Every Cook Needs a Good Knife
Kitchen gadgets are supposed to make our busy lives simpler but there are still only two really essential pieces of equipment a cook needs (other than a heat source, of course): a good pan and a high-quality chef's knife. The knife, though, is really most important; there is no other tool in the kitchen that is as useful as the chef's knife.
Sure, other things may look good on a shelf, but all the chrome-plated garlic presses, cobalt blue mixers, and three-speed immersion blenders combined do not compare with the importance of the humble knife.
Indeed, a chef's knife becomes sort of prosthesis to the professional cook, a very extension of their hand; their knife is always within an arms reach (in ancient times cooks actually carried them on their belts). The tip can mash garlic to a smooth puree, its back can crack the toughest lobster claws, the heel is able to penetrate tough tendons and small bones, and the wide blade easily acts as a scoop. But a chef's knife truly shines when held by a cook that cuts, slices, and dices the way a hockey player shifts a puck between the blade of their stick-without thinking; second nature. Without a good knife a cook is at a disadvantage in the kitchen.
There are two types of knives: stamped and forged. Stamped are cut from a piece of sheet metal, while the latter is actually forged from a solid piece of metal, the same as they have been for centuries. Generally, forged knives are higher quality. Forged knives are easy to distinguish by their heavy blade and pronounced heel.
There are many sizes (an 8-inch knife is sufficient for most tasks) but only two styles: German and French; both have there merits. The most common style, I think, is German, which has a slightly rounded blade and enables the user to use a rocking motion when cutting and slicing. The French blade is more angular and pointed, resting solidly on the cutting board, which is great for fine slicing and mincing.
A good kitchen knife is not cheap-they can run close to $100-but its worth it, and it will last a lifetime. Purchase a knife that's well balanced and feels good in your hand, that's where it'll be most useful, after all.