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What's the one indispensable all-purpose knife? Ask the Chinese.

The Chinese equivalent of the French chef's knife, this broadbladed cleaver is rapidly gaining converts. The reasons for its popularity are simple-it's versatile and easy to use, and generally costs less than its European counterpart.

At first, the blocky design of the blade may seem awkward to handle. But witb practice, you'll find it amazingly comfortable. In these pictures, master chef and cookbook author Martin Yan shows how many uses it has.

With the weight concentrated evenly into a relatively short length, the broad, rectangular blade offers several advantages. Good balance makes it easier to cut through dense food, such as winter squash or chicken bones, by hacking (see lower left picture, opposite). The cleaver's short length requires less space for cutting, making it more maneuverable in a tight area. Turn the knife over, and the dull edge doubles as a mallet for tenderizing tough meats. Even the blade's side can be usefulas a convenient spatula to transfer cut food or smash garlic.

Cleavers are commonly graded by weight and size from I through 4-heavy to light. The most functional for the home cook is the medium-lightweight grade 3 blade, which can be used as an all-purpose knife to slice meats and vegetables. Grades 1 and 2-most commonly used by professional chefsare larger and designed to chop through dense bones, such as spareribs.

All sizes are available in carbon, stainless, and high-carbon stainless steel. The last choice combines the best of the other two-it has carbon steel's sharp edge and resists corrosion. Prices range from $6 to $17 for carbon blades, $10 to $27 for stainless, and $30 to $50 for good-quality high-carbon stainless (however, European-made Chinese-style cleavers can cost as much as $ 80). A top-of-the-line French chef's knife of comparable size and quality can cost $70. Look for true Chinese cleavers in cutlery stores, department stores, and Asian food and hardware stores.

Maintain a cleaver as you would any knife: keep sharp by using a steel and stone, wipe dry after use, and protect the edge when you store it. To wash, don't soak the cleaver in water for a long time or put in a dishwasher.
COPYRIGHT 1988 Sunset Publishing Corp.
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Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Oct 1, 1988
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