All about the Chinese Chef's Knife

All about the Chinese Chef’s Knife

What is a Chinese Chef's Knife? What are Chinese Knives used for? Why is it different from a Japanese knife? We answer these questions and every other you might have about Chinese Chef's Knife.

A Giant with surprisingly fine Qualities

Gude Alpha Series Chai-Dao Knive
Gude Alpha Series Chai-Dao Knive with a ice-hardened chrome-vanadium-molybdenum blade

The Chinese cooking knife or cleaver

From every kitchen in China, a commanding chef’s knife for everything with a distinctively Chinese design has been at work every day for many generations. It is used by the trained natives to conjure up all of the large quantities of bite-sized veggies, meat, and fish that Chinese cuisine is famed for producing. The so-called overhand maneuver is the key to mastering the delicate handling of this monster. If this is what you are looking for, and you enjoy fast Asian pressure cutting, you have arrived at the correct place. Fans of the cradle cut will get their money’s worth as well.

What is a Chinese Chef’s Knife?

Despite what appears to be a contradiction, the large-sized Chinese Chef’s Knife, which looks more like a hatchet, is a universal tiny and fine cutting master, capable of performing a variety of tasks. The Duo Dao is sometimes referred to as a Chinese cleaver in some circles. Asian chopping refers to chopping or pressure cutting in this context. Because it is narrow and extremely sharp, sweeping axe strokes are not permitted. Made for slicing or sticking into slices or sticks ranging from finger-thick to wafer-thin.

The Chinese Chef’s Knife Profile

  • All-rounder for chopping vegetables and fruit, filleting and skinning meat and fish, and many other tasks.
  • Dimensions of the blade: 6.3 inches (ca. 16 cm) to 8.3 inches (ca. 21 cm) by 2.4 inches (ca. 6 cm) to 3.9 inches (ca. 10 cm), with a thickness of 0.07 inches (ca 1.8 mm) to 0.15 inches (ca. 4 mm).
  • Weight 3.9 ounces (ca. 147 g) to over 14 ounces (ca. 529 g).
  • Sharpness is achieved by using a high bevel on both sides.
  • Outline in the shape of a rectangle (Santoku like with the Chai-Dao)
  • There is hardly a curved wading line, except for the special form Chai-Dao.
  • Hand guide in over grip: thumb and forefinger on the blade mirror
Tamahagane-San - A traditional Chinese Chef's Knife
Tamahagane-San – A traditional Chinese Chef’s Knife

Knife Anatomy: Enormous Blade, the Handle and Variations

The Shape

Generally speaking, the blade of the Chinese chef’s knife is rectangular in shape, with a straight back that extends beyond the handle, a slightly curved cutting line, and a right-angled, extremely high front edge.

The Bevel

The bevel is always ground on both sides and is extremely sharp in its edge shape. As a result, depending on the hardness of the substance, coarse and hard things can be a hazard to the organism. As is common with most Asians, the center of gravity of the blade is located toward the back of the blade, resulting in a knife that is slightly top-heavy. For stability and balance, almost all forged models feature a prominent bolster, which is a large transition between the blade and the handle.

The Handle

Genuine Chinese items, which are hard to come by in the USA, have basic hardwood handles with a round to oval cross-section. Many Chinese prefer the more ergonomic standard handles of European mimics over the more traditional Chinese handles. Chinese knives from Japan come in a range of shapes and sizes, ranging from the conventional oval to the chestnut form (which has one longitudinal edge on each side) to hexagonal and octagonal shapes. Material for the handles ranges from excellent woods to high-quality plastics and steel, with something to fit every preference.

Not to be confused with Cleaver

The Chinese utility knife appears to be similar in appearance to the Western cleaver or kitchen cleaver, although it weighs a fraction of the latter’s weight. The western equivalent, on the other hand, is designed for rough work and is handled similarly to a wooden axe. It is less ideal for cutting tasks. The Deba from Japan is similar in appearance. This meat knife, on the other hand, is twice as strong, is ground on one side, is pointed, and is shorter.

Furthermore, in the chef’s knife range from China, there is an intermediate form to the Santoku: the Chai-Dao (also written Qie Dao), which is visually similar to its rectangular predecessor but more functionally similar to the Japanese chef’s knife.

Application: “Encroaching” fast chopping

Overgrip is a characteristic aspect of working with a large-area knife: at the very least, the thumb and forefinger rest against the blade and hold it vertically as you cut across huge areas. This implies that you do a lot of your work with your wrist, manage the weight of the knife, and regulate the cutting angle with great precision.

This is something that takes time and effort to master. With the exception of filigree carving and filleting, you will soon be able to cut everything small and delicate using the Asian chop or pressure cut, which involves fast up and down movements with just minor back and forth movement. Additionally, cradle cutting is feasible, particularly when using the Chai-Dao form variant, as well as freehand slicing in the horizontal plane. The back of the blade destroys bones and backbones, and the full-width blade also squeezes and spatters at times, according to the manufacturer.

