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Nakiri vs Cleaver: The Verdict for Chefs and Home Cooks

Every chef loves a knife that can deliver the cuts as they want them. The Cleaver and the Nakiri knife are excellent cutting tools that perform some different tasks in both home and professional kitchens. But which of them should you buy? Which offers more value?

In this article, we will compare Cleaver vs Nakiri Knives and help you answer the critical questions on your mind.  

What are Meat Cleavers good for?

Cleaver is a popular tool amongst butchers around the world. So, you’re correct if you decide to call it a butcher’s knife because it helps the butcher cut through meat seamlessly. 

However, it’s different from the traditional butcher knife which is equally crafted to cut through thick meat. A butcher won’t get that from the average kitchen knife because it lacks the strength and composition to get the job done. 

What are meat cleavers good for?

Furthermore, the cleaver is typically a large knife that boasts substantial steel in its blade to do the hard work. The blade’s shape varies with some manufacturers but it’s typically almost rectangular and well wider than other types of kitchen knives

Apart from that, the blade usually features a tough, sharply beveled edge that has the enormous power to repeatedly cut into cartilage, meat, and also small bone. However, the cleaver doesn’t always rely on the blade’s sharpness, it also uses momentum to power through cartilage and bone.  

Like most kitchen knives, the cleaver has Western-style and Japanese-style variants. Different butchers have their preferences depending on their location. For instance, those in the United States strongly prefer the thicker-bladed, heavy-duty Western type.   

The cleaver, measuring between 6 to 12 inches, is most often found in restaurants and butcheries. Some home chefs who prefer to prepare their meat also use the cleaver. Like we suggested earlier, the blade’s thickness can range sharply based on the purpose of the cut. A less thick cleaver is likely to be seen in a domestic kitchen.

The cleaver is ideal for splitting thicker and larger vegetables and splitting meat from the bone.  

What is a Nakiri knife used for?

Nakiri is a traditional Japanese kitchen knife. In Japanese, ‘Na’ means leaf while ‘kiri’ means cut. That means Nakiri is primarily designed to cut leaves or vegetables. It is typically a double-beveled knife, meaning both sides are sharpened to deliver your desired cuts. 

What is a Nakiri knife used for?

Also, the knife boasts a flat blade without any point or belly and a straight edge that makes it perfect for accurate chopping and push-cutting on the board. With this Japanese kitchen tool, controlled fine cutting in the hand is also a breeze.  

Nakiri, the vegetable specialist, is either hand-forged or factory produced. Regardless of the knife’s construction process, it’s a reliable tool to have in your kitchen. While it won’t cut through thick meat, it’s the perfect knife to slice vegetables for your favorite soup and salad.  

Measuring around 5 – 7 inches,  the Nakiri is the chef’s dream knife. Apart from helping with most kitchen tasks, it’s also easy to sharpen and maintain. With home-standard sharpening tools such as whetstone and ceramic wheel, you’re good to go. 

Ease of use is another feature that stands the Nakiri out. For instance, you need some training to handle the cleaver to prevent accidents, the Nakiri only requires basic precautions to use. That means any grownup in the family can use the Nakiri without incident. 

Features (Face to Face) 

FeatureCleaver Nakiri 
Length 6-12 inches 5-7 inches 
Weight Heavyweight Lightweight 
Construction Forged Forged or Stamped 
Blade material Stainless steel Japanese stainless steel 
Bevel Single Double  

Cleaver vs Nakiri Standout Features 

After comparing the main features of the cleaver and Nakiri, we will discuss their standout features below:  

1. Splitting meat from the bone

The biggest advantage of the cleaver is its hefty construction which aims to cut thick types of meat such as pork, chicken, beef, amongst others. With the cleaver, you can split the meat from the bone without hassle. The Nakiri lacks the power to help you the job. The cleaver takes the crown in this aspect.

2. Chopping 

By now, you’re aware that the Nakiri knife’s main function is to cut vegetables. While it does this job well, it has limitations. For instance, it can easily cut through vegetables such as carrots, cucumbers, amongst others but it doesn’t have the power to cut through thicker and larger vegetables such as squash and melons. The cleaver, on the other hand, is perfect for heavy chopping

Having to make a choice here is simple. You can decide to choose the Nakiri due to its ability to cut smaller vegetables or choose the cleaver due to its ability to cut larger vegetables. With the cleaver, you can easily chop squash to make your favorite Sautéed Yellow Squash recipe.  

3. Dicing

As we mentioned earlier, the cleaver has different levels of thickness. A smaller cleaver can be used for quickly dicing fruits and vegetables in your kitchen. On the other hand, dicing is not a strong suit of the Nakiri knife.  

4. All-purpose

If you have a budget for only one of cleaver and Nakiri, you’re probably wondering which offers more purposes. That’s a very smart question because every buyer wants the best value for their money. The Nakiri is a better-suited knife for overall home use and offers different cutting functions than the more rigid cleaver. 

Apart from cutting vegetables, the Nakiri helps to prep for many other dishes. Cleaver will only help you with cutting heavy foods.  


After comparing Cleaver vs Nakiri, it’s clear that both are kitchen knives, albeit designed for different functions. For instance, the Cleaver is the knife you employ for cutting larger and thicker vegetables and meat while the Nakiri is better placed to cut the smaller vegetables. 

The cleaver also requires a professional touch which doesn’t matter with the more convenient Nakiri. In our opinion, you should choose the cleaver if you like to prepare your meat but if you don’t mind the butcher helping you, the Nakiri is the better choice with more value. If you have the budget for both, you can go for both and enjoy their numerous offerings.  

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