What sort of cook are you? When you embark upon a cooking or baking project, are you organized and methodical? Or does your kitchen technique tend to be more chaotic?
While you don’t have to go to culinary school to become a skilled home cook, you can take one of the primary lessons of culinary school to improve your approach. Mise en place isn’t merely a fancy French phrase. It’s a kitchen philosophy that will make your work in the kitchen even better. Keep reading to learn three reasons why mise en place is a smart strategy.
What Is Mise en Place?
The literal translation is “put in place”, and that’s exactly what mise en place is all about. Mise en place entails gathering all of your ingredients, cookware, bakeware, and tools. You’ll prep and measure out your ingredients, and arrange them in a logical order before beginning to cook.
We understand if you’re skeptical about the value of mise en place. Why not simply grab what you need as you go? Why bother dirtying extra bowls and dishes -- won’t that create more work instead of lightening your load? We’ll cover these points and more in the next three sections.
1. It’s Faster
We know it may sound counterintuitive. How can taking the time upfront to assemble tools and prep ingredients make it possible for you to cook faster? NPR notes that one key principle of mise en place is “slowing down to speed up.” The Kitchn explains that having everything ready in advance ensures your cooking process is more organized and efficient, which saves you time in the end.
Mise en place changes the way you look at cooking, making it less frenetic and more patient. Because you have chopped and diced your aromatics, measured your herbs and spices, and set aside your liquids, you can focus on combining ingredients and giving them appropriate attention as they cook. You won’t be distracted by these tasks, because you’ve already completed them. In short, mise en place helps you devote attention where it’s most needed while you’re cooking or baking.
2. It’s Cleaner
Again, we know it may sound counterintuitive to dirty an assortment of bowls and dishes in order to keep a cleaner kitchen, but it works. NPR claims that “working clean” is what mise en place is all about, and we tend to agree. When you prep and portion ingredients in advance, without the pressure of needing to get those onions into the pan now, you have the freedom to move at your own pace. This means your measurements are more accurate, and your ingredients end up in the bowls, dishes, and pans, rather than on the counter or the floor. You may have more dishes to wash, but you spend less time scrubbing the counters and wiping up spills from the floor.
Working clean is also important for keeping a sanitary kitchen. Foodborne illness is a real consideration for home and professional cooks alike. Mise en place helps minimize the risk of foodborne illness by keeping counters and floors clean. And because it saves you time during the cooking process, you have more opportunities to clean as you go.
3. It’s More Successful
The third reason to try mise en place might be the best reason of all. It really will make you a better cook. Mise en place requires you to read and understand the recipe fully before beginning. You’ll be sure to have all the necessary ingredients on hand. Epicurious acknowledges that recipes really do taste better when you use all the ingredients called for, without trying to omit or substitute. Even if you have the best intentions, without mise en place you’re more likely to forget an ingredient or add it twice.
If you take the time to prep in advance, you’re also more likely to have ingredients at room temperature when you start to cook. We know this can be a struggle, especially if you decide on the spur of the moment to make cookies or brownies. By the time you’ve measured all of your ingredients, your butter and eggs might be at just the right temperature, which means your goodies will turn out even better!
Mise en Place Tools
Are you convinced that mise en place isn’t just another way to use more dishes? The good news is you don’t even have to buy more kitchenware to start using this technique effectively. We use cups and saucers, measuring cups, and mixing bowls of all sizes for our own mise en place. Those tiny kitchen storage containers that can only hold a couple bites of leftovers are perfectly sized for mise en place. Feel free to get creative with your mise en place tools!