Our highest-rated vegetable cleaver is light, sharp, and nimble, making vegetable prep a breeze.
Testers who handled this knife wanted to take it home. Rectangular Asian vegetable cleavers have a straighter edge that, unlike the edges on Western-style knives, stays in contact with food as you cut, ostensibly streamlining vegetable prep. Also, whereas meat cleavers have thick, heavy blades with a blunter edge for hacking through bone, vegetable cleavers have thin blades that gently taper to a honed edge for cleanly slicing vegetables, delicate foods, and boneless meats. Watch the video.
MAC Knife Japanese Series 6½-Inch Japanese Vegetable Cleaver
This small, lightweight cleaver was razor-sharp and easy to control. Just about every tester who handled this knife wanted to take it home. It sailed through all of our tests, slicing through even butternut squash more effortlessly than heftier Chinese cleavers did.
TYPE Nakiri STEEL Molybdenum SPINE THICKNESS 1.9 mm
Made in Japan Hand Wash Only
How We Tested Vegetable Cleavers
We found two types of vegetable cleavers: Chinese-style cleavers (also known as Chinese chef’s knives) look like meat cleavers but are more slender and versatile; besides chopping vegetables and fruits, they’re also used for slicing boneless meats and mincing and crushing aromatics. Japanese-style vegetable cleavers (available either as double-bevel nakiri or single-bevel usuba) are shorter, resembling squared-off santoku, and are primarily used for cutting vegetables.
We chose seven knives—three Chinese cleavers, three nakiri, and one usuba—priced from $30 to $190 and used them to dice onions, mince parsley, slice potatoes, and quarter butternut squash.
Taller, heavier Chinese cleavers were easier to guide through large vegetables, and we found that their heft did most of the work. But they were too unwieldy for some testers, who preferred smaller, lighter Japanese blades.
None of the cleavers was completely square; all had a bit of a curve toward the tip of the knife. Our least favorite Chinese-style cleaver had almost no curve, and its tip dug into the cutting board when mincing parsley, leaving splinters in our food and gashes in the board. Blades with too much curve needed a lot of rocking to cut fully through potatoes. Our favorites had moderate curves.
We found little difference between the double-edged nakiri and the single-edged usuba until we tried cutting through butternut squash, when the single-edged blade pulled to one side, making it difficult to control. Nakiri cleavers are preferable for cutting straight slices, while usubas are intended for extremely thin vegetable slices and require some skill to use correctly.
Tearing It Up
Blade width turned out to be the most important factor. Slimmer blades glided effortlessly through food; thicker blades with a more pronounced, V-shaped taper from spine to cutting edge worked like a wedge, tearing instead of slicing. At the spine, the blades we tested ranged from less than 2 millimeters thick to more than 3 millimeters thick. The thicker the spine, the worse the knife performed.
The MAC Knife Japanese Series 6½-Inch Japanese Vegetable Cleaver won every test, hands down.
・Weighs less than 5 ounces (the lightest model we tested)
・Moderate curve toward the knife’s tip eases prep work
・Double-edged nakiri blade cuts straight slices
・Thin, 1.9-millimeter spine helps knife glide through food
・A pleasure to use when chopping vegetables