Basic Technique: Mise en Place
Mise en place what now? (MEEZ ahn plahs) is a French phrase that roughly translates to “everything in its place.” As a cooking technique, it’s exactly what it sounds like, a method of preparing and organizing ingredients to maximize a recipe’s efficiency. It is so crucial to the function of a professional kitchen that, for most chefs, mise en place is a way of life, making it the original “pro tip” for home cooks.
It is a technique professional chefs use to assemble meals quickly and effortlessly. It can seem fussy and a tad neurotic, but without a doubt, a good "MEEZ AHN PLAH" will make you a better and more efficient cook! It's one of the first lessons taught to new chefs in culinary school, and there's a reason for it... Mise en place literally means "set in place,". Having all your ingredients measured, cut, peeled, sliced, grated, etc. before you start cooking ensures your recipe turns out the way you want it. It is the basic technique we use to assemble Friedrich's Home Cooking kits.
With a little helping hand and shared wisdom anyone can learn how to cook.
Pans are prepared, mixing bowls, tools and equipment set out. Onions are diced, spices are measured, broth has been portioned. Taking the time to do all of this upfront actually ends up saving you time in the long run. With everything laid out in front of you, you're more organized and efficient. Your whole cooking process becomes streamlined, especially if you are a new cook. You're far less likely to do something like accidentally adding the salt twice and you're not scrambling to find an ingredient in the back of the cupboard right when it's needed.
As home cooks we often just combine ingredients that are going to be cooked together when doing a simple weeknight recipe - all the spices in one ramekin, onions and celery together in another bowl. But for unfamiliar or complicated recipes, we still go the whole nine yards and cover our counter top with little bowls of ingredients.
To determine if your recipe needs a mise, read the whole thing at least twice, paying special attention to the language used in the procedure. Does it say that certain steps must be done “quickly” or “immediately?” You’ll want a mise. Are you instructed to combine ingredients while stirring or whisking? Mise. Does the extensive ingredients list or anything else about the recipe— freak you out a little? A mise will calm your mind. It follows that there are three general categories of recipes that benefit from mise en place, fast-moving sautés like stir fries and fried rice, most baking projects, and anything that intimidates you.
If all of this seems like an overly finicky way to think about ingredient prep, I can’t say I blame you. But the goal of mise en place is to maximize efficiency, and it takes a lot of invisible, hard, often downright inefficient work to do that. But I promise you that a deliberately planned mise will make you a better cook!