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Butcher knife vs cleaver

Butcher Knife vs. Cleaver – Is There Any Difference?

Wondering whether to use a butcher knife or cleaver in the kitchen? Our detailed butcher knife vs cleaver comparison can finally help you clear the confusion and help you figure out exactly which knife to use for different needs.

While the two knives somewhat resemble one another, they feature quite distinctive designs and functions. Therefore, it’s a good idea to figure out their differences to ensure you pick the right choice for your cutting needs. Our detailed comparison can give you a head start.

Here’s the Difference Between Butcher Knife vs. Cleaver

The main difference between a butcher knife and a cleaver lies in their blade design. While a butcher knife is similar to a cleaver, the latter tends to have a lighter and thinner blade. Both knives are designed for cutting and splitting meat.

However, the relatively lighter and thinner cleaver blade allows for precision cutting, whether slicing meat or chopping vegetables. The thicker and heavier butcher knife blade makes it easy to cut through bones, split, and strip meat.

What Is a Butcher Knife?

What Is a Butcher Knife
Anatomy of a butcher knife

A butcher knife is a large knife with a wide, curved tip designed for butchering and dressing animal carcasses. The knife is built with a thick and heavy blade, making it easy to strip, split, and cut meat.

Additionally, the hard and flexible, razor-sharp blade design helps to optimize the knife’s functionality. Moreover, some butcher knives come with scalloped blades to improve cutting efficiency, preventing food from sticking to the blade when cutting.

While some cooks choose to have butcher knives in their homes, it is quite uncommon to find them in most households. For the most part, butcher knives are commonly used in professional kitchens in restaurants or in meat processing plants.

What Is a Butcher Knife Mostly Used For?

A butcher knife is primarily used for butchering and cutting large cuts of meat. You can also use it to skin large animals. They feature a curved blade design with sharp edges, making it easier to cut through thick meat and around bones.

Why Are Butcher Knives Curved?

The curved blade design on a butcher knife allows it to easily cut through thick meats and around bones. Furthermore, the long and curved design on the blade is ideal for trimming the fat from ribs and breaking down large meat cuts.

How Many Different Types of Butcher Knives Are There Available?

types of butcher knives
Butcher knives come in several varying types and designs. In addition to a traditional butcher knife, other knives considered to be a type of butcher knife include boning, skinning, cimeter, and breaking knife. In some instances, a meat cleaver is sometimes considered a type of butcher knife.

Benefits of Using a Butcher Knife

Butcher knives come with multiple benefits, including;

Comprehensive Design

A butcher knife features a comprehensive design, allowing you to process a full animal carcass into small retail size cuts. Thanks to the strong, long, and curved blade found on butcher knives, you can use them to butcher and break down large pieces of meat.

Strong and Heavy Blade

A butcher knife is built with a strong and heavy blade, preventing it from chipping or breaking during usage. This blade design also allows you to use the knife for cutting on thick or frozen cuts of meat and bone.

Razor-Sharp Blade

While the strong and heavy blade of a butcher knife cuts through the thickest meats, the razor-sharp design allows it to do so neatly and smoothly to prevent shredding the meat.


A butcher knife can be used by hunters, butchers, and even in meat processing plants.

Top 3 Recommended Butcher Knives for You

Unbeknownst to many people, a butcher knife helps cut down costs at home. After all, you can use it to instantly achieve the cut of meat you want. We’ve shared our top 3 picks for the best butcher knife to invest in your kitchen this year.

Dalstrong 10-inch NSF Certified Butcher Knife

Dalstrong 10-inch NSF Certified Butcher Knife
The Dalstrong 10-inch Butcher Breaking & Cimitar Knife features a 2-in-1 knife design. Its Cimitar function integrates a sleek, long, and curved blade that lets you cut large pieces of meat into smaller steak cuts. The intricately designed blade is also ideal for trimming large pieces of fats.

On the other hand, the breaking knife function makes it easier to break down carcasses, cutting through cartilage, small bone, and tough skin. The 10-inch butcher knife integrates a forged German ThyssenKrupp high carbon steel, giving it scalpel sharpness for seamless breaking, sectioning, and portioning of your meat.

Its tapered design optimizes its hardness and flexibility while minimizing slicing resistance. To accommodate the knife’s usage without fatigue, it comes with a luxury imported black G10 Garolite military-grade handle for optimal grip and maneuverability.

Global GF-27 7- inch Heavyweight Butcher’s Knife

Global GF-27 7- inch Heavyweight Butcher Knife
The Global GF-27 7-inch Heavyweight Butcher’s Knife is an excellent option for those who want optimal durability. The all-stainless steel knife is built with a high-tech Cromova stainless steel blade and handle. This construction gives the knife undisputed corrosion and rust resistance while protecting it from stains and discoloration.

