We all have our ways of doing things in the kitchen. Some people are more impulsive, some more methodical. Some people are fast, some are slower. Everybody cooks differently. There is one thing, however, that we all can benefit from, no matter the style of cooking. And that is the famed mise en place.
Mise en place is translated loosely from the French as “putting in its place”. So in the culinary world, it means to have all your ingredients and equipment ready before the start of service (in a restaurant). But it also applies to the home cook! Many novice cooks get discouraged in the beginning because of the time involved with cooking a meal, but trust me, if you practice the mise en place approach, you will cut your overall time spent in the kitchen, and you will enjoy the cooking part a ton more, whether you follow a recipe or you improvise.
First, decide what you want to cook. If you follow a recipe, read the recipe prior to starting. Then make sure you have all the ingredients, or plan a trip to the market! Once you have all the required goodies, read the recipe again. Read it carefully and visualize the steps as you read them. If you’re on improv, visualize your end result.
Now it’s time to prep! Get your cutting board out, your knives sharp and ready to go. Most recipes are written so that an ingredient is listed followed by the way to prep it. For example, you will see “2 cups sweet potatoes, diced” or “2 cloves garlic, minced”. So do just that. Read each ingredient and act on it. Place everything into separate bowls or containers, or a different area of your work station (you can always combine them if they’ll go in at the same time in a recipe and if they’re both a vegetable, for example).
Now that you have all your vegetables peeled and diced, and your seeds and nuts toasted, your mise en place is done, and it’s time to start dancing! Read each step and do as instructed. Use a timer if you’re unsure of vague directions like “until translucent”. Most recipes give time estimates. Having done your mise en place prior to starting a recipe will give you more time between each step and will allow you to enjoy the act of cooking without distractions. A proper mise en place is definitely worth adhering to in the very beginning of your cooking journey. It’s something that will serve you over and over again, plus it helps remove the clutter from the brain as well! Keep cooking my friends, and bon appétit!