The Secret of Success: “Mise en Place!”


Ever wonder how those famous chefs on Food Network seem to whip up amazing meals in what seems like mere minutes?

Well, believe it or not, getting a great meal on the table quickly and effortlessly isn’t just about talent or experience. The real secret to increasing your efficiency and success in the kitchen is to commit to some good ol’ fashioned planning and organization in the form of “mise en place.” (Of course, having a team of sous chefs doesn’t hurt either.)

I remember the first time I heard about mise en place – it was Julia Child speaking in her distinctly unusual accent, telling me and all her PBS viewers that there was nothing more efficient than practicing mise en place.

I was enlightened, I was thrilled, I knew life in the kitchen would never be the same again … after all, I now knew a secret that renowned chefs across the globe utilized to increase efficiency and ensure the success of their culinary creations.

Mastering “Mise En Place”
“Mise en place” (pronounced MEEZ ahn plahs) is a French culinary term that means “to put in place.” In a nutshell, the purpose of mise en place is to have all of your ingredients prepared and ready to go before you start cooking, so you don’t have to stop during the cooking process to do anything other than add the next ingredient.

Trust me, friends … if you adopt the practice of mise en place, you will find life in the kitchen not only quicker and easier, but more successful and enjoyable too!

Mise en place will truly help you to be a better cook, guaranteed! Why? Because you will be able to focus your attention fully on the most critical aspect of what makes a meal a success – cooking.

Let’s Get Started!

chicken kebobs mise en place

There are two simple steps when it comes to mise en place:
• Planning ­– making sure you have all of the ingredients (and necessary tools) called for in a recipe before you get started, and
• Organizing – making sure you have all of the ingredients prepared (ready to go) before you start cooking.

Step One: Planning
Have you ever come home from a busy day and starred blankly into the refrigerator or pantry hoping for divine inspiration on what to make for dinner, only to find that when inspiration finally strikes, you’re missing one of the essential ingredients needed to make the meal? I admit that I had this experience almost daily before I got serious about weekly meal planning.

Honestly, there’s no better way to ensure that you have all of the ingredients on hand to make a recipe, than to practice the time-saving and money-saving strategy of meal planning! In fact, may I be so bold as to suggest that meal planning is the ultimate mise en place!

Meal planning not only guarantees that you’ll have all of the ingredients necessary to execute every recipe on your meal plan, but it also helps to save time, stress and money because you’ve already pre-planned what you’ll be cooking for the week. For details, please check out “Mastering Meal Planning.”

Step Two: Organizing
I think it’s safe to say that most of us wouldn’t pack a suitcase by simply opening it up and filling it with random socks, shirts, pants, shoes, etc. First, we’d plan what we’re going to wear. Then we’d start organizing and assembling all of the necessary components before we packed the suitcase.

Successful, efficient cooking isn’t much different – by planning ahead in the form of weekly meal planning (as discussed above), you’ll already have what you need for each recipe you’ll be making. This makes it much easier to take the next step of mise en place – organizing!

If you’ve watched any cooking show on TV, you’ve seen the results of the behind-the-scenes organization that has taken place – all those little bowls of ingredients already pre-prepped and ready to go for the chef. All the chef has to do is talk you through the recipe as he/she adds each perfectly prepped and measured ingredient.

It would be awesome to have a personal sous chef to prep and assemble all of your recipe ingredients, but the fact is you can still benefit from this practice, you just have to commit to Be Your Own Sous Chef! Or better yet, train up little sous chefs to help you!

Mise en Place in Action!
Ready to be a “Real” Food Network Star in your own home? Below are some of my favorite mise en place tips to help you get organized before you start cooking:

• Gather all of the ingredients, as well as all of the measuring tools and cooking tools, etc. that are needed to execute the recipe(s) and place them close at hand. (Even better is to organize them in the order you’ll be using them.)

• Dice, chop, grate, mince, etc. all of the ingredients needed for the recipe(s) so they’re all ready to go before you start cooking.