Because of the outstanding height, you can slice even the largest cabbages without straying from the straight line or putting your fingers in danger: ” The crop is held in a claw grip by one hand, and the knuckles of that hand glide safely along the blade surface. Meanwhile, the guide hand’s fingers always remain a certain distance above the surface of the water. The majority of the labor is done for you by the weight of your hand, so you do not get too fatigued. Create the tiniest carrot leaves, clear onion slices, and melt-in-your-mouth fillet pieces in a fraction of the time it takes Chinese chefs.

Blade Material for Chinese Chef’s Knives

Good Chinese knives perform two delicate balancing acts at the same time: first, they strike a balance between respectable size and manageability, and second, they combine razor sharpness with the robustness that is acceptable for everyday usage. Great steels serve as the foundation for this, and they are processed with a high level of expertise and knowledge. True Chinese knives, on the other hand, are extremely difficult to come across and are instead found in the series of some German or Japanese makers. Some blades are equipped with machined dents, sometimes known as dimples, which are intended to minimize the adhesion of clippings to the blade.

Carbon Steel – Perfect Sharpness

Roselli R730 with Carbon Steel Blade
Roselli R730 with Carbon Steel Blade

A combination of iron and carbon provides the highest level of hardness (HRC 60 to 66), sharpness, and edge retention available. The incredibly tiny internal structure enables the use of exceptionally thin blades and the steepest bevel angles possible in the blade design. Carbon, on the other hand, makes the material more prone to breaking. By forging and hardening, the raw material is brought to its optimum performance level. The designations Shirogami (white paper steel), pure carbon steel, and mildly alloyed Aogami (blue paper steel) are all used to describe typical Japanese top grades (blue paper steel).

Advantages: There are few blades that are as sharp as these, and re-sharpening is a simple process when it is required. Many people also appreciate the traditional patina.

Disadvantages: Because it is not stainless and is rather brittle, it needs to be cleaned, dried, and oiled as soon as possible. Blows, canting, and hard work can cause it to fall off or come loose at any time.

Ideal for you if: You enjoy watching your knife glide into soft butter for several days, immediate attention and caution are a part of your working style in any case, and you appreciate the rustic “worn look.”

THE choice for ambitious chefs, whether for hobby or at work

Stainless Steel – Inox Steel

Rustproof and tough due to alloying

SHI BA ZI ZUO with Stainless Steel Blade

Solingen’s reliability is based mostly on complex CMV or CVM (chrome-molybdenum-vanadium) stainless steels for Chinese chef’s knives, which are hardened using sophisticated hardening procedures. Occasionally, they are available as low-cost X50CrMoV15 or as unique melts developed specifically for the maker. It is possible to generate good harnesses ranging from 50 to 56 HRC in this manner. Stainless steel from Nippon achieve a little bit more in this application: AUS8 steel up to 59 HRC, VG10 steel up to 61, VG12 steel, or VG MAX steel are also excellent choices.

ZWILLING TWIN Signature 7-inch Chinese Chef's Knife
ZWILLING TWIN Signature 7-inch Chinese Chef’s Knife

Advantages: Stainless steels that are corrosion-resistant and brilliant, and which, due to their softer flexibility, are forgiving of minor application errors. Only high-performance steels can be ground sufficiently sharp, maintain their sharpness for a long period of time that is practical, and provide good value for money.

Disadvantages: Steel knives are always relatively thick and hefty due to the nature of the material used to manufacture them. Because the material is never as sharp as carbon steel, you will have to use the whetstone more frequently to keep it sharp.

If you are just getting started with the usage of a Chinese chef’s knife or do not require it on a regular basis, this is the knife for you. Also great if you are searching for a solid instrument that is not too sharp and does not require a lot of effort.

Beginners, occasional cooks, and professionals can all benefit from a knife with this blade.

Layer Steel – Forged Steel Combination

YARENH Chinese Chef's Knife
YARENH Chinese Chef’s Knife – 73 Layers Japanese Damascus Stainless Steel with 0Cr15CoMoV high-carbon steel core

The principle of multi-layer knife blades is to give a very hard core layer for the center cutting edge on both sides with a protective and more flexible sheath. This enables the smith to handcraft extreme sharpness and durability in the same piece of metal. As a result of the bevel on both sides for the bevel, the core is frequently made of carbon steel and only exposed in strips at the bottom. The sheath layers can be made of soft iron, stainless steel, or damascus, and they can act as a rust guard in some cases.

Advantages: Aside from the razor blade grind elastic blade, most of the time there is also “built-in” corrosion protection on the outside. At the very least, we believe that layered steel is always visually appealing and stylish.

