Mise en place is a French phrase loosely translated as everything in its place. Literally everything is prepared in advance from kitchen flow to all the ingredients called for in the dish. “As a cook, writes Anthony Bourdain, “your station, and its condition, its state of readiness, is an extension of your nervous system.”
Mis en place isn’t just for the professional. Home cooks will greatly benefit from this orderly pre-cooking process. Imagine yourself before a dinner party feeling calm and relaxed because you’ve chopped all the garlic and placed it in a small prep dish, the onions are diced, the spice rub has been combined, — ready to be tossed into the pot at the exact right moment. Not only that, but you’ve placed all the ingredients on the counter next to the stove in the order they will go into the pot. Your kitchen will become a peaceful place that you’ve choreographed into a graceful dance of tools, ingredients and process.
Welcome to the Dance — select the menu that will serve as the music for your dinner party, then get organized by:
- Organize the the flow: Create a logical flow in the kitchen between ingredients, utensils, pots, pans, stove, sink and trash.Keep tools such as knives, wooden spoons, spatulas, whisks within arms reach of your stovetop. Place olive oil, vegetable oil, salt and pepper nearby. Arrange your cookery in a way that pots, pans and bowls are easily accessed in drawers and cabinets.
- Make space available in the refrigerator: mise en place relies on advanced preparation. Make sure you have room in your refrigerator and be sure to have adequate storage containers on hand.
- Check your pantry: Read the recipes thoroughly and check your pantry making a list of those ingredients you need to get at the store.
- Follow a schedule: Some things can be made ahead whether it’s days, hours or minutes take advantage of this opportunity to reduce the amount of tasks you’ll need to execute at the last minute when guests have arrived.
- Prep the ingredients: measure, chop, dice, puree, grate, blend each ingredient as called for in each recipe. Save time by chopping all of the shared ingredients from all of the recipes such as onions, garlic, ginger at one time and dividing them into the prep dishes such as those in the photo below.
- Order the ingredients: Place each ingredient on the counter next to the range in the order it will be placed in the pot or pan.
- Make recipes accessible: Have your recipes available for easy review either on your computer using a digital planning tool such as Pepperplate or hard copy in a plastic sleeve to keep it clean.
- Have a glass of wine and relax! You’ve created a harmonious cooking experience for yourself and your guests. Here’s an idea — add a little mise en place to the rest of your life and see what happens.