A (Mise En) Place for Everything

Has this ever happened to you: You’re in the middle of cooking dinner, and you open the cupboard to reach for an herb or spice only to find that you’re out of it? Or you cut into the bread or cake you just baked, only to realize that you forgot to add a key ingredient? It’s happened to me more times than I care to admit. The worst is when you don’t realize you omitted an ingredient until you serve whatever it is you made to company and it just doesn’t taste right.

I used to think the occasional disaster was just the cost of doing business when it came to cooking and baking, but I’ve recently learned that these kitchen catastrophes can quite easily be avoided. How? By using mise en place. That may sound like an intimidating and highly-technical skill only available to the trained chef. And, indeed, professional chefs use this technique. But it’s actually quite simple to learn and understand, easy to use, and can transform your cooking and baking more than any other single cooking skill.

So what is this strange-sounding technique?  Mise en place (pronounced MEES ahn plahs), literally “put in place” but more commonly translated “everything in place”, is a French cooking term, which simply refers to assembling all of your ingredients and equipment before you begin cooking. You read through your recipe, get out all your ingredients, measure, wash, chop, toast, bring to room temperature, etc., and get all of your pots, pans, bowls, utensils, and other equipment ready.

Casatiello mise en place 

Sounds easy enough, right? It really is. So why go through the extra step, not to mention dirtying the additional bowls and containers, to have everything laid out like a TV cooking show? Simple. Because it’s transformational, in several ways. First, you will avoid those unpleasant surprises, where you reach for an ingredient you always keep on-hand, only to realize you’re out of it. Next, you won’t find yourself knee-deep in a sauce that needs to be stirred constantly, only to realize you need to peel and chop the next three ingredients. Also, you will be familiar with the recipe, so there won’t be any other surprises (like needing a piece of equipment you don’t have, or having to stop and Google a technique you aren’t familiar with).

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, by familiarizing yourself with the recipe and having everything you need at hand and ready to go, you will cook and bake with a whole new level of confidence and ease that you never knew possible. This last point is almost impossible to overstate, but it’s also something you have to experience to really appreciate. By having everything you need ready to go, you really will feel like a professional chef.

So hopefully mise en place doesn’t seem like such  mystery now. Give it a try the next time you cook or bake; you’ll see what I mean.

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17 Comments

  1. May 5, 2013 at 8:37 pm

    […] I had my mise en place, I began by heating olive oil and melting butter in a sauté pan. I dropped in the shallot and […]

  2. February 11, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    […] caramel has to be used as soon as it’s ready, or it will start to cool and harden, so mise en place it key to this recipe. Having all of your ingredients and equipment set out and at hand will enable […]

  3. November 11, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    […] I did my mise en place. I’m a big proponent of using mise en place for cooking and baking, and I always employ it […]

  4. January 26, 2011 at 6:59 am

    […] the middle of a Midwest winter. I allowed the Romas to cool on the baking sheet while I prepared my mise en place for the […]

  5. January 7, 2011 at 7:01 am

    […] with whole mushrooms, it still only took me about 15 minutes to get everything ready. With my mise en place completed, it was time to make […]

  6. April 16, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    […] with the other recipes in the Quick Bread section of The Modern Baker, once my mise en place was done, the batter came together really fast. As I was preparing the dates, which were placed in […]

  7. March 14, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    […] skills, I’m able to impart a few things to her, most especially the importance of using mise en place and of cleaning up as you go. Tall order, I know. But as I said, I have two years to accomplish […]

  8. February 28, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    […] I prepared my starter the evening before I planned to bake and let it sit out at room temperature overnight. The next day, I chopped and boiled Yukon gold potatoes, then let the potatoes and potato water cool to room temperature. I decided to use Yukon gold, as I thought they would give the crumb a nice color. While the potatoes and water were cooling, I chopped the chives and assembled my mise en place. […]

  9. October 4, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    […] mise en place — mise en place (pronounced MEES ahn plahs), literally “put in place” but more commonly translated “everything in place”, is a French cooking term, which simply refers to assembling all of your ingredients and equipment before you begin cooking. You read through your recipe, get out all your ingredients, measure, wash, chop, toast, bring to room temperature, etc., and get all of your pots, pans, bowls, utensils, and other equipment ready. […]

  10. June 11, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    […] 11, 2009 at 5:38 pm (Bread Baking, Techniques) OK, so you’ve done your mise en place, mixed, autolysed, kneaded, fermented, shaped your dough, and now it’s on it’s final […]

  11. Diane said,

    June 6, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    Thanks for this post. Yours is so organized and detailed. I love it! I’ve recently started doing somethng similar, but I’m going to try your idea out tomorrow, when I bake my challah.

    Is the green bowl a shamrock Fiestware ramekin? I am an avid Fiesta collector.

    Diane

    • gaaarp said,

      June 6, 2009 at 4:22 pm

      Thanks, Diane.

      Yes, that is Fiestaware. We live about an hour-and-a-half from the factory, and we go down every now and then and shop their seconds room. In fact, we’re planning a trip in about two weeks!

  12. June 6, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    […] I began mixing the recipe, I did my mise en place.  I try to do that for most recipes, although I admit to not always taking the time.  This time I […]

  13. sbrim said,

    June 6, 2009 at 10:49 am

    I need this post right now.

    My stand mixer takes up approximately 1/3 of my counter space. That isn’t really an exaggeration. There is no way that I’m putting the Pro 600 down in a cupboard only to take it out again when I use it…I use the thing too much and my back would probably give out after a week, not to mention the fact that I’m not supposed to lift really heavy things since I’m pregnant. I really need to learn to use the space I have effectively until I can get someone to help me build extra counter space. Thank you so much. 🙂

    • gaaarp said,

      June 6, 2009 at 11:28 am

      Give it a try and let me know how it works for you. I used to have a kitchen that was literally so small, I could stand in one place and reach the refrigerator, stove, sink, and all my counter space. I wish I had known about mise en place then!

  14. Kayte said,

    June 6, 2009 at 10:40 am

    Great post. I first learned this last year when I started with the Whisk Wednesdays group with the LCBatHome book. All the recipes are so much easier if you have that all in place! It goes quickly, is not frutstrating, and you don’t have to run to the store in the middle, just like you said…easy! It was fun looking at yours…I always enjoy seeing how people do it, what their little bowls and such look like, etc. Once you start, it’s a sickness. LOL.

    • gaaarp said,

      June 6, 2009 at 11:23 am

      Thanks. I don’t know if you noticed, but my salt, sugar, and buttermilk powder are in little brioche molds. When I bought them, I had no idea what they were; I just thought they’d make great little bowls for measuring things!


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