1. Cast-iron pan
On a new cast-iron pan, the surface should be uniformly dull gray inside and out and uniformly rough in texture with small grains or "pores." Avoid pans with seams, cracks, or uneven sharp edges. Buy one that is all one pieceânot one with a wooden handle. Avoid a ridged bottom; a flat surface conducts heat best.
2. Kitchen knife
If you buy a good chef's knife and care for it properly, you should never have to replace it. Avoid knives that have a serrated cutting edge or those that claim to "never need sharpening." Good knives do need sharpening. Buy one that you feel comfortable handling. Also buy a honing steel and use it regularly to keep your knife honed.
3. Hand tools
Good quality hand tools should last not just one lifetime, but for a couple of generations. Look for forged rather than cast metal, and plastic, fiberglass or metal handles rather than wood.
Look for a baby book, photo album, or scrapbook, with pages made from dye-free, pH-balanced archival paper. Affix your photos and memorabilia with picture corners or small mounting squares. Avoid plastic sheets, sticky-backed pages, and don't use regular tape.
5. Leather bag
A good-quality leather handbag or briefcase is actually inexpensiveâif you amortize it over the lifetime of use. The most durable bags are made of top-grain leather. Leather described as full grain won't necessarily last longer. Look for small tight stitches made with heavy thread. Make sure clamps, hinges, or locks are nicely matched and work smoothly.