Mise en place = smart cooking!

Have you heard the saying 'mise en place'? It's a fancy french phrase that literally means "putting in place". Really it's a phrase used by chefs that refers to prepping & organizing their ingredients and cook stations prior to their shift - preparing cuts of meat, sauces, spices, chopped veggies - and having them all at the ready when orders begin rolling in.

However, this five dollar french phrase isn't just for professional chefs - you can have a mise en place, too! It's basic planning that will help make preparing any meal - for 2 or for 20 - much smoother. Most recipes have time constraints so any advanced preparation will allow you to cook without stopping. Personally I can't tell you how many times I've made sure I had all the ingredients, began cooking only to realize that I needed the two onions to be finely diced or the fresh Parmesan to be grated - those things take quite a bit of time and put the brakes on all the rest of the cooking.

Here are some quick steps for creating your own mise en place:

  • Read your recipe. Sounds simple right? A surprising number of cooks don't read the complete recipe prior to starting to cook. A quick 45 second review will help you make sure you have all the proper ingredients and tools. And you'll know if you need to grate that fresh Parmesan or not!

  • Prepare all ingredients. If you spend 15 minutes slicing, dicing and grating prior to starting you reduce the risk of burning the chicken while you're dicing the tomatoes, over cooking the pasta while you're grating the Parmesan and serving cold meals because you're finishing up part while the rest is sitting on the plate.
    Oh ... and there are all sorts of cute prep bowls you can for your mise to make your cooking a little more festive. But as you know - any old bowl will work!

  • Pull out all tools. It's helpful to have the mixer, food processor, soaked wooden skewers, etc. at the ready when you're in the midst of cooking. It will help streamline your cooking and prevent you from digging in the cabinets looking for misplaced, seldom used gadgets or assembling anything.

  • Keep yourself organized. Keep all your ingredients within reach of the stove or counter where you're cooking so you can see them and quickly access them. This will help keep you focused when all the other uncontrollable interruptions happen - soccer balls coming into the kitchen, phone ringing, child crying, etc.

So go ahead, get your kitchen set up with a mise en place and start cooking like a pro. Even for simple recipes a teensy bit of preparation will make the meal better and, likely, the experience more enjoyable.

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Vicki said...

It sounds so obvious yet somehow I always forget to do it! I've made desserts with half the sugar necessary because I didn't check to make sure I had enough sugar (not recommended) and I've made cupcakes without cupcake liners because I forgot to check that, too (also not recommended). Hopefully now I'll learn my lesson!

Leslie said...

Having our mise en place was the most important thing in culinary school and when I don't follow it at home I always end up in trouble. I'm trying to pound the concept into my middle school cooking class students now, perhaps if I told them the fancy French phrase for it they'd be more likely to read their recipes and measure their ingredients.

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