• Premeasure out ingredients in individual prep bowls or measuring cups. (Or group them together in one bowl, if you’re going to add them at the same time to a recipe.) You don’t have to measure out everything, just those ingredients that would cause you to hold up progress. (For example, when baking, I never pre-measure out vanilla extract, but I always pre-measure out things like yogurt, honey, maple syrup, etc.)

• Clean as you go … another great benefit of mise en place is less mess to clean-up after cooking. Since you’re spending time prepping before you start cooking, you can also take a minute to clean-up a bit after prep-time is completed, before you start cooking. This is especially rewarding if you’re having dinner guests – not only so your kitchen appears tidy when guests arrive, but also so you can relax after dinner, rather than having to look forward to a lengthy clean-up progress.

Timing is everything – If you’re going to be cooking or assembling more than one dish, it’s important to start with the recipe items that take longer to cook and then work your way to those ingredients or dishes that take less time to prepare. This strategy helps you to develop good timing – so everything is ready all at the same time!

• Schedule a “Mise en Place” Prep Day! If you meal plan, a great time-saving strategy is to schedule a prep day so you can prepare for the week ahead by pre-cutting and marinating meats; chopping veggies, such as lettuce for quick and easy salads; making and freezing key ingredients (or meals) that can be defrosted later for quicker meal assembly. The ideas for prepping in advance are endless! That’s why prep days are a great mise en place strategy – they help reduce your time in the kitchen during the rest of week, so you can still provide healthy homecooked meals even on the busiest of days.

A Final Mise en Place Tip
Let’s talk about preheating for a minute. This is one of the most often overlooked mise en place strategies.

There’s a reason a recipe calls for preheating – it helps to ensure the food cooks properly. So before just throwing a steak on a barely heated grill (for example), be sure to preheat the grill, so it’s nice and hot. A hot grill helps to sear the exterior of the meat and lock in its juices, making the steak so much more tender and juicy!

Similarly, before sautéing, be sure your pan is well heated. By allowing time for your pans to heat-up before cooking, you’ll help to ensure better, tastier results.

Additionally, when cooking with oil, it should be close to its smoking point, before you add your recipe ingredients for best results.

And it probably goes without saying, that before you put those homemade cookies or muffins in the oven, it’s wise to be sure that your oven is preheated to the precise baking temperature called for in the recipe. Otherwise, you may end up with burned bottoms (and nobody likes a burned bottom).

Investing Your Time Wisely!
I promise, practicing mise en place isn’t just for famous TV chefs and restaurateurs, it’s a proven technique that can help everyone to cook with more ease and more success. That’s because mise en place helps us to invest our time wisely!

So remember the secret – Putting in the necessary time upfront to plan your meals and then, gather and prep all of the recipe’s ingredients in advance, helps to ensure that the time you spend cooking is much more efficient and enjoyable, as well as results in a healthy and delicious meal for the family you love!

Joyfully Serving Him, Kelly

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Comments

  1. says

    Thank you for this informative post!! I am always looking for ways to be more efficient in the kitchen as well as improve techniques. I have heard of mise en place before but never really practiced it. I’m definitely giving it a try. Now I can be a food network star too! :-)
    Be Blessed,
    Ashley

    • Kelly says

      LOL, Ashley! Appreciate you taking the time to leave a sweet note! Here’s another secret. If you pretend like you have your own cooking show, it makes the time in the kitchen even more fun! LOL! :)

  2. Amy J. says

    A great post…thanks! I find myself trying to cut corners and sometimes leave out a key ingredient, or don’t allow myself enough time to prepare a recipe. This will certainly prevent that. :)

    • Kelly says

      So glad you found this helpful, Amy! Learning this strategy was such a huge help for me, personally. It’s really made cooking so much more enjoyable and has resulted in better tasting meals! I think the main reason “mise en place” helps to increase cooking skill is because it frees you up to focus on refining your cooking techniques, since you aren’t distracted doing any of the prep steps while also trying to cook. I guess it’s evident that I’m a huge fan of “mise en place,” which is why I was so excited to pass this secret on to everyone! Blessings, Kelly

  3. says

    I know this, and yet sometimes I will be in a hurry and just forge ahead. It is then I realize I am missing an ingredient, or I have overlooked an important step coming up in the recipe.
    Arrggghhhh.
    I really like the idea of doing Mise en Place in advance. That will be a timesaver. Thanks for your great suggestions!

