by Maddy Sweitzer-Lamme
Have you ever wondered how professional kitchens turn out complicated dishes with lots of components so dang fast? If you’ve ever read a chef’s cookbook, you know that many restaurants use lots of complicated sauces, garnishes, and sides to pull off their elegant food. But they’re not making all those items to order. The secret? A French concept called mise en place.
What is Mise en Place?
Actually, it’s not really fair to call it a French concept. Mise en place translates to “everything in place,” which is hardly an idea specific to French culture or cuisine. But chefs love to make things sound fancier than they are, so they call it mise en place. Don’t be intimidated.
Mise en place is simply the idea that you have everything you need to plate a dish prepared and in front of you before you start constructing the dish. Chefs talk about “doing their mise,” which refers to the daily prep that they’re responsible for within the kitchen. But mise en place isn’t just useful for chefs making tweezer food with dozens of parts. It’s just as relevant (maybe more so!) for a busy home cook who is trying with all their might to get a healthy meal on the table for their family while children are screaming, emails are dinging, and pets are sniffing around.
Adapting it for Your Home
When you read a recipe for, say, tomato sauce, you might notice that the ingredient list doesn’t just call for two cloves of garlic. It calls for two cloves of garlic, chopped. That’s your mise en place: the process of peeling and chopping those two cloves of garlic. That way, when you get to the point in the recipe where it tells you to add the garlic, you’re prepared.
All the little ingredient notes about how items should be prepared for cooking are directions about setting up your mise en place. If you often find yourself in the middle of cooking a dish, hot oil starting to smoke, only to realize that you were supposed to chop that onion, you might find the concept of mise en place helpful.
Next time, before you start cooking, take the time to get ingredients prepped to the point where they’ll be added to the recipe. For smaller tasks, use a paring knife. For dicing and chopping vegetables, reach for Made In’s Santoku knife, which is ridged to prevent sliced vegetables from sticking to the side of the blade.
Pull out any ingredient you might need, and locate the correct measuring cups and spoons. Use one of Made In’s conveniently-sized quarter sheet pans to organize all those items, and move them between your prep area and the stove.
We’re not all cooking show hosts, and we certainly don’t want to clean a million tiny, matching bowls that we used to measure out a single teaspoon of salt, so I’m not going to tell you that you need to measure out every single ingredient. But taking the time to assemble the ingredients you need will make you a significantly faster, more comfortable cook. Even if your family is screaming in the background.