When it comes to Chinese knives, the only blades that even industry insiders can name are choppers or cleavers. Why is that so? Simply because a Chinese kitchen, there is one knife that is used for basically everything, the Chinese Chef’s knife. It’s sometimes erroneously referred to as cleaver, due to the similarity in shape to a Western cleaver. But to make matters more confusing, real cleavers are also popular in China. To sort things out:
Chinese Chef’s knife
The Chinese Chef’s knife is the to-go knife in Chinese kitchens, private or professional alike. As mentioned above, it’s used for almost all cutting tasks. It has a tall blade in rectangular shape, usually about 3 mm thick on the spine, and tapering towards the edge to a thin geometry, which is definitely too thin for a cleaver-like usage.
It comes in sizes from 17-20 cm (7”-8”). Since it’s a practical all-purpose knife even in a Western kitchen, it is gaining in popularity outside of China.
The Chinese cleaver is very similar to a Western cleaver, with its thick blade (around 5 mm), thick geometry and thick, wide angled cutting edge. It’s intended for cutting up whole chickens, hacking through bones.
The blade is not as tall and wide as a Chinese Chef’s knife, usually 15-17 cm in length (6”-7”). As it’s so similar to a Western cleaver, the Chinese version is not much sold outside of China.