Understanding your kitchenware is a good place to start if you want to become a better and more organized cook in general.
This is particularly important when deciding what to use for meat or vegetable slicing. So, what is the difference between a meat cleaver & vegetable cleaver?
The design of the blade is what distinguishes a meat cleaver from a vegetable cleaver. A meat cleaver is a tool with a hefty, thick blade designed to chop tough meats and bones.
A vegetable cleaver, on the other hand, has a lighter, thinner blade that you may use to slice and cut vegetables, fruit, and even boneless meats. In short, a meat cleaver is heavier and made with hardened steel.
So, apart from knowing when to skip the curry and use more oregano, learning which cleaver works in what situation is crucial.
Below we have compared the two cleavers to assist you in understanding the differences.
Meat Cleaver vs Vegetable Cleaver: Primary Differences
1. The Design
Even if they follow a similar outline, the two cleavers have visible discerning aspects as well. For example, a meat cleaver is typically thick and tough enough to handle the task of cutting through the toughest chunks of meat while still on the bone.
Naturally, these cleavers pack a lot of weight, and handling them is a learned skill. You will find that most meat cleavers have wide blades, and the reason is to ensure they can cut through all sorts of foods.
So, if you struggle to put a dent in a bony piece with a regular kitchen knife, a few hacks with a meat cleaver might get the job done. Most models also feature a hole that makes hanging the cleavers easy.
A vegetable cleaver looks like a meat cleaver; thus, it is easy to confuse the two. However, there are slight but vital differences in its build. As a result, this adds up to their specific usages, though they also overlap in certain areas.
So, a vegetable cleaver is ideal for chopping mushy vegetables and fruits. You can also use it to cut boneless meat. In general, these cleavers use bit more compact designs and even pointy ends.
Keep in mind however that having a sharp blade does not always equate to getting the job done. A vegetable cleaver has specific purposes, so it may be tedious to use it for something outside those limits. Plus, you might end up chipping the blade if you’re not careful.
2. The Knife’s Material
The blade of a meat cleaver is typically between 7 and 8 inches and is also highly sharp to make cutting easy and quick. The thickness of the blade ranges between ¼ and 3/16 of an inch.
While companies also produce thicker blades for more extreme tasks, these measures tend to slice quicker and easier. A meat cleaver typically has a Rockwell Hardness Rating (HRC) ranging between 55 and 58.
Note that the best products have an HRC rating of 60 and above. The Rockwell Hardness Rating of a knife represents the strength and hardness of the components.
In this case, this unit of measurement allows you to understand the cutting efficacy of the cleaver. Hence, you can get a picture of the knife’s quality just by discovering this value.
The blade of a vegetable cleaver is usually 6 to 8 inches wide. Hence, compared to a meat cleaver, you will notice there is not much difference between the blade width.
So, if you pick any cleaver based on the blade width, you may choose the wrong one.
However, there is a marked difference in the thickness of the blades. While the meat cleaver boasts a blade that can be a half-inch thick, you won’t find a vegetable cleaver thicker than ⅓ of an inch.
This makes it similar to some types of chef’s knives. So, it is a better choice for delicate and intricate cuts and slices.
The Rockwell Hardness Rating or HRC of a typical vegetable cleaver usually sits at 54. Some brands try to reach 56, but those are exceptions.
Therefore, you can find vegetable cleavers that you can also use for most chunks of meat. Again, even if thinner than the meat-cutting variant, these cleavers will require some getting used to.
The flexibility of any blade depends on a few factors, such as thickness. However, this is not always the case as there are noticeably thick blades with surprising flexibility.
That said, a meat cleaver is less flexible than a vegetable cleaver. The reason lies in the significant difference in blade thickness. Although the meat cleaver’s blade lacks flexibility, it makes up for it in strength and durability.
4. Which Type to Use
You can use a meat cleaver to cut meat and vegetables. Similarly, you can use a vegetable cleaver for the same tasks, save for a few exceptions. Therefore, take your pick with consideration to what you often work with.
If you have to chop meat with bones, a vegetable cleaver won’t excel at this task. Even if you put a lot of force into each chop, the process will be slow and inefficient.
On the other hand, a meat cleaver can cut tough meat, bone, and vegetables. However, it does not have the thinness needed to perform delicate cuts and slices.
Hence, it’s best to equip your kitchen with both types. This is more important if you cook for a large family every day.
Related Reading: Chinese Cleaver vs Chef’s Knife: What’s the Difference?
The most crucial difference between a meat cleaver and a vegetable cleaver is their purpose. You may not distinguish them at a glance, especially if you seldom hold one.
However, if you try to use a vegetable cleaver to cut meat with bone, you’ll soon ace fatigue.
The same is true if you try making delicate slices with a meat cleaver. You can check the blade; if it is noticeably thick and rigid, it is probably a meat cleaver. So, blade thinness and flexibility are what makes a good vegetable cleaver.