Do you get depressed when you look in your knife drawer. Does your entire set consist of mismatched knives from various low-end manufacturers? If so, it may be time to invest in a good set of cutlery for the kitchen.
No matter the reason, searching for a good set of knives can be an intimidating experience. The first thing you need to be aware of are the different types of knives. The chef's knife is the utility knife. It comes with a long flat blade and can be used for a number of purposes. The paring knife is slightly smaller, and is used for precise cuts. A butcher's knife is used to quickly chop meat. Some sets even include steak knives, which are ideal for a family that eats a lot of meat.
Now that you know the types of knives you need, it's important to understand a bit about the materials the blades can be made of. Variations of steel are the most common. Carbon steel is the cheapest, followed by stainless steel. If you can afford it, get a set made of high-carbon stainless steel. High-carbon stainless resists rust and corrosion and holds its edge well. You can even find blades made of ceramic material. Ceramic blades are sharp but are easily damaged. They are usually decent knives, but are easy to chip and don't stand up well to abuse. If you go with ceramic, be aware of how easy they are to damage. A little care goes a long way.
Buying knives as a set instead of purchasing them individually is a good way to save money. You also get a nice knife block when you buy a set. If you have the money, buy a good set from one of the high-end brands like Henckels, Shun or CUTCO. They aren't cheap but are high quality knives that will last a lifetime as long as you take care of them. If you can't afford an entire set of good knives, you may be better off buying a few good knives instead of purchasing a low-end block set.
Cheap sets are prone to breakage and dull quickly. Buy too cheap of a set and it's likely you'll be buying a new set soon. The inexpensive sets usually are made of inferior materials. They will be more likely to rust or discolor, and usually don't hold an edge. It's also common for the cheap plastic handles to break or fall off.
Storing knives in a drawer in your kitchen is not the best way to keep them in good shape. Ideally, you'll want a good block to keep your cutlery in. The block will protect the blades from damage in addition to protecting you from having to reach into a drawer full of exposed razor-sharp edges. If you aren't buying a set with a block, make sure you have a way to protect the blades. A good cover or sheath will go a long way towards ensuring your knives don't get damaged due to mishandling.