Technique: Mise en Place
Mise En Place is a French term which means everything in place. Why is this a cooking technique? Let me explain…
In cooking, timing is of the essence. Your onions and garlic are sauteing away in the skillet. Your attentions turns to slicing up the meat. Meanwhile, your onions are brown around the edges and the little bits of garlic turn into dark, burnt crisps. Whoops…. In baking, it is even more critical. While you are meticulously measuring out your next ingredient, you overbeat the batter, and the resulting cake is dense, chewy and not at all pleasant.
Now introducing…Mise En Place. This is the first step of every recipe. It is rarely stated. It’s the hidden step before step one in (seriously) EVERY recipe. A recipe reads like this… 1 cup of carrots, julienned, 1 onion, diced, 1 lb of chicken, sliced thin. There is a step in there that isn’t part of your recipe instructions. You must first julienne the carrots, dice the onion, slice the chicken. This is Mise En Place.
Make sure you have prepped all of the ingredients to the state they are in the ingredient list BEFORE you begin the recipe. This is so life changing. Does that mean that the recipe is more patchke and prep than it says? Maybe. I include chopping and measuring time when I say “Prep Time: 5 minutes,” not every recipe will factor that in. For less patchke, you can buy pre-prepped veggies and meat. Buy sliced chicken. Buy diced onions. Most markets will sell these things ready to go for those of us who are willing to spend the money to save the time.
The next step is to measure every ingredient. 2 cups of flour? Measure them into a bowl. If it needs sifted, sift it while measuring. Need 4 eggs? Crack and check your 4 eggs so they are ready to go. Having everything measured means when it’s time to add the ingredient, you only have to pour it in.
Should I pre-measure the spices too? I usually don’t. I keep a measuring spoon at the ready, and I have every spice I need out. This way I can measure without having to move around. It’s key to have every spice you need right there at the ready. If you need to tweak the salt or add a pinch more spice, you don’t want to run back to the spice cabinet and start digging around while your food dies in the pan.
Mise En Place sometimes takes longer than the recipe itself. That’s ok! Because the entire recipe will move seamlessly if the prep was complete at the beginning. Now get cooking!…but first, Mise En Place.