4 Ways To Use A Cleaver

The trusty Chinese blade can do more than just chop

OK, you've got your wily little paring knife, your trusted chef's knife, your wallet-denting, shiny, show-off Japanese carbon-steel blade.

That's all good but do not forget the simple cleaver.

There's a reason why a lot of Asian line cooks keep little more than this hulking blade at the ready. Case in point: Really experienced dim sum cooks can slice and roll out dumpling dough with just a few wax-on, wax-off-like motions with their trusty cleaver.

For the rest of us, here are four things to do with a cleaver beyond chopping.

Scrape: Not all of us have those plastic scrapers lying around to sweep prepped ingredients across a cutting board. Use the cleaver's wide blade. "It has a nice broad side to scoop up chopped vegetables and rest your stuff on," says Abe Conlon, chef of Chicago's Fat Rice and certified cleaver believer.

Pound: Stop searching through cluttered drawers for that fancy kitchen hammer. For pounding out a chicken breast paillard, use the butt of the cleaver handle. Work with the cleaver's natural weight to tenderize tough cuts–and with more control than swinging a meat mallet.

Scale: Don't fear the scales of that whole fish. The bolster (basically, the armpit of the cleaver) is a great descaler. Then smash some garlic and ginger with the flat side and you've got aromatics to stuff the fish before grilling.

Peel: "If you're really adept, you can use a cleaver as a peeler," Conlon advises. Choke up on the cleaver so you're at the middle; now pivot the blade back and forth to peel vegetable skins. "It's not very safe," Conlon warns with a little chuckle. His advice: Avoid round produce, like chestnuts, and stick with more oblong-shaped ingredients. Bloody nicks on your fingers do not make you look like a boss.