It can be tempting to buy a knife set or 5 or 6 knives either for yourself in your new kitchen or for a friend who's into cooking as a housewarming gift. Don't do it. The money you spend on a knife set packed with subpar knives could be used to buy fewer excellent knives that will last a lifetime.
Manufacturers skimp on build quality, materials, size, and even blade geometry in some cases in order to produce a cheap product. They're not designed to keep their edge in day-to-day use, to stand up to regular honings or even sharpenings, and they're not designed to last.
The issue that I have with the blocks is that it makes each knife a valueless item, you bought them for nothing and you treat them like it. When it first arrives and the blades are “sharp” you start using the Chef’s knife… until it goes dull, then onto the utility knife… until is goes dull, until finally you are cutting everything with a serrated bread knife.
MY advice is get 1-2 blades and learn how to take care of them.
As Anthony Bourdain says; “No con foisted on the general public is so atrocious, so wrongheaded, or so widely believed as the one that tells you you need a full set of specialised cutlery in various sizes. I wish sometimes I could go through the kitchens of amateur cooks everywhere just throwing knives out from their drawers — all those medium-size ‘utility’ knives, those useless serrated things you see advertised on TV, all that hard-to-sharpen stainless steel garbage, those ineptly designed slicers — not one of the damn things could cut a tomato.
Please believe me, here’s all you will ever need in the knife department: ONE good chefs knife”
The FIRST knife you should buy is a full sized kitchen knife, either a Santoku, or a Chef in the 8-10 inch range. This will do 95% of all the tasks in the kitchen.
A nice compliment to that is a paring knife, as it handles the precision that is necessary in the kitchen.
(A bread knife does serve a purpose and make a great addition to your kitchen.) You can pretty much get by in a kitchen with just those two knives, and the bread knife. Once you have those you can add to the collection but any extra knives should be purchased only if they add to your cooking experience.
Here are some additional knives that YOU DON’T need to have, but will certainly make specific tasks much much easier.
A Filleting Knife is good for fish, And a Cleaver and a Boning knife can be used to break down meat quickly. (cleavers should be bought cheaply in Chinatown) Kitchen Shears