What if you had a knife that could perform all the tasks usually done by a complete set of knives? Yeah, that knife exists. The Chinese chef knife can perform almost all cutting tasks in the kitchen. It can be used for mincing, chopping, slicing, grinding, and pounding.
For this reason, it is the go-to knife for professional Chinese chefs and home cooks as well. The Chinese chef knife originated in China and was also traditionally used in other Asian countries like Cambodia and Vietnam. They were adopted and refined by the Japanese in the 19th Century.
The refined Japanese version is known as Chuka bocho, and is more delicate and pricy. If you're looking for Chinese chef knives in Australia, here is everything you need to know about them.
Features of Chinese Chef Knives
The Shape of the Blade
The Chinese chef knife is broad and rectangular in shape. On average, the blade measures about 7 to 11 inches. In fact, it looks more like a meat cleaver than the typical Japanese-style or western-style chef knife. It is, however, thinner than a meat cleaver, and the blade is heavier at the tip.
The blade is also mostly straight, which makes it great for chopping, but the belly has a slight curve which makes it possible to also do rocking strokes.
The Blade Material
Unlike meat cleavers, the Chinese chef knife is traditionally higher in carbon, which makes it harder, but more brittle and more likely to rust. The high amount of carbon also makes the knife easier to sharpen. Modern brands tend to have alloys incorporated into carbon steel to make the knife more flexible, less brittle, and more resistant to corrosion.
For example, the F DICK 1778 Series Plumwood Chinese Chef Knife 18cm has an extremely thin layer of high-alloy double X VG-12 grade carbon steel with a core of a patented formula of cobalt, molybdenum, and manganese which makes the blade more elastic.
The carbon steel is encased in high alloy steel to protect it from corrosion and prevent it from retaining strong flavors. The blade has a hardness of 61 HRC and is super sharp. The handle of the knife is a lovely, comfortable and durable plum wood.
Some Chinese chef knives have hollow-ground dimples or indentations along the edge of the blade. These create air pockets between the blade and the food to reduce friction between them. It also prevents the food from sticking to the blade.
The Shun Kai Seki Magoroku Shoso Chinese Chopper 16.5cm has a scalloped blade for this purpose. It features a special stainless steel alloy and a double bevel blade.
The handle of the Chinese chef knife is lighter than that of a meat cleaver. Traditionally, the handle is round or oval and wooden. Modern versions can have either metallic or wooden handles. They are usually full tang, meaning that the blade runs right through the handle to the end, making the knife stronger and easier to handle.
The Furi Pro Asian Vegetable Chopper 15cm has a metallic handle that's continuous with the blade, which makes it hygienic as you won't have food getting caught in little dents. The handle is also reverse-wedge shaped which creates a slot for the middle finger to provide for a firm and comfortable grip.
Types of Chinese Chef Knives
Modern Chinese chef knives come in three different classifications based on their uses and the thickness of the blade.
Slicers are also called Caidao, or vegetable knives. They have the thinnest blades of all the three types of Chinese chef knives. They are also the sharpest. They are similar to the Japanese Nakiri knife in appearance and use. They are used for mincing herbs, cutting vegetables, and slicing meat into very thin strips. They are too thin to be used on the bone.
The Shun Kai Seki Magoroku Chinese Slicing Knife 20cm is a great example of a slicer. The knives in this range have a blade constructed using a combination of two different types of steel to give a highly resistant and long-lasting blade.
The blend of two sheets of steel also creates an interesting contrast between the two sides of the blade, with one side being mirror polished and the other appearing stained.
The chopper is the most common Chinese chef knife. Its blade is thicker than the slicer, but not as thick as the cleaver. They can be used for lots of tasks like mincing, slicing, and chopping vegetables, herbs, and meat.
Depending on the manufacturer's instructions, they can also be used to chop through thin bones like those of poultry and fish. They are useful when you're doing a lot of heavy-duty cutting as they are light yet strong.
Choppers are wide enough to use as a scoop to collect ingredients from the board and transfer them to another dish. Take care to use the blunt side of the blade when scooping to avoid grazing the edge on the board. Constant grazing of the knife-edge will dull it before its time.
A fine example of a chopper is the F DICK Red Spirit Chinese Chef's Knife Chopping 18cm. It is made with high alloy stainless steel with a long-lasting edge. The handle is symmetrical and round and made of a high-quality non-slip plastic. The weight of the knife is perfectly distributed to give the user perfect balance and control.
Cleavers are also known as bone choppers or Gudao. The cleaver is really more of a bone knife than a chef knife. They are thick, heavy, and the dullest of all three styles. They are mostly used to chop up beef, pork, and poultry bones, and cut through connective tissue.
The Chinese chef knife is probably one of the most versatile kitchen knives in existence. With the exception of cutting through bone, it can handle virtually anything in the kitchen. With the right skill, you can do wonders with just this one knife in your kitchen.
Shop our range of Chiense chef knives today!