There is something Neanderthal, and therefore deeply satisfying, about handling a cleaver. A nice sturdy one, such as the new Wusthof 7-incher shown here, weighs as much as a small cast iron pan. And you want one like this: a forged full tang, a beveled cutting edge, high-carbon stainless steel and a lifetime warranty. It is hard to hurt it.

All Wusthof knives are made in Solingen, Germany, where the family-owned operation has been running since 1814. Most recently, the company has evolved its blades to feature a 14° cutting edge on each side, reducing drag when slicing through foods. Which is a good thing, though not mainly what you will use this tool for.

Cleavers are especially useful, for instance, in turning a whole chicken into chicken pieces, an exercise best undertaken with more abandon than precision. Our favorite function is even simpler: Take a garlic clove, still sheathed in its skin. Lay it on a wide cutting board, on a sturdy surface, and place the side of the blade atop the clove. Bring your palm down with vigor. The skins will be brushed away like so much dust. One more similar strike on the bar clove, followed by a bit of gentle slicing, yields a pungent, musy mince ideal for many uses—especially with those chciken pieces soon to be browning in your oven. $110.