Heavyweight Bone-Chopping Cleaver

For cutting through bones, both raw and cooked, you will need a thick-bladed cleaver that weighs 1–1¼ pounds.

If you are looking for a bone-chopping cleaver, you have several choices. Best, in my opinion, is to go to a sizable Chinatown and specifically to a Chinese hardware store or the kitchenware counter of a large grocery and get an inexpensive cleaver that looks in profile much like the everyday Chinese vegetable cleaver pictured above, but which has a discernably thicker blade. There are several styles of this type of cleaver on the market, and the one I favor has a wooden handle and a dull finish blade that will not rust. The handle is notched for easy gripping, and the blade is honed about ¼ inch from the edge. When you hold this cleaver loosely in your hand, the tip should fall immediately downward if it is properly weighted. This cleaver will feel awkwardly heavy in your hand, like a hatchet you might use for chopping firewood.

my general bone-chopping cleaver: a thicker and broader blade than my everyday vegetable cleaver, the same general shape without the subtleties of design

Another choice, if you already have one, is to use a Western cook’s cleaver of the sort pictured. While it does not have the dimensions of a heavyweight Chinese cleaver, it will accomplish the job of chopping bones. If you do not already have one, do not buy it for Chinese purposes. You get a lot of style for a lot of money, but the task can be done better for a third of the price.

heavyweight Western cook’s cleaver: good for chopping through bones, but lacks the length and width of the Chinese model
A third choice is to use a cheap Chinese-made cleaver that has proved uncomfortable or unsatisfactory for lightweight work and that you are now willing to see nicked or otherwise abused in the assault on bones. This is an especially comfortable option if you are ready to move on to a top-quality, everyday vegetable cleaver of the type described below and do not want to banish the old one, unused, to a far corner of the kitchen.