 Chinatown vegetable cleaver, but I feel it necessary to hone the Dexter Russell at least once per meal. It’s a typical for a higher-end vegetable cleaver?
CCK knives are getting more expensive. This knife (KF1303) used to be about $40 a few years back, but the price has risen to $80 now. It isn’t just Chefknivstogo. I have found the Canada CCK store and numerous Chinatown stores have increased the price. You can get it a little cheaper if you buy one in Hong Kong or China – probably $50-ish.
It isn’t temporarily. If you are waiting for the Chan Chi Kee knife price to go down, then you will be disappointed. More and more people recognize the quality, so the demand has gone up a lot. Right now thee are numerous internet stores in China are importing CCK products from Hong Kong to the rest of China. The prices have been going up in the last 10 years, and have never once fallen.
I have the Dexter Russell S5198 Chinese chef knife too. About 7 years ago, I switched from Dexter S5198 to CCK KF1303, I wrote about the experience on Chowhound. At the time, it was only $43: “The carbon steel KF1303 was about $43, and the stainless steel KF1912 was $53 … The carbon steel version was sold at $43, but the stainless steel one was sold for >$60.”
To answer your question… Dexter Russell Chinese chef knife is made with stainless steel 420, and harden to HRC 54-56. So it is made of a relatively soft steel. It is also made with a medium blade thickness. This is why you probably felt the need to keep honing it.
Yeah, I thought about if I should post Martin Yan’s videos too. They are pretty fun. The only reason I didn’t is that what he mentioned are not specific to Chinese chef knife. The technique he pointed out are universal to all knives, which is a good thing too. Afterall, many of the knife skills are applicable to all knives.
To to be clear, the Dexter Russell, S5198 is a medium blade knife. The CCK KF130X that Christopher Kimball was using (as well as many people keep praising) is a thin blade slicer. They are quiet different despite their looks.
Here is a cross section view, the knife on the left is CCK KF1303, and the knife on the right is Dexter Russell S5198. I hope you can see the thickness difference. They below to two difference classes within the Chinese cutlery. Excuse my messy kitchen, by the way.
I would probably say no to that. Most people I know who went out of their way to get a Chan Chi Kee didn’t get it because Fuchsia Dunlop recommended it, and most of Fuschsia readers and viewers didn’t go out to get a CCK.