    • Kelly says

      Hi, Kim! I can totally relate! After all of these years in the kitchen, you’d think I’d practice what I preach, but like many home chefs, I have to admit that even though I know better, there are still times when I get a little too gung-ho and jump right into a recipe thinking I’ll be able to just prep the ingredients while I go, only to find that my stress level climbing as I frantically play “beat the clock” by trying to get the rest of the ingredients chopped and in the pan before the first few ingredients already in there burn. Nothing like learning the hard way … again! LOL! So take it from me, even the most seasoned home chefs will do themselves a huge favor by consistently practicing mise en place. Blessings, Kelly

  4. says

    Great advice! Especially so many women don’t cook anymore. I think that is really sad. The only way to stay real healthy is to make your own food and to learn to be organized about it would help a lot.

    • says

      Not only do many women not cook (anymore, or never learned) but a lot of MEN have no clue at all about cooking. Even those men who will spend their whole lives with a mother or wife who does most of the cooking, really ought to know basic skills of heating up things, boiling pasta, etc., for those times when the usual cook is sick and everyone needs to be fed!! I am very thankful that I fell in love with a man who knows how to cook and doesn’t think it’s somehow “beneath” him.

      We have a little trouble with mise en place because we have a small kitchen with very little counter space, so setting out a lot of pre-measured ingredients just doesn’t work. However, since our pantry is in the basement (and we have to walk clear across the dining room to get to the stairs), we can save time by getting all the pantry ingredients before we start cooking, to avoid making multiple trips to the basement or rushing down there while something is burning!! We also put all the spices, baking ingredients, and other things used in small quantities in a lot of recipes, in the cabinet directly over the counter space, so that the cook can stand between the open cabinet doors and grab ingredients off the shelves.

      • Kelly says

        Great way to improvise in a small space, Becca! What you’re doing is mise en place! BTW, I’ve seen some great stacking counters too that work great to stack up ingredients (raising them higher) to gain space. I’ll try to find the link and share it. Thanks for taking the time to leave a note! Blessings to you, Kelly :)

  5. says

    This is a great post and a great reminder. I know how great I feel when I plan, but then at times I just wing it. And those are the times the kitchen is a mess and I am running around trying to figure out where everything is :)

    • Kelly says

      You are so right, Suzy! Glad you found this reminder helpful! Sometimes I forget to take my own advice and chaos ensues, just as you describe – LOL! :)

  6. says

    Thanks for the great lesson on miss en place! I think it is so much easier to cook when I have everything ready to go. The problem is, I get impatient and forget that I should wait to actually start cooking until I’m completely ready. Have a great day.

    • Kelly says

      Thanks for taking time to leave a note, Malisa! So glad you found this post helpful! I think we all can relate to how being organized upfront always makes life easier. Blessings, Kelly

  7. says

    GAH. I KNOW that mis en place is helpful, in a ton of ways. you don’t start recipes you can’t finish, you have everything together at once, you even only have to think at the beginning. But I can’t bring myself to do it, I like to just go go go! You’ve given me some encouragement to try it again! Thanks for the tip, I found you through WFMW

    • Kelly says

      Hi, Mariah! So glad you found me! Great to meet you! I know what you mean, especially if you’ve got that creative streak, it’s hard to stop to do all the mundane chopping and prepping – you want to just jump in and get going! It’s so much more efficient and successful though to do this and allows for even greater creativity and attention to your cooking skills when you can cook with everything at hand ready to go. That’s why all pro chefs do this – or have sous chefs doing it for them :). Blessings to you as you give this a try again! Keep in touch! :) Kelly

  8. says

    Ha! I know! Doing it the right way is the only way I enjoy cooking. I can’t cook in a messy kitchen or a disorganized one. And everything has to be at my fingertips BEFORE I start. I think more people would enjoy cooking if they organized first. Great tips!

  9. says

    I guess I have always thought of the prep work as PART of cooking. LOL. The first step. I am, however, the worst at mise en place although I know getting everything cut and measured first makes cooking go so much smoother. Great post!

