The term “mise en place” is used by chefs the world over. It’s French for “everything in its place,” and it will change your life.
When I started cooking, I would be stressed throughout the process, and I would completely destroy my kitchen and feel utter despair at the thought of cleaning it afterwards. I found out that’s completely unnecessary (thank God), and cooking can be a stress-free, creative, fun outlet.
Professional chefs practice mise en place before they even begin to cook. They chop all their veggies (actually, the sous chef or some flunky probably chops all the veggies), measure out their ingredients, set out their tools and pots and pans, and know how they will time each separate process so that the dish will look and taste perfect.
We are not professional chefs, but we can follow their advice and learn some of their techniques to make our kitchens run more smoothly, even when our sous chefs can barely reach the counter and aren’t allowed to use sharp objects yet.
For me, a big part of the process is cleaning while I cook. The kitchen is easier to move around and function in if I don’t have messes spread everywhere, and the clean up afterwards is much, much easier.
I start with a trash receptacle that I can set on the counter: a large, brown, paper bag from a grocery store, a large bowl, or a large, clean bucket all work. If I peel an onion, the peel goes into the trash by the cutting board, immediately. If I have a wrapper to toss, it goes into the trash and not onto the counter. This makes a huge difference.
As I finish with each pot, pan, measuring cup, and spoon, I rinse them with hot water and stack them by the sink. Some will need to soak, so they are filled with hot water and left to sit while I continue cooking. It takes less than 30 seconds to do this while I cook, but it can take much longer to do it afterwards.
I even wipe down counters while pots simmer or ovens bake before sitting down with an iced tea for a break. Spices go back into the pantry, veggies go back in the fridge. It makes it easier, and it feels so much better.
My mise en place routine, so far: Before I begin to cook, I get as much detail out of the way as possible so that the carefully timed process of cooking, itself, is a joy. Here is a list of my suggestions from my own experience of what works best for me:
- Make sure surfaces are clean and safe to cook on, and set out your trash receptacle.
- Read over ingredients and make sure they are all out and in easy reach of the prep area, stove top, or oven.
- Wash and dry any pots, pans, tools, or measuring cups that you’ll need (if they’re not already clean) and set them near the ingredients they go with.
- Clean, cut, chop, marinate, and season meats, fruits, veggies, butters, garlic, herbs, etc., and set them out in small cups or bowls to be grabbed and added in when needed. Be sure not to cut meat on the same cutting board as veggies and fruits, and try not to cross-contaminate by washing your cutting board between different items.
- Make sure recipes, cooking notes, and cookbooks are open and nearby for easy reference.
- Get started!
Please let me know in the comments if this list has made any difference for you in your cooking, and let me know if there is something else I could add to make it even smoother.