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Cooking shows are all over primetime tv nowadays. They are my favorite reality shows! If you watch closely, you’ll see they even have mise en place on television. But what is it?
Mise en Place (pronounced ‘meez ahn plas’) is a fancy French term that means “set in place” and is lesson #2 in culinary school. (Lesson #1 is proper knife skills, which I’ll show you another time.) If you’ve ever watched Rachel Ray or any other cooking show, you’ve probably saw those nice little bowls of ingredients laid out on the counter. This is mise en place!
WHAT IS MISE EN PLACE?
Preparing mise en place means the veggies are washed and diced, meat is trimmed and cut to portion sizes, and even pans, tongs and towels are where they are most handy. All with the end goal of making the preparation of the meal as smooth and straightforward as possible. This should be no different in your own kitchen.
While pre-measuring your flour won’t ensure that you don’t burn your cookies, it certainly lessens the chance that you will add 3 cups of salt instead of sugar. There is nothing worse than fumbling through your spice cabinet while your butter is burning.
SO, HOW DO I DO IT?
Mise en place begins way before you ever touch a knife,. It’s the whole planning process. First, decide how many servings of the recipe you want to make and determine if you need to make any adjustments to the ingredient amounts. Then READ THE WHOLE RECIPE. I know. You never read a whole recipe. But trust me, simply reviewing the recipe before you try to make it is in your best interest. This way to can see if there are any unique techniques you need to try, how many bowls you’ll need and what utensils may be best for the job so you don’t start out with a hand whisk and find out that an electric mixer would have been better. This step also gives you a glimpse into if there are any potential pitfalls or steps missing.
Now that you’ve done the mental work, it’s time to prep. All your ingredients should be pulled from the pantry and fridge, washed, trimmed, measured and cut as needed. Then, lay everything out on the counter within arms reach of where you’ll be cooking. It may also help to arrange them in the order that you’ll be using them. If there are 3 ingredients that go in at the same time, it’s okay to put them in the same prep bowl. Make sure to have all the tools, pans and utensils you’ll need as well. You don’t want to have to search for (or sometimes in my case, wash) a pan whole you’re in the middle of cooking. And don’t forget to pull out your serving dishes, too. That’s all a part of the mise en place process.
IS IT WORTH IT?
It sure seems like a lot of work for a simple recipe, doesn’t it? But I promise you, it’ll make your experience much more pleasant. You won’t spill the bag of flour as you reach for your whisk. You won’t get half way through a recipe to find you are out of the main ingredient. And you won’t miss an ingredient entirely because you’re so distracted. Mise en place alleviates a lot of the stress because most of the work has been done already. I find this extremely helpful when I’m cooking for a party or family holiday meal, or trying something new.
Head over and check out the 10 Essential Cooking Tools Every Kitchen Needs In The Drawers to see some of the essentials you need! Do you lay out mise en place as a homecook? Will you start?