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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 Cleavers and Nakiri Knives to help you choose the best solution for your kitchen.  

What are Meat Cleavers good for?

The Cleaver is popular with butchers because it can cut through meat seamlessly. 

However, the Cleaver is different from the traditional butcher knife which is also designed to cut through thick meat. Butchers cannot achieve the same cutting power from average kitchen knives because they lack 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 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?

The traditional Nikiri Japanese Kitchen Knife is primarily designed to cut green leaves and vegetables. In Japanese, Nakiri translates as ‘Na’ or leaf, and ‘kiri’ which means to cut. The Nakiri is typically a double-beveled knife where both sides are sharpened to deliver greater cutting power. 

What is a Nakiri knife used for?

Also, the Nakiri has a flat blade without a knife point or belly. Its straight edge is 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 a whetstone and a ceramic wheel, you are 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  

best types of knives

What Are The Types Of Knives And Their Uses?

As an authority on knives, the Knife Buzz team pride ourselves on knowing the true ins and outs of every blade that we can get our hands on. However, with so many blades, it can be a lot to keep track of.

That’s why we have created this ultimate knife buying guide for both novices and professionals. This guide covers all types of knives and will you help get the best tools for your needs. We have also provided some general maintenance and safety tips for beginners who are new to the knife world.

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 is designed to cut big chunks 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 

The Nakiri knife is best for cutting 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 and the Nakiri, it’s clear that both are good kitchen knives, albeit designed for different functions. 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 is not required 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 and offers more value. If you have the budget, buy both knife styles.  

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