Additionally, the blade features a face-ground with long taper construction. In turn, this allows the edge to retain its sharpness much longer. Furthermore, as the name suggests, the heavyweight knife is built with a heftier and thicker blade than standard butcher knives for effortless butchering.

On the other hand, the stainless steel handle is precision-molded for optimal comfort, while its unique darkened dimpled design offers a secure grip. Moreover, the handle is filled with just the right amount of sand for superior balance.

Wusthof Pro 10-inch Cimeter Knife

Wusthof Pro 10-inch Cimeter Knife
The Wusthof Pro 10-inch Cimeter Knife features a lightweight profile, making it easy for anyone, even beginners to control and balance it. Yet, the butcher knife is still built to meet the demands of a busy commercial kitchen. However, this is not all the butcher knife offers.

Built from premium quality materials, the cimeter knife offers a great bang for your money. The NSF-approved butcher knife integrates an ultra-sharp stainless alloyed steel blade for rust and corrosion resistance function.

The sharp stainless steel blade is also pretty easy to maintain, although it doesn’t require much, thanks to the long-lasting edge retention. On the other end of the knife is an ergonomically designed poly handle that delivers great grip and comfort.

What Is a Meat Cleaver?

What Is a Meat Cleaver
Anatomy of a meat cleaver

A meat cleaver is a large knife fitted with an equally large flat rectangular blade used for cutting meat, joints, dense bones, and cartilage. Its design allows you to use a meat cleaver for cutting and chopping large vegetables or fruits, such as cabbage, squash, pineapple, or grapefruit.

While meat cleaver has a large blade design, it is still lightweight and thin enough to handle delicate tasks, like crushing garlic and slicing meat.

What Is a Meat Cleaver Mostly Used For?

A meat cleaver is primarily built for cutting thick meat, cartilage, joints, and dense bones. However, you can also use it to cut thick vegetables and fruits, crush garlic, and slice boneless meat.

Why Is There a Hole in a Meat Cleaver?

The hole in a meat cleaver is purposefully included to make cutting easier, especially cutting through thick cuts of meats or bones. Using the hole, you can firmly hold the upper part of the cleaver with your fingers to enhance grip, stability, and balance during cutting.

The hole on the meat cleaver also prevents juices from the meat from making a mess, while also making the cleaning process easier.

How Many Different Types of Meat Cleavers Are There Available?

Different Types of Meat Cleavers
There are no distinctive types of meat cleavers separated by unique titles. Instead, meat cleavers are simply distinguished by their blade material and size. Like regular knives, you will find meat cleavers made from high carbon stainless steel and stainless steel, to name a few.

Benefits of Using a Meat Cleaver

Meat cleavers come with multiple benefits, the common being;


Using a meat cleaver, you will not only be able to cut through thick meat and bones. You can also use the same cleaver for various tasks. A meat cleaver allows you to mince, slice, and tenderize meat. You can even use a cleaver for scaling fish. Moreover, a meat cleaver comes in handy for cutting, chopping, slicing, crushing, and mincing different vegetables, including garlic.

Fine Blade

What separates a meat cleaver from other chunkier and hefty knives is its thin and lightweight blade. Thanks to this blade design, the knife is powerful enough to handle huge meat and bone cutting tasks, but forgiving enough to handle delicate tasks. So, you can use a meat cleaver to thinly slice meat without shredding it.

Tough Foods

The use of a meat cleaver is not limited to thick and large foods alone. You can also use it on tough and ultra-hard shell foods, such as crushing a coconut.

Is a Meat Cleaver and a Chinese Cleaver the Same?

A meat cleaver and a Chinese cleaver are both types of cleavers. However, they have slight variations. A meat cleaver is generally designed to butcher thick meats and dense bones. In fact, the larger the cleaver’s blade is, the bigger the bones a meat cleaver can handle.

On the other hand, Chinese cleavers have a slightly more forgiving job. Like meat cleavers, Chinese cleavers are quite versatile, allowing you to use them for slicing, chopping, and mincing meats and vegetables. However, a Chinese cleaver cannot handle tough jobs, such as butchering, cutting through bones, or handling hard shell foods like coconut.

Is There Any Difference Between Meat Cleaver and Vegetable Cleaver?

A meat cleaver and vegetable cleaver have slight differences in functions. Vegetable cleavers slightly resemble Chinese cleavers with a more attenuated design. A meat cleaver is primarily used for chopping thick cuts of meat and bones.

But, you can also use it for chopping, cutting, slicing, and crushing large vegetables, fruits, and meats. On the other hand, Vegetable cleavers tend to be shorter than meat and Chinese cleavers. They are usually used for smaller to medium-sized vegetables and fruits.

