Used mainly by butchers and Chinese cooks, a cleaver is an axlike cutting tool. Its flat sides can be used for pounding, as in tenderizing meat. Cleavers are usually heavy for their size, but evenly weighted. A good cleaver can cut through bone just as easily as it can chop vegetables. The butt end can be used as a pestle (see mortar and pestle) to pulverize seeds or other food items; the flat side is also great for crushing garlic.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.