What’s so great about mise en place? In one word: everything. I’m serious. It’s simply the most remarkable approach to following recipes and staying organized in the kitchen. The general premise is to keep everything in its place while cooking. Because I love this approach so much, I see it as applicable to almost every context in life. I even wrote a post about it within the context of writing. So it only seems fitting that I provide tips on how to use this approach within its original form. Although it seems like common sense to stay organized in the kitchen, there is a true art to mastering it.
Know when you can use mise en place
There are times when you won’t be able to use this approach. There are those days when you may be rushed for time, tired, or you just want a simple meal. During those times, mise en place isn’t necessary. Mise en place is most appropriate for the complex recipes with several ingredients and steps that require advance preparation. When you know you can provide your full attention and care to a recipe that requires mise en place, you’ll be more able to enjoy the cooking process as well as the end result.
Read the recipe
Of course you are reading the recipe if you are following it. But there’s a difference between taking the time to sit down and read the recipe in advance and following the recipe as you go. Reading the recipe in advance will allow you to do the following: take stock of the ingredients you already have, write a list of what you will need, see if there’s a recipe within a recipe, and determine whether the recipe is feasible for your culinary skillset, timeline, and your appetite. If you’ve ever watched the show “Anna and Kristina’s Grocery Bag,” you’ll know what I mean. Half the challenges they face with the recipes are attributed to the fact that they’re not reading through the recipe in advance. Though I don’t think they’re doing that because they’re bad cooks, they’re more so trying to bring home the idea of reading the recipe before committing to it.
Break up the recipe into feasible and timely steps
Once you have read the recipe carefully, determine what needs to be done ahead of time. Do you need to separate eggs? Do you need to place a blend of spices in a dish all at once? Are there time sensitive steps involved in your recipe? All these elements require mental preparation. It’s not solely a matter of taking these steps when the recipe tells you to take the instructed action. That option leads to stress and less enjoyment while cooking.
Have equipment and prepared ingredients accessible
If you ever notice how calm celebrity chefs are on a cooking show, you should know it’s partly because they have everything at their disposal as they’re cooking. All their equipment and ingredients are by their side and ready to be used. When I first started to try more advanced recipes, I tried this one so that I could make these beautiful parmesan frico salad cups. It took me much practice and mastery of mise en place to get the technique right. If you’d like to try this recipe for yourself, here’s a tip: have the muffin tins and moulding glasses readily by your side as soon as you take the parmesan crisps out of the out of the oven. Because these delicate delights harden so quickly, there is such a small window of time to mould them into the desired product.
Maintain a clean workspace
As you are preparing and cooking, you may notice how many dirty dishes accumulate in your sink. With the advanced planning and organization that comes with mise en place, there are ways to reduce this pile as you go and even reduce the number of dishes you use. Sometimes you have to let something simmer for at least 20 minutes. That’s a great time to start washing dishes. Sometimes you have several ingredients to chop. When you plan well in advance, you can minimize your dishes by using one cutting board to chop everything at once. Just think, a reduced pile of dishes before or after your meal will likely lead to a reduced or non-existent pile of stress.
Cooking doesn’t always have to be stressful. For many, it can be enjoyable and bring a calm feeling. Mise en place can elicit more of that calm. It may seem like a lot of work at first to integrate these steps into your usual cooking routine. But in the long run, with much practice and dedication, it may just become an approach you cannot live without.