Quality kitchen knives for $20 or less
I have found the Calphalon Contemporary line to be great knives for the money. They cut well, have comfortable ergonomic handles, and are well-balanced. I also like that the handles are big enough for a man's hand.
They are made of fully forged German steel in China. I have found 7" santoku and 8" chef's for $15-20 in stores like TJ Maxx, Home Goods, and Marshalls. (I'm in CA)
Discount stores are good places to shop for good deals. Sometime they are much lower than elsewhere, sometime they are not, but they are still great for checking out. We have similar topics on affordable knives like, “Any opinions on best cheap knife brands and models under $30”:
or “Best Knifes Not you whole paycheck?”
There are a few good performance Chef's knives in the price range between $20-30, but I cannot think of any <$20 Chef’s knife which I can wholeheartedly recommending. Kiwi knives are below $20, but I don’t know if many people get over their not-so-attractive looks. They do have good steel for their prices:
I'd recommend Forschner's. All not under $20, but they make some very good knives for the money. Stamped and not forged but found in professional kitchens. They are made by the same people who make Swiss Army Knives. It also doesn't hurt when you can afford higher end forged knives, to donate the old ones. I'd also keep watch on E-Bay for better knives. Even if thery have been mistreated they usually be brought back to life. Where I work we sharpen knives and have rescued some poorly cared for knives.
I've purchased one of the Calphalon in the past and I found the handle to be quite comfortable as well.