Are you familiar with the term mise en place? I actually had to Google the spelling because while I'm familiar with how to say it out loud (it sounds fancy and impressive by the way), I have never actually had to type it out.
Mise en place (mees - en - PLOS) is a French phrase meaning "putting in place" or "everything in its place." It refers to how you get things set up before cooking, or organizing and arranging all of your ingredients necessary. Essentially, you do all of your slicing and dicing, measure out all of your spices and get out all necessary tools, cutting boards, etc. so you are ready to rock and roll when you actually start cooking.
Sounds like a waste of time...
If this sounds like wasted time, I think you should reconsider! It can actually save time because everything is organized and visible, just like on The Food Network (I swear, JUST like it). I can't even count how many times I have started heating up oil in a skillet only to realize that in addition to a diced onion, I need peeled and sliced ginger, a whole bunch of seasonings and a homemade sauce ready to go in about two minutes. Let me tell you, having to scramble around the kitchen and rush through a recipe with a sharp knife never turns out well. It's not safe, and usually leads to a forgotten step or even worse, burnt garlic.
Imagine if you had prepped all of the ingredients ahead of time, and could relax and even sip on a glass of wine along the way? Mise en place.
I made carnitas earlier this week and while the pork was cooking I got my fixings organized, which included warm tortillas, thinly sliced radishes, lime wedges, sliced avocado, and small diced white onion mixed with cilantro. If I had waited to do all of this at the very end, the meat and tortillas would have surely been cold by the time we actually sat down to eat. Set yourself up for cooking success!
Another tip I love is putting ingredients away (or off to the side) as you use them, so you don't accidentally add them twice. My mom taught me this one and I still do it because it makes so much sense. I find it especially helpful when baking.
Do I have you convinced yet? Here is a simple checklist to summarize:
Read through the ingredients list and take everything out and set it out on your counter. This way if you thought you had something on hand that mysteriously disappeared over the last few days (does this happen to anyone else?) you will know before you get started.
Take out any measuring cups/spoons you need, plus any other tools or appliances like knives, cutting boards, food processor, or skillets.
At a minimum, do all of your chopping since this is usually the most time-intensive step
If you are feeling up to it and have small sauce/spice dishes on hand, you can measure out your seasonings ahead of time (but I never do this).
Lastly, put items away as you use them to avoid adding multiple times
This is a key skill to learn when you are just getting started with cooking to prevent overlooking a step or getting mixed up because of stress. I think cleaning while you go can also make the cooking experience way easier and less time-intensive, and this all kind of works together.
Are you interested in learning more in-depth information about healthy cooking and meal planning? I'm launching an e-course on this topic early next year and would love to have you on board! Click here to get on the interest list, stay in the know and get the best pricing once registration opens.