TheI’ll be honest: There are definitely some lessons from my childhood days that now reside in a cobweb-filled crevice deep in my brain. Think along the lines of the Pythagorean theorem, what even a prime number means, and how in the world to do long division on pen and paper. Of course, every now and then, I’ll comb through my memory archives to pull up one of these facts when I’m in the middle of a hot night of trivia or while binge-watching an episode of Danger! But, for the most part, these lessons have remained largely intact (sorry, mom). Kids, stay in school.
Conversely, however, as I grew older and found my true calling in life—or my absolute obsession with food—I managed to go to culinary school, where I learned some important techniques and lessons that I still use in my everyday life. . In addition to learning how to properly make five mom sauces and tour a potato (UGH, IYKYK), my first week of culinary school taught me one of the most important ways to succeed in a kitchen. And, no, I’m not talking about always enjoying your food (although, of course, that’s a close second).
By far, the most valuable time-saving cooking technique I learned was the importance of mise en vende. This is a simple culinary skill that involves careful food preparation (and Marie Kondo-style organization) ahead of time. The good news is that it’s very easy to master and will make a noticeable difference in how easily you can meal prep for the week or get dinner on the table in no time.
What is mise en place?
Mise en place is a culinary phrase of French origin that refers to “putting everything in its place” or “putting” items together. However, when it comes to cooking, this translates to setting up your workstation forward actually start cooking your dish.
Think of a meal kit company with ingredients and recipes that sends over a box of individually packaged meals ready to cook. The concept of mise en place is practically the same in that you prepare your ingredients separately to have them on hand and ready to use as the recipe calls for. Read: Home cooking means no more frantically chopping onions at the last minute while the rest of what’s in the pan starts to burn.
4 tips for successful mise en place setup
1. Read the recipe several times
To ensure that you are completely ready to start cooking, the first thing you should do is read the entire recipe. Not once, but twice. As you read the ingredients and steps, take notes on how your food should be prepared to reduce the amount of last-minute slicing, dicing, and chopping.
2. Prepare all your ingredients forward start cooking
Once you’ve read through all of your ingredients, you’ll want to prepare them forward start cooking – seriously, stress first. For example, the recipe may call for a large carrot, but does it also say to wash, peel, and grate it (stick-size cuts), or did you have to shred it, or cut the carrot into matchsticks? Repeat the process for each ingredient and place each in individual containers. Or, if you want to make cleanup even easier, line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and dump the ingredients into small piles with space between them to grab and use as needed.
3. Get all the tools you need in advance
In addition to preparing each of the ingredients accordingly to make them easy to throw into the pan, bowl, or pot, you’ll also want to make sure you have all the tools you need to get the recipe ready . This will save you digging through the cupboards to find the dusty colander as your previously al dente pasta quickly turns to mush. My culinary school instructor compared a well-executed and thought-out set-up to a choreographed dance routine that flows without hiccups, hesitation, or absolute chaos. Yes, cooking can be a bit unpredictable at times; however, misusing the site will help minimize the chance of any potential mishaps.
4. Clean, clean and clean
To ensure that your spot is as effective as possible, you’ll want to clean, clean, and clean as you go. This is likely one of the most overused phrases you’ll hear in a professional kitchen (besides “yes, chef”). To make things as neat and organized as possible, cleaning while you cook will prevent dishes from piling up on the ceiling by the time you’re done cooking. It will also help prevent any cooking-related accidents while you’re scrambling for a clean counter space (to set the hot pot) or about to cut your finger (while chopping vegetables on an overcrowded cutting board).
TL; DR: These simple misplaced steps don’t work well only with in a professional kitchen, but also when cooking at home and even preparing the meal for the week. Say goodbye to endless hours spent making a recipe and say hello forever to the days of efficient, clean and delicious cooking.