Disadvantages: In terms of material breakthroughs, the hard and glass-brittle wading area continues to be extremely sensitive, and even the slightest carelessness might result in the first cut.

You will benefit from this material combination if you want the best of both worlds: razor-sharp edge retention and robustness at the same time, as well as the unique aesthetics of having two visible layers.

Perfect for use in commercial kitchens as well as sophisticated amateur ones.

Damask Chinese Chef’s Knives – Beauty and Function

KAI Shun Classic
KAI Shun Classic with 32 layers of Damascus steel and a very hard VG Max steel at the core

When fully hand forged, the exhilarating gorgeous substance of several folded and forged together layers of soft and strong steels is the pinnacle of Japanese artistic achievement. The greater the number of layers, the more accomplished the mechanical fusion of hardness and resistance is considered to be. A huge Chinese chef’s knife forged from solid wild Damascus steel is extremely unusual – and hence extremely expensive – to find. Layered steel blades with iridescently grained damask bolsters are already more popular and cheaper than ever before.

Yaxell Ran 69
Yaxell Ran 69 VG-10 core with 68 outer layers

Advantages: The best qualities of various steels are evenly dispersed across this section. Wild Damascus is considered by many to be the most noble and visually attractive blade material available.

Disadvantages: Damascus is not for everyone, and not everyone can or wants to afford it. Even a Damascus outer layer is too expensive, and it typically provides no rust protection. Care should be exercised when purchasing laminates that look like Damascus steel and are, regrettably, sold at a price that is comparable to, or even lower than, the price of authentic Damascus steel.

If you have the means to obtain the fabled Damascus grain or if it is still missing from your collection and you have the required budget, this is the grain for you.

The ultimate dream destination for Damascus-lapsed cooking professionals and amateurs.

After working with the Chinese Chef’s Knife

Avoid using anything other than wooden or plastic cutting boards, and keep objects that are unduly hard away from the cutting edge, such as hefty bones, frozen food, or hard woody material. Finally, never strike a blow: Despite the fact that it appears to be a hatchet, the Chinese Chef’s Knife is not one.

The dishwasher is not an option in order to maintain the durability of the precious steel. Only a few stainless steels are permitted to enter on a regular basis. Hand rinsing and drying are the rule of the day in all other cases. Cooking oil should be used to lightly coat non-rust-resistant representatives, and that is all there is to it for everyday knife upkeep. Wooden handles will benefit from a coat of linseed oil applied every few months.
Purchase a ceramic, non-steel sharpening rod or, even better, a wet sharpening stone to resharpen the blade at the proper angle if necessary.

Your knife storage area should be kept distinct from other knives in order to keep the critical cutting edge from being damaged by other knives. Instead of being open in the drawer, it is hidden in an extra box, placed in the largest knife block hole, or adhered to a strong magnetic bar, which is preferable.

Buying criteria for Chinese Cleavers at a glance

  • The Chinese Chef’s Knife is a global knife that, due to its proportions and unique handle, requires a little practice to master well. Examine whether you prefer the traditional grip of the thumb and fingers on the blade. The rectangular blade is most suited for pressure cutting techniques that are quick and efficient, while the Chai-Dao form is more suitable for cradle cutting: Which option is more appealing to you?
  • Because of its size, a Chinese knife should be perfectly sized and well-balanced for your guide hand in order to be effective. Do you require a lightweight, thin knife, or can you make do with a heavier, more durable stainless steel knife? Is the length and height appropriate for the main cutting material you will be using? Extremely lofty blade levels are capable of completing massive tasks such as melons in a single cut. The handle should be comfortable and secure – and, of course, it should appear valuable.
  • Individual practical considerations should be considered when determining “Which blade material?”: what you cook the most, how much and when you cut, how much maintenance are you willing to perform, etc. Great aesthetics and feel should only be considered after that, and only in conjunction with the overall balance, of course. The following metals are available: stainless steel is inexpensive, rust-resistant, and frugal; carbon steel is ultra-sharp, fast, and demanding; layered steel has the best cutting properties while remaining affordable; Damascus is a rare and expensive material; Damascus with a core layer is more realistic.
  • Check specifications, quality information, photographs, and customer reviews before working with an unknown source. Check to see that the handle and blade are completely aligned and that the surfaces are smooth and immaculate before using the knife. A product that has been correctly treated will be able to work in your kitchen for an extended period of time and produce clean results even after many years. With reputed producers, you are unquestionably on the safe side, and you can afford to spend more money, but only once.


A good Chinese chef’s knife can become your main tool and jack-of-all-trades. If you like to pressure cut and overhand on a solid giant blade. If you want to cut very much or something very large. No matter what kind of material is on your cutting board with this knives you will cut it very small. You want to emulate the nimble Chinese cutting artists? Choose wisely from offers of renowned producers and practice a little, then you will not want to miss the China knife ever again.

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