As a person who plays in the kitchen for a living, an uncountable bevy of culinary tools and toys have come and gone from my life. There was the green papaya shredder, the AeroPress coffee maker, the onion goggles (yeah, those were a thing.)
But one sharp-beaked bird keeps flying back into my hands.
My Dexter Chinese-style cleaver has occupied a perpetual spot in the cutlery lineup, even if it goes unused for months at a time. We recently reconnected over a shredded carrot salad. There’s no better tool for reducing veggies to a pile of finely julienned ribbons — or countless other kitchen tasks. It’s been back in continuous use since.
Make no mistake: If you’ve never handled this kind of blade, you’re in for a revelation. And that goes far beyond thinking of its possibilities in the scope of Asian cuisines.
It’s a multitasker capable of handling nearly any kitchen task with ease and grace. And at less than $40 bucks, there isn’t much argument against adding one to your block of blades.
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While these things look a lot like a hefty cleaver, the Chinese-style chef’s knife is a remarkably nimble tool for slicing, dicing, mincing, smashing and so on. It has the heft to separate a rack of ribs into a heap of bones with one clean slice and the dexterity to quickly reduce a pile of herbs into feathery powder.
The tip is easy to control for many of the small jobs where you might normally reach for a paring knife. And the expansive slab of steel it’s forged from also makes a perfect shovel for transporting large quantities of prepped ingredients to the skillet, wok or pot you have waiting on the stove. If you’re in a pinch, the butt of the handle can even double as a makeshift pestle for smashing peppercorns, star anise, garlic cloves or anything else in need of a good crushing.
On ExpressNews.com: Our guide to knives will give you an edge in the kitchen
While the Chinese-style cleaver probably won’t replace your trusty French chef’s knife — an incredibly flexible tool in its own right — you may find yourself reaching for it more often than not once it feels comfortable in your hand.
In other kitchen exploits, I spent the week firing up my slow cooker to prepare a quartet of family-friendly recipes for all the parents out there with kiddos heading back to school. If you’re in need of an easy meal the whole household is sure to enjoy, give any of the following dishes a try.
Recipe: Slow Cooker Beef Bourguignon
Recipe: Slow Cooker White Chicken Hatch Chili
Recipe: Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
Recipe: Slow Cooker Vegan Moroccan-Style Lentils and Greens
Paul Stephen is a food and drink reporter and restaurant critic in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. To read more from Paul, become a subscriber. [email protected] | Twitter: @pjbites | Instagram: @pjstephen