One of the key differences between an amateur chef and a food professional can be summed up in one brief phrase: mise en place What is mise en place?
What is mise en place?
Mise en place roughly means a place for everything, and everything in its place. In the kitchen, mise en place means setting up your workspace before you being the cooking.
Pronounced “meeze on plahss,” in your Frenchiest voice, please, mise en place translates roughly from French as “setting in place.”
Mise en place in the kitchen
In the kitchen, mise en place is the ultimate chef’s technique and one of the key points stressed in the early days of culinary school, right along with basic knife skills.
Basically, it means that before you fire up the stovetop and get cooking, you need to have your supplies and ingredients prepped and ready to go.
This means that if you intend on caramelizing onions, for example, your onions are chopped and portioned, your butter is softened, your salt cellar is close at hand and all of your pans are at the ready before you start cooking.
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Why mise en place matters
Does all this mise en place business sound a bit fussy to you? You’re not alone: many home chefs don’t prepare their ingredients in advance. And this is what separates the amateurs from the professionals.
In a restaurant setting, mise en place is absolutely vital. Having ingredients and supplies prepped and ready ensures that the cooking process goes seamlessly. The chef doesn’t have to pause in the middle of cooking to pick up more arugula at the grocery store. It helps ensure quality and consistency in cooking.
But mise en place can benefit chefs at home, too. If you’ve ever made a recipe without reading it first, you know that sometimes things move very quickly. Not having the ingredients ready to go can even ruin the recipe or affect the outcome.
Pre-measuring everything also helps prevent issues that result from forgetting an ingredient or adding it twice (nobody likes double-salted cookies!).
Mise en place might sound time-consuming at first, it actually saves you time in the long run. Plus, you don’t have to deal with stress with every new step in a recipe.
How to make mise en place work for you at home
If you’ve never set up your mise en place, let’s illustrate with an example of how you might get started. Say you’re making awesome carrot cake. To set up your mise en place, you would take these steps.
Step 1: Read the recipe
All the way through. Review all of the tools and ingredients that you’ll need to prep in advance. This also provides the opportunity to address questions before you get going with the recipe, such as “how do I grate carrots?” You can also review steps that might require advance preparation, such as making candied carrot peel.
Step 2: Take the first steps to prepare
Once you have a good idea of the steps required in the recipe, take proactive steps to ready yourself for baking. For the aforementioned carrot cake recipe, this might include preheating the oven, measuring out dry ingredients, grating carrots, assembling bowls and spatulas, prepping cake pans and so on.
Now, get baking. If you’ve never set up mise en place in such a precise, you might be amazed at how seamlessly and easily the process of following a recipe can be.