Cooking Tip: Mise En Place
For our series Anna & Kristina's Grocery Bag, we've tested a couple of cookbooks on French cuisine. In them, the term "mise en place" is a prominent subject. Meaning "put everything in its place", this simple practice is about preparing ingredients ahead of time and being organized. Here's more of what we learned about this helpful cooking technique...
By creating organization in your work space, you set yourself up for success. Whether you’re a mechanic, and artist, a computer programmer, or a doctor, being organized and having all your tools at hand before you start is critical for your tasks to proceed smoothly and efficiently.
When it comes to the kitchen, Mise en Place includes preparing ingredients by measuring everything out before you start. Ingredients should be arranged in bowls and organized by the order they are to be used. Additionally, all your utensils and equipment should be set up and easily accessible.
Creating Mise en Place in your work space not only prepares you physically, it also extends to your state of mind, and allows you to concentrate on instilling passion in your work, rather than scrambling to find ingredients and not burn something while it waits for something else you still need to chop.
We asked culinary instructor Donald Haddad of the International Culinary School (of the Art Institute of BC) to help us explain the process.
It’s about timing, organizing yourself and planning for what is about to happen. He has four simple steps for Mise en Place:
Start with a clean kitchen. Empty the dishwasher. Wipe down the counters.
Quick tip: Clean as you go. Keep your cleaning tools nearby so that you can constantly clean up as you work. This will help you maintain your Mise En Place and avoid any potential contamination of ingredients.
- Read the recipe all the way through. Focus on the ingredients and steps, then start gathering your resources:
Assemble the right utensils to save yourself time.
Assemble the ingredients. Don’t just think it’s in your cupboard; KNOW it’s in your cupboard, before it’s too late to make a quick trip to the store.
- Quick Tip: Ingredient bowls. Having a set of small bowls on hand to hold all of your ingredients will help with assembling your ingredients. They should vary in size from 1/8 cup to 2 cups. You may need upwards of a dozen bowls, depending on the recipe.
2. Deep prep
Donald calls this the unglamorous part of cooking. That means processing (chopping, blending, peeling, dicing, etc.) everything before you begin cooking.
Quick tip: Butter. Cut your butter into tablespoon-size portions (1 1/4 inch cubed). This helps it soften it faster, and also makes it quick and easy to add pre-measured amounts to your recipe.
- This is a good time to prepare pans and pre-heat the oven. It’s best for the oven to be heated for at least 10-15 minutes (without opening) before putting your dish in to ensure it’s at the right temperature.
If you’re prepped properly, you can do more than one thing at a time. It’s all about timing and making sure you’re not overcooking anything.
Quick tip: Vegetables. Not all vegetables need to cook for the same amount of time. To time it right, you can blanch them, which means briefly boiling an ingredient, and then plunging it into an ice water bath to stop the cooking process.
4. Finishing Touches
It’s the last-minute drizzle of sauce on the plate, the tossing of the dressing into the salad, or the sprinkling of chopped parsley flakes on the plate to add a bit of colour.
- Quick tip: Parsley garnish. Use curly parsley rather than flat-leaf parsley for garnish since the taste of the essential oils of flat parsley can interfere with the flavours of your food.
Even if you’re just cooking at home, using the Mise En Place technique can make all the difference in the kitchen. As Donald says, you’ll be so organized, you may even be able to enjoy a glass of wine as you make dinner!