Meat cleavers are an essential staple in any home cook’s kitchen, and like any knife, you need to keep them sharp in order to use them properly. Although sharpening a meat cleaver takes a little care and caution, it’s not difficult to accomplish. Sure, you could send it out for professional servicing, but it’s mostly inconvenient and unnecessary. Moreover, the ability to sharpen your own knives is a fundamental kitchen skill every cook needs. Unlike other types of knives, you use a very shallow angle for these large choppers. I will walk you through everything you need and give you a step by step breakdown on how to sharpen your cleavers. Once you get used to it, it only takes a moment or two. Best of all, once you have the skill and minimal equipment, you’ll never have to deal with the frustration of a dull cleaver again.
How do you sharpen a meat cleaver? You sharpen a meat cleaver working from hilt to tip in one smooth motion. Typically the angle you’re looking for is between thirty and twenty-two and a half degrees. That’s three-fourths to a half of a forty-five-degree angle. However, depending on the age, wear, and style of your cleaver, you may need to profile it first.
Steps To Sharpen Your Cleaver
This technique is how you sharpen a cleaver on a flat sharpener. You will have a wider surface area to work with, and this is overall much easier and safer. You can opt for other methods, but this is the one I suggest for both beginners and professionals.
- Choose your sharpener. There are several styles available, but I suggest a whetstone. This wide, flat sharpening surface works best for a cleaver.
- Decide if your cleaver needs profiling. This is when you first give the edge an overall shaping. Typically you do this for dull-shipped or older edge-damaged cleavers. You will use the same technique for sharpening, but at a shallower 22.5 angle. This gives an overall blade shape and removes any burs.
- Wet your stone. This is essential to the sharpening process. A dry whetstone doesn’t work the same.
- Grasp the handle in one hand and place the top end of your knife on the sharpener at the appropriate 30-degree angle.
- There are two strokes. You’ll be flipping the blade from one side to the next as you go.
- First, pulling the backside of your cleaver toward your body with the blade facing outward to prevent injury. The edge of your blade needs to move along the sharpener as you work so that you get the full edge with each stroke. Don’t be alarmed by the grinding sensation, it’s normal.
- When you flip it to the other side, you will be pushing away from your body, but the opposite side of the blade will be down on your stone. Doing this sharpens both sides evenly.
- Take time to put more water on your whetstone frequently. It should always be wet.
Make sure to watch your angles. Too steep an angle will ruin your blade. Meanwhile, a shallow angle will result in either an unsharpened blade or a very keen edge that is thin and frail. Moreover, always wipe down your newly sharpened cleaver before using it to avoid getting grit from your stone and small particles of metal in your food.
A Chefic Whetstone Set from Amazon is a superb way to keep your knives sharp. The nonslip bamboo base is helpful regardless of your skill level. Moreover, with four optional grits on two double-sided stones, you have more options for sharpening all your blades. Plus, Chefic offers a hundred percent, risk-free satisfaction guarantee for thirty days, so you have time to test the product. For more information, click here.
Quick Cleaver Sharpening Tips
It’s important to know your knife. An old or blunt, straight bladed cleaver is not quite the same as a curved cleaver. You may need to adjust your sharpening techniques to match the features of your knife, and the process I describe is for these common straight-edged blades.
If you are uncertain about sharpening your knife, then watch videos of experts doing this task. There are many resources, and visual learners may find it easier to understand the process when they see it done first. Similarly, you can ask a professional to show you how it’s done. You’ll find that many knife sharpeners and chefs love to discuss their trade and will happily share their favorite techniques.
While it is important to use more than one grit on your blade, you want to avoid having the gaps between sizes be overlarge. For example, you wouldn’t want to use a two-hundred to shape, followed by a five thousand to sharpen, then twenty thousand to polish. Using a pre-made set helps you avoid this issue.
I recommend the CWINDY Whetstones Set with Angle Guide for its excellent versatility. Using the guide and four grit options will help you to get a sharp cleaver more easily. CWINDY puts all its stones through three quality control checks and over a dozen different processes to ensure reliability. To see the Amazon reviews, click here.
Finally, always take the time to practice. Pick up a second blade of similar shape and thickness. You can find these at dollar stores and thrift shops easily. Rather than risking your best equipment on learning, it is worth five dollars to grab a cheap copy for trial runs. Building up your confidence, along with skill, is key to knife sharpening. By not worrying about damage to an inexpensive knife, you can try different techniques and work on your angle-precision.
Cleaver Care Tips
In addition to sharpening, you need to take care of your handle and blade. If your cleaver has a wooden handle, take the time to oil it occasionally to prevent drying out and cracking. Moreover, while many cleavers are dishwasher compatible, I always recommend hand washing with a mild detergent immediately after use and then drying completely with a towel or soft cloth before you put your knife away.
Choosing a Whetstone
Choosing the right whetstone for sharpening your cleaver is essential. Consider both the features and your needs. For example, a kit with multiple grits is ideal for most kitchens because it offers you the ability to use a coarse grit to profile knives and remove burrs. Meanwhile, you can use the finer grit side to hone your edge into a wicked chopping blade.
In general, you need a low-number grit for the rough work and options from one to twenty-five thousand on the finer side. However, the size of the stone also matters. A small stone is okay for pocket knives, but you’ll have a tough time working on a larger cleaver with a three-inch stone.
This is one case where bigger is better. Search for stones at least six inches long and three inches wide. Additionally, a base that holds your whetstone in place can be incredibly helpful. Since you’re already working with a wet stone and a sharp knife, any feature that adds stability and helps prevent unintended slippage is a significant advantage.
Use the lowest-numbered stone in your set for shaping a dull blade or removing large imperfections. This is the roughest grit. After that, you’ll want a one to three thousand grit to make the blade sharper. Finally, you need to go over the edge with the finer grades (higher numbers) to smooth out the finished product. Doing this will help keep your cleaver sharper for a longer time and make it look nicer as well.
The beautiful SHAN ZU Whetstone Knife Sharpening Stone Set from Amazon is a superb example of a simple, easy to store whetstone that works well on all your kitchen blades. With both a rougher one-thousand grit and a finer five thousand stone, you can work out any burs and still make a nice sharp edge. Plus, the base also has a perfectly fitted matching lid and a fix stone to level your sharpener. Have one delivered to your door by clicking here.
By learning the simple process of sharpening your own cleavers, you will always have a functional knife in the kitchen. There’s nothing more frustrating than going to prepare a meal, and finding your blade won’t hack it. Or, more accurately, hacking is the best a dull blade can manage. This leads to messy meals, wasted time, and sore hands.
Make sure you take the time to practice. I recommend using a cheap blade rather than your best kitchen utensils for this as it will wear the blade down. Moreover, always remember to sharpen away from your body to avoid unfortunate accidents. No one want’s to get cut by their own knife.
A good sharp cleaver will keep you in clean cuts for as long as you own that knife. Don’t deal with inconvenient professional sharpening and dull blades when you could be cooking in less than five minutes with a home sharpened cleaver.