With its brawny hatchet shape, the cleaver is a tough tool for tough tasks: breaking bones, mincing meat – jobs your chef's knife can't handle. "Thinner blades are designed for chopping vegetables, not for hacking up a chicken," says Tom Mylan, co-owner of the Meat Hook in Brooklyn, New York. Mylan, who was trained by master butcher Josh Applestone, is more than just a neighborhood flesh peddler. In addition to co-owning the Meat Hook, he's leading a movement for better meat, pushing locally bred, sustainable animals that have been freshly dismembered by humans, not machines.
Even if you're not slicing into steer, the cleaver is an important tool to add to your arsenal. (Just try cutting a large squash or cracking a coconut without one.) And while weight, size, and shape are important, don't dismiss style when it's time to buy. "It's not just about how it works," Mylan says. "It has to look pretty damn cool." In the video below, Mylan demonstrates how to use and maintain your new knife.