They say that a cook’s knives are a very individualized thing. What works for me probably won’t work for you, and that you should never buy a knife without holding it — feeling its balance and heft in your hand.
When I first started getting serious about cooking, I tossed out just about every knife I owned. Years before, I’d bought a knife block at a discount store that came with a variety of blades, all with that little nubbley micro serration.
So my first real chef’s knife was a Global. I didn’t follow the rules, and bought it from Amazon. It is a pretty good knife, but it’s not the one I reach for. It’s a little too lightweight for me, though it keeps a good edge.
My brother gave me a Henckels Twin Cuisine 6-Inch knife and I realized what I was missing with the Global. It had the right weight and it fit in my hand like it was made for me. A few months later, my wife got a gift certificate for William Sonoma, so I bought a full-sized chef’s knife in the same line.
The problem is, those knives cost a fortune, and so if you’re on a budget, I suggest you try the knife set they sell at Ikea called the Distinkt. For $19.99, you get a chef’s knife, a utility knife, and a vegetable knife / cleaver. They have wooden handles, and they’re not real heavy, but they still work pretty well, and for the money, they can’t be beat. Update, 11/09 — Looks like Ikea dropped this line.
If you’re still looking for a good knife for not a lot of money, I’ve read really good things about the Victorinox Chef’s Knife which costs less than $30.