Mise en place (pronounced MEEZ ahn plahs), or “setting/putting in place” in French
Maybe it’s just me, but one of my least favorite things about cooking from a recipe is thinking that I’m all set with my ingredients, only to learn that I’ll be staring down 30 minutes of prep time before I can even “begin” cooking.* With my days broken up into naptime increments, this struggle is real!
As a result, I am putting the more important set-up for my recipes into the instructions themselves.
I chose the phrase “mise en place” to satisfy myself that I’m actually using some of that French minor I slaved away for in undergrad. That, and because its definition appeals to my type-A personality much more than the abrupt, and much less euphonious, “prep.”
Generally, here’s how I like to “set in place” my cooking:
- Double check ingredients, make a list of what I DON’T have, and buy it.
- Assemble ingredients AND tools on the counter (measuring spoons/cups, bowls, spoons, KitchenAid, etc).
- Chop, dice, mince, heat ingredients that need altering from their original state.
- Especially if I’m “mise en place”-ing for an early morning project, I like to measure out each of my ingredients into separate containers to allow for super simple cooking the next day.
I also like to think of “mise en place” as referring to my entire kitchen as opposed to my individual recipe. With that in mind, it makes sense that I consider the best piece of cooking advice to be “clean as you go.”
For me, that means two things:
First, if I don’t separate my individually measured ingredients, I put each ingredient away after I’ve used what I need.
Second, and most important, I put soap and water in my first dirtied bowl and toss each subsequently used piece of kitchenware into that bowl. When something is cooking, simmering, rising, etc, I’ll go back to my bowl and start scrubbing/rinsing/drying/putting away so that my kitchen is “set in place” virtually as soon as I’m done cooking.
You certainly don’t need to “mise en place” in order to complete recipes successfully. If, however, you feel stressed by the prep-work of starting a cooking project or the clean-up afterwards, consider employing a mise en place strategy that works for you!
*While many recipes contain time allotments for these different segments of cooking, I never seem to take them seriously and, thus, don’t use them myself.