I once had a wise teacher who liked to say, “You don’t know what you don’t know.”
He of course said it to try and convince know-it-all teenagers that he had something worthwhile to teach them. His point, I now realise, did not just apply to Year 9 English – it is entirely appropriate for all facets of life. The fact is, if you have no experience of something, you just don’t know what you are missing.
In The Kitchen
When I relate that quote to the kitchen, one item in particular springs to mind – the cleaver. If you have never used a cleaver in the kitchen, you probably have no idea what you are missing out on. Once you own one, however, your eyes are opened to a whole new world of food preparation.
My eyes were initially pried open by a heavily discounted, cheaply-made piece of landfill-waiting-to-happen that I lucked upon in my student days. In reality, the blasted thing was an unholy hybrid of a cleaver and a Chinese Chef’s Knife. It was the worst kind of hybrid (not great at either task), but even with its dull edge and absurdly light blade, that cleaver revolutionised the way that I prepared joints of meat and hard vegetables (I’m looking at you, pumpkin).
I battled along with my junk cleaver for years. Some may say I had a smug sense of self-satisfaction, because I “knew” something that many others hadn’t yet figured out – cleavers are brilliant!
…You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know
Then along came the WÜSTHOF 4680/16 cleaver, for inclusion on my Ultimate Christmas Gift Guide for Australian Dads. All of a sudden I could hear those simple, yet profound, words ringing in my ears once again – “you don’t know what you don’t know.”
The instant I held the 16cm WÜSTHOF cleaver, I could feel the new awakening begin. It felt good in my hand. Really, really good. I could feel the weight of the solid mass of steel, but there was also a beautiful balance to that weight. My dodgy old cleaver may have had a similar aesthetic to the WÜSTHOF at first glance (they say imitation is the most sincere form of flattery!), but it was immediately clear that the two blades are worlds apart.
The German-made beauty is an engineered delight – a purpose-made, bone-splitting workhorse. The packaging provides even greater insight into the extensive process that goes into forging such an impressive piece of steel. The manufacturing process involves: “33 precision operations including shaping by high intensity laser beam, tempering, grinding, assembling and sharpening”.
The Proof Is In The Bone Splitting
Sadly, I didn’t have any veal shanks, racks of ribs or whole fowl handy when my WÜSTHOF cleaver arrived via courier. The best I could manage was a couple of oversized carrots that I found lurking at the bottom of the refrigerator.
The hefty blade easily and cleanly split the carrots, even with my tentative first swings. While not as satisfying as splitting bone, it was enough to whet my appetite for some home butchering in the near future.
I’ll be sure to report back with my findings, perhaps in the form of a World’s Worst Food Blogger Osso Bucco post.
Why A WÜSTHOF Cleaver?
When I decided that my Ultimate Gift Guide for Australian Dads should have a cleaver on it, I went straight to WÜSTHOF. The reason I did so was because I purchased a set of WÜSTHOF knives a few years ago (similar to this one), and I’ve never looked back.
Purchasing those WÜSTHOF knives was another you don’t know what you don’t know moment. They opened my eyes to how pleasurable food preparation could be, with the right equipment. There’s something indescribably satisfying about precisely and easily slicing food with the right, super-sharp tools. If you don’t have any quality knives yet, I would highly recommend starting with a WÜSTHOF set, or even just a utility knife.
The More You Know
I’ll leave you with a few facts that I have learnt about cleavers since I began researching the latest addition to my collection of blades:
- The German word for “cleaver” is “Hackmesser”. If that’s not a good enough reason to own one, I don’t know what is.
- The blade of a good European cleaver is sharpened to a much blunter edge than traditional kitchen knives. A blunter edge is desirable because the effectiveness of a cleaver is all in the force.
- The key to a good cleaver is weight. This WÜSTHOF 16cm cleaver weighs in at an impressive 460 grams, but the company produces a range of sizes up to a whopping 24cm, 1.1kg beast for serious bone-splitting. For amateur home use, the 16cm cleaver is a great place to start.
- If you are anything like me, acquiring a WÜSTHOF cleaver will result in trawling the internet for recipes that require splitting bone – any excuse to wield such a brilliant blade!
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.