Cabinet selection is HARD. There are web articles all over stating that plywood is superior to particle board or vice versa. You'll read about dovetail drawers and undermount drawer slides, soft-close, and solid doors vs. plywood panels.
Here's the thing... Not all particle board, solid wood, or plywood are created equal. I was assisting a homeowner recently who was so excited that they'd found a stock cabinet warehouse with "solid wood construction" and dovetail drawers. That makes this quality better than Ikea and just as good as the pricier stock items, right? Nope. See, after a little research, I found that their solid wood was Walnut. Wait, what? On the Janka Hardness Chart, walnut is easily on the softer side of wood. Not exactly the top preference to hold my heavy pots & pans!
I would take no less than maple interiors in a solid construction.
Then you have the dovetail drawers. In general, dovetail is a sign of a good quality joint, but take a look (feel) at those joints. Is it rough? Are you getting slivers? The level of care that is put into these details makes a world of difference.
Solid Wood vs. Particle board vs. Plywood
I'm going to be straight with you on this. Often times we do solid wood because, well, it sounds better. Truly, this is often done for looks. There are pros and cons to each. Solid wood may warp over time and is sensitive to changes in humidity, but the strength is superior.
Particle board can be ideal in a wet location, but then we have a veneer that may be cheap and flimsy, and we've all seen the peeling and bubbling of these veneers. The veneers are not easily paintable if trends change, so you're stuck with that choice until your next upgrade. depending on the glue used, particle board can be amazing, or a complete nightmare.
Plywood IS solid wood. It's just layered. Honestly, this usually makes it stronger, because when it's layered, it's done in alternating directions. You want plywood for shelves, drawer bottoms, and the cabinet box. So, if someone is actually using solid wood construction, rather than plywood, we have a problem.
I like to know if a stain is applied by hand or machine. A hand-applied stain has a more fluid appearance rather than the factory look of a uniform too-even application. Aeither advantage to the hand application is the experienced eye, watching for imperfections and ensuring stain doesn't puddle in crevices.
If you're looking at a painted finish, it may be worth looking into a company that can provide a factory finish. They bake on the paint and the quality you receive from this process is unsurpassable. As a side note, if you have small children or pets that could scratch at the cabinets, paint may not be the best route for you.
Th-Th-Th-That's all Folks! Happy Hunting.