    • Kelly says

      Thanks, Christy! I think most people do think of prepping as cooking – you’re so right, and that’s when we run into trouble, because we’re trying to prep and cook at the same time. It takes some getting used to (especially for those who are super creative types – the OCD people usually take to mise en place instinctively – LOL), but once you adopt this practice, it really does make things go smoother, as you said! :)

  10. says

    I was just introduced to your blog by a friend (At Home with Kim) and I am loving it!! So many great tips & recipes to browse through. I struggle with meal planning and do better with a loose plan, but haven’t even been doing that lately (what a difference when I do!). Im truly inspired by everything here.

    Mis en place is definitely a life saver! I make a lot of stir fry and find it necessary to have everything prepped ahead. Need to carry that over to all my cooking!

    • Kelly says

      Hi, Aggie! Welcome, so glad you found out about this site! Thank you so much for taking the time to say hi – I appreciate your kind words of encouragement too! It’s funny you mentioned stir fry, because that is such a great example of mise en place – as you’ve experienced, it makes cooking so much faster and easier! Thanks again for your note! Blessings, Kelly

  11. says

    Thank you so much for sharing your fabulous post on Allergy-Free Wednesdays! Be sure to check back next week for recipe highlights (including the top 3 reader choice submissions and hostess favorites).

    Be Well!

  12. Jan says

    Kelly your website is such an answer to prayer for me with 2 little ones, and you have such a fun-loving way of getting your ideas across. What a wonderful heart you have. This weekend I’m going to write up a master menu list… and then my menu plan! I love the idea of mise en place, my only concern is that I thought vegetables started to lose their nutirents once they were chopped? And is there a reason why you use chicken so much in your evening recipes compared with red meat? I’m trying to incorporate more iron-rich red meat after reading Nourishing Traditions and struggling to find affordable recipes my family will like.

    Every blessing,

    Jan

    • says

      Hi, Jan. I’m so glad that you’re finding the info on my site helpful to you! Thanks for taking the time to leave a kind note. With regard to your questions … Mise en Place is not about pre-chopping the veggies and refrigerating them for an extended period of time, it’s more concerned with pre-chopping everything before you begin the process of cooking so that you have everything ready to go as you begin assembling/cooking the recipe. This helps you to focus your attention on correctly following the recipe and cooking appropriately, rather than trying to cook, chop items and measure ingredients all at the same time.

      As far as red meat … as good as red meat is, there are some individuals that simply do not do well with it. My youngest son and I are two of those people and that’s why we don’t eat as much red meat as other NT-following folks do.

      Which leads me to an important point … I’d also like to share that although I do appreciate and agree with many of the basic tenants of NT’s approach to the real food lifestyle, I do not subscribe to the idea that there is one ideal diet that is perfect for everyone. Each person is an individual, so although certain foods may be an excellent source of nutrients, it doesn’t necessarily mean that these foods are good for each and every person. For example: Grains for some individuals (even properly soaked grains) may not be well tolerated, or may even cause adverse health issues for some individuals.

      My personal food philosophy (which I share here at this site) focuses on encouraging people to move away from refined/processed foods and to instead eat whole unprocessed foods without naming any particular diet choice as ideal for everyone. I do share many of the ideas of taking a traditional approach to preparing foods, as are shared in NT/WAPF.

      I have found (through my own process of asking the Lord to help me heal and discovering the benefits of eating just the foods He has created for our well being) that eating healthy is a journey. As you clean up your diet, your body begins to heal from all the toxins found in processed foods. As it does, your body can then begin to tell you about even the healthy whole foods that are bothersome for you. And so, that’s why most people who start the real food journey discover that they have to adjust their diet as they continue on the journey as their body heals and can better tell them what foods are troublesome.

      And finally, and of greatest importance, my real heart here with this site is to encourage individuals and families to keep their focus on the Lord! Healthy eating can easily become an idol if not kept in check – it can become a source of hope and trust, rather than placing our hope and trust in the Lord and His provision. So I always want to encourage people to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and He will add to us what He knows we need in order to bring Him glory.

      Thanks again for your kind words. Many blessings, Kelly :)

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