Cooking instructor Peter Hertzmann, author of Knife Skills Illustrated
, says people tend to equate cost with quality when it comes to knives, but a $30 chef's knife can give you the same end result as a $400 version. Forged knives (which are molded by pounding heated metal into shape and treating it) are preferable to knives that are stamped out of a sheet. The most important thing, though, is how it feels in your hand; it should be heavy (but not overwhelmingly so) and should feel balanced (i.e., the blade shouldn't feel weightier than the handle, and vice versa). While experts disagree on which knives are absolutely necessary, they all concur on a chef's knife and a paring knife. Hertzmann says you can get by without a bread knife if you keep your chef's knife sharp, which leads to his last point: Taking care of any knife—cleaning, storage, and protection and sharpening of the edge
—will make the biggest impact on how it will perform. Regardless of what the knife costs, don't put it in the dishwasher; most soaps are too corrosive.