Save or spend: SpendCheaper knives are usually stamped out of sheets of low-quality stainless steel; they don't keep an edge and can't be sharpened.
What you want instead is a hand-shaped knife that's made from high-carbon stain-resistant steel, such as those from Global, MAC and Wüsthof. The carbon makes the metal harder, and as a result the knife stays sharp longer.
No need to buy a huge set, however. "Most chefs use the same three or four knives," says Eric Ripert, chef at New York City's Le Bernardin restaurant.
His must-haves: a 10-inch chef's knife, a three-inch paring knife, a boning knife and a serrated knife.
"If you take good care of them, you'll have them for 20 years," says Ripert.