Less Stress Cooking
Tips to getting organized in the kitchen
Out of all of our articles on this site, this is one of our favorites. Cooking at home is such a positive thing and has so many health benefits.
This is a must read for any beginner cook or any cook that wants to make cooking more of a positive experience.
Home cooking is no picnic. With cramped quarters, hot pans, spills, dishes, mediocre results and unhappy customers (you know who you are, picky spouses), sometimes your kitchen can feel like the back of a full-service, all-night diner. While you may not be paid like a chef, you can at least make cooking easier by stealing one of the industry’s best techniques.
Mise en place is a French phrase meaning, “putting in place.” In the culinary world, mise en place is the concept of getting everything fully prepared before beginning a recipe. And according to chefs, that concept is king. If done right, this technique will streamline everything you do in the kitchen and eliminate all the disorganized chaos that saps the fun out of cooking.
Some people, even professionals, miss some of the key steps of mise en place. Here’s how to do it the right way.
1. Put your mind in place.
The first and most important step in mise en place can be done anywhere at any time. The goal is to understand everything you will be doing when it comes time to start cooking. Read your recipe step by step. Make sure you understand how to do each one and visualize how the recipe comes together. Are you roasting those carrots before or after you chop them? Does the chicken go in at the same time as the potatoes? The key to flawless execution of a recipe is knowing all these things before you begin, not after. You do not need to memorize the recipe, but things will go smoother if you have thought it through a couple of times.
2. Empty dishwasher and sink.
Never start cooking one thing until the dishwasher is empty and the sink is clean and sparkly.
3. Gather all ingredients.
Take everything you need out of the fridge, pantry and freezer, and put it on your work surface. Including salt, spices and oils.
4. Gather all equipment.
If you did step one, you should have an idea of everything the recipe needs. Get it all out, even if you won’t need it until the very end of cooking. That means getting out knives, a cutting board, garlic press, zester, colander, baking sheets, pots, pans, anything. If you have limited counter space, all of this stuff need not be on your counter. Just put everything together in one open spot. When it comes time to use it you don’t want to have to dig around in drawers and cupboards. You could use the dining table, buffet, or even a chair pulled into a corner of the kitchen.
5. Chop, measure and divide ingredients.
You are not yet beginning the recipe; you are simply getting all of your ingredients prepared for their first use. At the end of this step, your counter should be covered in bowls of precisely chopped and measured ingredients ready to be tossed in the pot or pan. Don’t forget the spices and seasonings. Group together all ingredients that will be used at the same time. Ideally, you will be able to pick up one fully prepared bowl for each step of your recipe. If one step requires using multiple ingredients at different times, make sure to keep them separate until then.
Clear your counter of garbage and spills. Return food cartons to your pantry and fridge — you should have everything you need measured out in front of you. Place all dirtied dishes in the dishwasher.
Attempt to lay out your ingredients and equipment in order of their use. Know where you are going to set things like hot pans; leave that space clear. If you need to prepare a pan with parchment or spray oil, do that now.
If you did a good mise en place, this part should be a breeze. You will be able to go through your recipe without stopping to measure or dig through the cupboards. You won’t have to worry about pot A burning while you chop veggies for pot B. Without all the hectic rushing about, you can focus on doing everything right. Clean as you go for less work after dinner.
Professional kitchens require mise en place. It guarantees that cooks are free to focus on the quality of their dish, without distractions like slicing and measuring. Using this principle will elevate your cooking in the same way. More importantly, it will help eliminate a lot of the stress and frustration that keep you out of the kitchen. You’re happy to be cooking, and your family is happy with the professional-quality results.
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