WÜSTHOF 4680/16 - 16 cm Cleaver
- WÜSTHOF quality
- Great weight and balance
- Bone-splitting powerhouse
- Great for pumpkin peeling and chopping
- Some learning curve
- May explode carrots on occasion
The WÜSTHOF 4680/16 – 16 cm Cleaver impressed me early on with its weight and great balance, but how do I feel about it now that I have had one in my kitchen for a couple of months? Read on to find out…
Quality – WÜSTHOF 4680/16 – 16 cm Cleaver
Anyone who has ever held a WÜSTHOF knife knows that quality is of utmost importance to the company. Their knives feel good in your hand – both in ergonomic design and balance. The WÜSTHOF 4680/16 – 16 cm Cleaver is no exception to this rule. It is an extremely enjoyable blade to hold.
Where the 4680/16 – 16 cm Cleaver obviously deviates from standard WÜSTHOF knives is in the sharpness of the blade. My experience with WÜSTHOF’s Classic range of knives, for example, is of superbly fine edges that stay sharp for a long time.
But cleavers are different. A high-quality cleaver does not have a fine cutting edge. In fact, a razor-sharp blade in a cleaver is undesirable. That’s because cleavers use their considerable weight to cut through bone, thick slabs of meat, and other hard things. A cleaver with too fine a blade runs the risk of breaking.
The WÜSTHOF 4680/16 – 16 cm Cleaver is an excellent example of a well-crafted cleaver. The blade is chunky – an absolute must for achieving that desirable weight. That being said, it isn’t the heaviest cleaver around, in fact it is the lightest in WÜSTHOF’s range. That makes it perfect for novices like me. It’s not too heavy to be unwieldly, but it certainly has enough grunt to perform the tasks that I have thrown at it.
Another indicator of the quality of the cleaver is the single, solid high carbon steel that runs all the way through the handle (known as full tang). That design ensures the longevity of the cleaver and also helps to deliver the excellent balance that I mentioned earlier.
I mentioned before that cleavers don’t have a fine edge like general purpose knives, but that doesn’t mean there is anything dull about the cutting edge of the WÜSTHOF 4680/16 – 16 cm Cleaver. WÜSTHOF highlight the 33 precision operations that the blade goes through, including “shaping by high intensity laser beam”. This is a cleaver that is engineered to be excellent at its job.
A Knife With A Purpose
Cleavers are not general-purpose knives. If you are just looking to start your journey into quality knives, leave the cleaver for further down the path (but do yourself a favour and pick up one of these instead).
Cleavers are the type of knife that can sit around in a drawer for weeks, or even months without use. However, when the time comes, you will be thrilled to have one. That’s the thing about specialty knives, good ones make a huge difference when they are needed.
The cleaver serves the primary purpose of splitting bone. I have tried it on chicken bone and it is fantastic! I had to take a few practise swings – slamming a heavy knife through a thick piece of meat and bone is not a technique that I am used to. My first couple of attempts were far too gentle, much more like the slicing technique that I am used to with a chef’s knife. But once I finally figured out that the cleaver is all about raw power, I soon had the hang of it.
I came down hard on a few of the chicken’s joints and the WÜSTHOF Cleaver cut through with little resistance. That gave me the confidence to take on a bigger challenge – the rib cage. Again, each decisive swing resulted in a neat chop straight through the meat and the bone. Finally, I tried the leg bone. I didn’t have to cut it, I just really wanted to see what the cleaver was capable of. The WÜSTHOF 4680/16 – 16 cm Cleaver was untroubled by the task.
The cleaver was extremely quick and effective, supremely satisfying and now easily my favourite tool for breaking up poultry.
I have already stated that the WÜSTHOF 4680/16 – 16 cm Cleaver is a bone-splitting specialist, and not a general-purpose knife, like a chef’s knife. However, it does have a few little tricks up its sleeve. It really is useful for dealing with anything tough or big.
I used the WÜSTHOF 4680/16 – 16 cm Cleaver to dice a large chunk of lamb leg for a curry. It did an excellent job of carving through the substantial pieces of flesh. Again, it was all down to a decisive movement of the blade, the weight of the cleaver did all the work.
Believe it or not, the cleaver is also very useful to have around for some non-meat purposes. For example, it is great to use with hard vegetables. I have tried it on a few types of vegetables, with varying degrees of success. I did have an “incident” with a couple of carrots, which I will explain in further detail in the Practise Makes Perfect section below.
