Are you familiar with the term mise en place? I actually had to look-up the spelling because while I'm familiar with how to say it (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 necessary ingredients. 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.
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 (this is the worst), a whole bunch of seasonings and a homemade sauce ready to go in about three minutes. 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 then could relax and even sip on a glass of wine along the way?
Mise en place.
As an example, 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 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 most definitely 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 and if you have ever inadvertently forgotten to add salt to a baked good, you'll know why.
- 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 and spoons you need, plus any other tools or appliances like knives, cutting boards, food processor, or skillets.
- At a minimum, do at least some of the chopping since this is usually the most time-intensive step
- If you are feeling up to it and have small sauce dishes on hand, you can measure out your seasonings ahead of time
- Lastly, put items away as you use them to avoid adding multiple times
Mise en place 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 in synergy. There are two types of home cooks in this world - those who mise en place, and those are more of the "free-for-all" type in the kitchen. Which one are you?
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