Top 3 Recommended Meat Cleavers for You

Here are put top 3 best picks for the best meat cleaver to own in your kitchen this year;

Dalstrong 9-inch Cleaver Knife

Dalstrong 9-inch Cleaver Knife
The Dalstrong Gladiator Series 9-inch Cleaver features an award-winning hefty finish made from premium quality materials to make it quite the versatile knife. The 9-inch cleaver is robust enough to effortlessly tackle different meats, bones, and pork.

Yet, its superior Forged ThyssenKrupp High Carbon German Steel blade remains light and sharp enough to handle poultry, fish, vegetables, and fruits. Additionally, the hand-polished cleaver blade is engineered with 56+ Rockwell hardness and has a smooth satin finish to complement any kitchen décor.

For even better performance, the cleaver is carefully tapered for even better flexibility, hardness, and minimal slicing resistance. Its tall blade height coupled with the Ambidextrous G10 Garolite handle deliver great grip and knuckle clearance for safe and comfortable use.

Henckels 6-inch Stainless Steel Meat Cleaver

Henckels 6-inch Stainless Steel Meat Cleaver
The relatively shorter blade of the Henckels 6-inch Meat Cleaver helps to enhance its versatility. You can work on different types of meat, including pork and poultry. The cleaver can be used for chopping through joints and bones, chopping thick cuts of meat, and neatly slicing your meat.

Thanks to the shorter blade, the cleaver is also an excellent option for chopping, mining, and slicing vegetables and fruits. What makes the cleaver unique is its ultra-robust blade on the otherwise smaller body. The full tang knife is built with powerful, fully forged stain-resistant German stainless steel.

The hot forged steel is also satin-finished and finely honed for long-lasting edge and precision cutting. To complement the blade is a full tang ergonomic traditional triple-riveted handle that offers a seamless transition from blade to handle.

Wüsthof Classic 6-inch Cleaver

Wüsthof Classic 6-inch Cleaver
The Wusthof 6-inch Classic Cleaver combines a stable single piece and ultra-sharp blade construction to deliver incredible performance, especially when dealing with thick and tough cuts. The cleaver features a single-piece precision-forged high carbon steel blade that delivers incredible stain and corrosion resistance.

The triple-riveted full tang cleaver features a strong enough blade to seamlessly break down large cuts of meat, cutting even through bones. Moreover, the cleaver integrated a patented Precision Edge Technology to complement the heavy German blade.

In turn, this makes the blade 20% sharper than standard knives and gives it twice the edge retention. The scalpel-sharp blade is also smooth enough for neatly mincing and chopping vegetables.

Main Differences Between Butcher Knife vs. Meat Cleaver

Butcher knife and meat cleaver
I looked at key factors to determine the difference between a butcher knife and a meat cleaver. Here are the key differences;


A butcher knife and cleaver are both designed to cut through thick meat and bones. However, as the name suggests, a butcher knife can handle a large animal carcass and is much heftier, transforming large cuts of meat into smaller ones.

A cleaver is also designed to handle thick cuts of meat and bones. However, its light and thinner blade improve its versatility. Therefore, you can also use it to neatly slice meats, and chop larger fruits and vegetables, without damaging them.

Blade Design

A butcher knife blade is slightly different from a cleaver’s blade. A butcher knife features a large blade with a curved design for easier maneuverability and cutting of thick meat. On the other hand, a cleaver has a wide, rectangular blade with a lightweight and ultra-sharp finish. The wide rectangular bald design enhances its versatility, letting you use it on meat, vegetables, and fruits.

Blade Length

On average, a butcher knife has a longer blade length, at about 6 inches to 14 inches. A meat cleaver is typically fitted with a blade that measures between 6 inches and 8 inches.

Bone Cutting Ability

Both butcher knives (particularly breaking knives) and meat cleavers can cut through bones. However, a meat cleaver does a particularly better job.  The bigger the blade, the bigger the bones your cleaver can handle.


A butcher knife has a slightly thicker and heavier blade than a cleaver. However, the lighter and slightly thinner cleaver blade improves its versatility. You can use the cleaver to slice meat, cut, chop, mince, and crush vegetables and fruits without damaging them.


A butcher knife typically handles larger meats (it is favored by butchers and hunters). Therefore, it tends to be much heavier than a cleaver.

Price Range

The price range of a butcher knife and cleaver are pretty much the same, depending on the size, material, and quality. You should expect to pay $80 on the low end and as high as $400 on the high end for either knife.

Which One Should You Choose Between Butcher Knife vs Cleaver?

The choice of whether to go for a butcher knife or cleaver highly depends on how you intend to use your knife. If you want to handle large chunks of meat or animal carcasses after camping, you are better off with a butcher knife.

On the other hand, if you want a more versatile knife to handle thick meat cuts, vegetables, and even fruits, a meat cleaver is a good option. You can use a cleaver interchangeably with your kitchen/chef’s knife.

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