My favourite vegetable of all to use the cleaver with is pumpkin. It turns the incredibly painful task of skinning and chopping a whole butternut pumpkin into something that is actually enjoyable! After a little practise, the WÜSTHOF 4680/16 – 16 cm Cleaver is the perfect tool for peeling the skin. I managed to remove beautifully thin strips of pumpkin skin, leaving behind all the delicious flesh. That is something I have never managed to achieve through other methods, and it says a lot about how finely tuned that cutting edge really is.
With the WÜSTHOF 4680/16 – 16 cm Cleaver I can peel the whole pumpkin in a matter of minutes, before chopping it into pieces. I found that a forceful swing with the cleaver lodged it firmly about halfway through the flesh. Then all I had to do was use the palm of my hand to knock the thick edge of the cleaver a couple of times, and the job was done. How easy is that! If you have never tried to cut through an entire pumpkin, you probably don’t know what an ordeal it is. If you have, you know exactly what I am saying. Those who cook with pumpkins regularly, do yourself a favour and go buy one right now.
The final secondary purpose for the WÜSTHOF 4680/16 – 16 cm Cleaver that I have discovered so far is mincing garlic. Sure, a garlic press is great for one or two cloves, but when you are dealing with the stuff in bulk, a cleaver is hard to beat.
The technique is simple – peel the cloves then place them on a chopping board. Lay the flat side of the cleaver gently over the top of all the cloves, then use the palm of your hand to press down on the blade. You can give it a good thump or two, just to really squash the cloves! Then use the cutting edge of the cleaver to finish the job. The WÜSTHOF 4680/16 – 16 cm Cleaver is slightly rounded – this allows for a rocking motion to be employed when mincing the garlic. The job can be completed in under a minute.
Cleaning and Maintenance
The WÜSTHOF 4680/16 – 16 cm Cleaver is technically dishwasher safe, but I have been taught that good knives should be hand-washed. That is extremely important for knives with wood handles – wood and dishwashers don’t mix. Even with the new synthetics handles, I still exclusively hand-wash all my WÜSTHOF knives. The WÜSTHOF website provides some compelling reasons why you should do the same. Also, with a young toddler about, I really don’t want sharp knives lying around for too long.
The WÜSTHOF 4680/16 – 16 cm Cleaver is fairly low maintenance. I am in the habit of honing all of my WÜSTHOF knives on the sharpening steel quickly before each use. This helps to keep the cutting edge sharp for a long time. I feel like I probably need a little more practise with the cleaver, as the angle is very different to my other knives.
These two simple things should ensure that the WÜSTHOF 4680/16 – 16 cm Cleaver provides a lifetime of bone-splitting and pumpkin-skinning goodness. Like all knives, a proper sharpening will help to make it good as new in a few years’ time. Fortunately, WÜSTHOF have your back with that! They provide a sharpening service, free of charge (other than the cost of postage). To me that is a sign of a company that really cares about the customer experience of its product.
Practise Makes Perfect
I mentioned earlier that there is a little bit of a learning curve with a cleaver. That is because it isn’t used for slicing in the way that more conventional kitchen knives are. Instead, the brilliance of the cleaver is in the weight and the force that can be used. Initially I was too tentative, and so I didn’t make clean cuts.
HOWEVER, there is a time and a place for using the full might of a cleaver – I also learnt that the hard way. After I had become confident with the cleaver, Emma and I were making a giant batch of bolognese sauce. I had already expertly peeled the pumpkin, so I was feeling pretty good.
Emma asked me to take the ends off several carrots. I still had the cleaver in my hand, so I willingly obliged. With a mighty swing I aimed to take all of the ends in one go. The carrots exploded. Pieces went flying everywhere. Needless to say I was given the look for my efforts. Lesson learnt.
I recently wrote about value, and WÜSTHOF was one of the brands that I highlighted. Value is a combination of price and quality. Sure, there are cheaper cleavers out there, but when it comes to value, I think the WÜSTHOF 4680/16 – 16 cm Cleaver is hard to beat. My advice is to spend the little bit extra on the high-quality product and reap the rewards for years to come. This WÜSTHOF cleaver is an absolute pleasure to use. Treat it right and it will last a lifetime! How many products can you say that about these days?
The WÜSTHOF 4680/16 – 16 cm Cleaver is a specialty product, but for anyone with a few good kitchen knives who is looking to expand their cutting horizons, the WÜSTHOF 4680/16 – 16 cm Cleaver is a compelling choice. It performs tasks that few other blades can handle, and it does so very well.
Disclosure – WÜSTHOF provided Blog of Dad with the WÜSTHOF 4680/16, 16cm cleaver free of charge, for the purpose of review and inclusion on the Ultimate Gift Guide for Australian Dads 2017 . The views expressed in this post are entirely my own views, based on my experiences with the WÜSTHOF cleaver . For further information, please visit my disclosure statement.