Misen is the crowd funded kitchen ingénue that bombards all of us with Facebook ads or other marketing pops. That’s fine, we’re all for building a brand. Theirs is a quality knife that is comparable to products that cost twice as much, at least that’s what they are saying.
This knife business has been parlayed into skillets, utensils and more. Is it the real deal or just a bunch of hype, or something in between? Well fellow junkies, that is the question we want to explore.
Getting There Is A Problem
Out of the gate, the biggest complaints seem to revolve around ordering the product and managing the Misen website, not the products themselves. You’d think that they would be savvy enough based on their multitude of ‘e’ advertising channels, but the experience is woefully inadequate.
We do need to separate one recurring issue. Some of their offerings are still based on the crowd funding concept. That means that you buy in at an earlier date at a discount, before the product is actually offered. Some consumers weren’t clear on this. Others didn’t like being charged today for a product not even available, that they should receive in months. These are problems more with the consumer. However, it seems that Misen’s customer service could address these issues preemptively, making the process clearer.
The customer service issue has more ripples. Most notably, disappearing discounts. You get lured in, the discount shows on your pricing, then disappears when you actually make payment. Sometimes a little too stealthily. Delivery times are spotty, and availability is a crap shoot. In short, making the move to being an actual owner of a Misen product can have challenges.
Built On A Knife’s Edge
Their initial offering and bread butter-er is their chef’s blade. The tech specs are AICHI AUS-10 steel, a slightly higher carbon content steel, a middling quality that should hold a decent edge without being too brittle. One group ran testing to discover that the hardness rating was actually many points below what Misen claimed. Some folks are questioning the steel sourcing, whether it is in fact the Japanese grade that AUS-10 is supposed to be. Knowing that the product is actually made in China, it is common to have the bulk steel shipped from Japan and then production occurring in China. We’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that they are sourcing correctly.
Of bigger concern, is that they state these knives, at $65 for their 8” inch chef’s blade for example, are comparable to a knife at twice that price. The Misen knife is stamped. At that same price you can find a forged Dalstrong or mid-level Henckels, and for $40 a forged Renaissance series from Mercer, both of which have better blade weight and edge retention. Frankly, from our experience, Misen can barely tread water with same priced brands, much less trying to hold up to premium labels.
Why Their Knife Is A Work In Progress
Misen touts a high carbon content for better edge retention. Commonly, the edge right out of their box is only okay, it needs a stroke or two to finish the honing process, or even a quick pass on the stone to touch it up to truly sharp. Remember ‘stamped metal’, the drawback is worse edge retention compared to forging. So, yes they may have a slightly higher carbon content than some German blades, but that advantage is basically lost to a forged knife. The blade weight is lighter which will serve some folks better, and there are still issues with consistency; bulges on the spine and tang, ripples on the blade edge, etc.
They also say the design feature of sloped bolster gives you a better pinch grip, yeah…no. Granted not everyone uses that grip, but working kitchen staff certainly do, and this design can actually make it worse depending on the size of your mitts. The larger your hand the more you end up pinching against yourself instead of pinching the blade between your thumb and finger. It makes a difference when you get a couple hours into chopping and dicing.
Other Product Lines
Again, their marketing suggests that they are comparable to similar products at twice the price. An 8” nonstick skillet is $45 on their site. Sorry, this is not going to hold up against an All-Clad level skillet at almost $100. Yes, Misen has nice weight, good slip on the surface and actually a nice silicone handle. Longevity is something yet to be seen. Again, at the same price point you can get a proven manufacturer such as Calphalon, at their better level of cookware.
Their Dutch oven has a nice option. You can get a traditional lid or a one with side handles that will double as a surface grill. The construction is heavy cast iron with well-made enamel for the surfaces. Time will tell if this $165 product will truly hold up against a $300+ Le Crueset, the premier bench mark for this kind of product. Of bigger concern though, is will it hold up against Lodge, the name in cast iron. The Lodge enameled products are made in China (unlike their other items) but at $90 for the same size Dutch oven, Misen has a high bar to clear.
The Full Final Line
Misen is offering a complete line for your kitchen with stainless steel and carbon steel cookware, utensils and accessories. In our experience it distills down to a couple of points.
First, they do not compete with items at double their pricing. For the most part they stay competitive with items that are comparably priced. Their products are decent, deliver good value in some categories and average value in others.
Design wise they have some innovation which may work for differing individuals. Their designs are classic enough that they stay functional, look pretty good and will be serviceable for all levels of cooking.
Hype or hyperbole? Some of both. Like so many of the things we look at here at Cookware Junkies, there are good solid characteristics, and some areas that we did not especially like.