Mise En Place – Before we ever fire up a pan …

Mise en place

Mise en place

Mise en place is French, and it means to put in place. If you have ever watched a cooking show or a video recipe, you saw mise en place in action. I do my own variation, and I endorse any variation you’re comfortable with. The methodology used in today’s article is what you’ll find in a typical culinary school. I think it’s unnecessary, and it’s often a time-waster.

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But before I get into why I feel that way, I’d first like you to read today’s featured article, then come back to get my take.

Go Over Your Recipe

I have a recipe for pretty much everything I make. However, I don’t usually follow them because I don’t cook like that. I have them for two primary reasons: First, I build a grocery list from them. Second, they assist me in my mise en place.

When I think of something I want to make, I’ll do a search to find something that gets me in the ballpark. I’ve discovered that there are few things I can think up that someone hasn’t tried before. Sometimes, it’s even crazy stuff. And when I find something similar, I’m like, seriously? Anyway, it will often be unrecognizable by the time I’m done with it. I’ll put the steps in an order that works for the way I cook. With that said, I always glance over it, so I have the semblance of a plan in my head.

Mise en Place – Having a Game Plan for Prep Work

I try to build mise en place into my recipes. If I’m making a stir-fry, everything will be prepped before I start cooking. If I’m roasting a chicken with mashed potatoes and asparagus, the chicken comes first. Then twenty minutes before the chicken comes out, I’ll start working on the potatoes, then the asparagus follows while the potatoes cook. It’s a matter of time management, and I’m not about to blindly follow a commercial type of mise en place in my home kitchen. I’m not against a game plan. I usually have one in my head. I just don’t prep everything before I start.

Tools and Ingredients

Ingredients I do pretty religiously. Sometimes refrigerated items stay in the fridge but that depends. For tools, not so much. It depends on the complexity and necessity of what I’m making. We have a storage area close by for small appliances, but it’s not in the kitchen. I’ll often get that out in preparation. Otherwise, everything is close at hand, and it’s really not necessary.

As a reminder, this unit is on savory cooking. The rules are different for baking and sweets. Consequently, I don’t measure to a tee and often don’t measure at all because I mostly use my eyes or other senses. If your recipe calls for a cup of diced onions, close is all that is needed. I can’t remember the last time I measured out a cup of onions. I do not need nor use a bunch of containers to put all of my pre-measured ingredients in. It’s totally unnecessary. Instead, spices stay in their containers while veggies and meat are left on cutting mats, none of which are typically measured out.

If you want to pre-measure, go for it.

Clean As You Go Mise en place?

I know they teach clean as you go in culinary schools, but I’m not sure I consider it part of mise en place. My wife and I have an agreement, I cook and she cleans up. Despite this, I rinse off, put away, sometimes clean, and generally keep things somewhat tidy. Personally, I think this falls into a category of cooking best practices … for what it’s worth.

Spare Yourself a Juggling Act

I agree with this in principle, but only you can determine what’s needed for you to avoid it. This comes with time. I’ve learned how to prep and cook at the same time. If I’m making spaghetti sauce, my meat will be cooking before I ever dice up an onion. And my peppers and mushrooms won’t get cut until my sauce is coming up to temperature. I don’t consider any of that a juggling act.

You Decide

You now have my opinion and what I do. When we start cooking, you’ll need to figure out what’s comfortable for you. I will add that when I started cooking, never did I prep and measure everything beforehand. Here is today’s article. Take it for what it’s worth.

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