I love many things about chef J.Kenji Lopez-Alt, not least his fantastic name, but today I'm enamored of his take on the cleaver. A cleaver is both metaphorically and literally a blunt instrument, he writes at Serious Eats:
…avoid expensive Japanese or German cleavers, period. If they sell it at Williams-Sonoma, you don't want it. A cleaver is meant to be only for the toughest of the tough jobs, and will get beat up. It doesn't require the razor sharp edge-maintaining abilities of expensive German or Japanese steel, so there's no sense in paying over-the-odds prices for one when cheaper models are just as serviceable.
There's more, and it's all a breath of fresh air. I particularly like Lopez-Alt's brisk shredding of the $160 Shen Kun Onion Meat Cleaver, which he figures costs about $145 too much: Please. Unless you need a simultaneously pretty and menacing tool to perform ritual sacrifices with, it has no business anywhere near a real kitchen. His final recommendation is the very unsexy General Purpose Cleaver Knife with Wood Handle from Dexter-Russell. At $40 it's more than twice as pricey as Lopez-Alt's all-time favorite cleaver, which he picked up for $15 at a restaurant supply store in Boston. But the Dexter-Russell will do the job, he writes, and more — it will deliver "a lifetime of joyful chicken-hacking."