Ask 10 chefs what their favorite knife is and you’ll get 10 different answers—and rightly so. There’s much to consider when choosing a knife, including your cooking style, the ingredients you prep most often, and your experience in the kitchen. I could go on and on about why you should get this carbon steel chef’s knife or that Japanese nakiri, but with so many options out there, your only real criteria should be finding one that 1) makes you feel like a boss when you’re holding it, 2) is relatively sharp, and 3) works for your culinary purposes. Beyond that, you risk losing yourself in the weeds.
Many years ago, on my first day working in a prep kitchen where I cut produce and made sauces all day, I thought it would be super cool if I rolled up with the sickest knife in the building. But once I got to my station and set everything up, my colleague took one look at my knife and said, “Bro, you don’t wanna use that on sweet potatoes and squash for the next three hours. Go across the street to the international market and get one of these.” He held up a humongous Chinese cleaver that looked like something from a Friday the 13th movie. “This shit is like 10 dollars, and it’s all you’ll need to do this job.” I learned a valuable lesson that day: In the kitchen, it’s function over form. (A secondary lesson is, of course, that nobody cares about your knife, no matter how cool you think it is.) So, I followed his advice and picked up what’s now my favorite knife, the Winco Chinese Cleaver.
Sitting pretty with a solid three-and-a-half-inch-wide, eight-inch-long blade, this knife is surprisingly light for its size, but still packs a strong, thorough force when you bring it down on carrots, beets, or other tough-to-cut ingredients. It’s also sharp and agile enough to slice cucumber, zucchini, mushrooms, or even herbs with solid accuracy. When I prep fruits and vegetables for my daily morning juice, I truly look forward to decimating—er, precisely cutting—my celery, kale, and lemons. Dexter-Russell has a very good version of the Chinese-style cleaver that’s a bit more expensive, but these days, I’m more than satisfied with this affordable alternative from Winco.
The Winco cleaver’s large, rectangular blade also offers a few great benefits: First, its surface area makes it easy to slice a ton of vegetables without constantly having to clear the blade—that sucker can hold a lot of zucchini on it, and, as long as you’re careful, doubles as a bench scraper. Secondly, its flat side is great for smashing garlic or even crushing spices if you need to (though I recommend just getting a cheap mortar and pestle for the latter). And, despite the knife’s size, it’s not too heavy and feels balanced in your hand. On that note, if you like the Chinese cleaver style but need something a little more serious to cut through tougher meat, connective tissue, and small to medium bones, Winco also has a heavier version of the same knife.
Since my great knife awakening, I’ve noticed Chinese cleavers everywhere: from fast casual burger joints and fine dining restaurants to Italian spots and more. Clearly, real chefs agree that using a huge, inexpensive cleaver (when appropriate) is the ultimate kitchen hack (pun intended, thank you). Of course, it’s not the only knife you’ll need; if you’re doing something like breaking down a chicken or deboning a fish, you’re going to want to get something specifically for those tasks. But if you’re just chopping shit—and let's be honest, most of us are—this is a great way to go.
TL;DR: This knife isn’t particularly flashy or sexy. But, it's a cult fave because it’s a workhorse in the kitchen, and truly does make me feel cool when I use it—which is the most important part of cooking (or doing anything). When I pull this bad boy down off the knife magnet in my kitchen, I feel like Thor with his hammer, ready to absolutely annihilate any foes (read: veggies) stupid enough to get in my path. Plus, I think there’s an unspoken rule in the kitchen which dictates that the bigger and crazier your knife looks, the more people are scared of you and assume that you know what you’re doing. For that, Winco’s Chinese cleaver definitely hits the mark.
The Winco Chinese Cleaver is available at Amazon.
Want more reviews, recommendations, and red-hot deals? Sign up for our newsletter.