Mise en place is basically French for “set in place” or “put in place” or just about any way you want to say “make sure you have everything lined up and ready to go” before you start major cooking projects. Mise en place is the trick to making sure your cooking life goes as planned.
What this means is quite simple: before you start cooking, make sure you have everything ready to go. Utensils, check. Various ingredients measured and ready to use, check. Oven preheated, check. Pre-cooked or par-cooked items pre-cooked or par-cooked, check.
Let’s be honest: is there anything more annoying than looking for the heavy cream — and discovering you don’t have any — twenty seconds before it’s needed?
Oh sure, I have nights when I come home with a menu plan in mind, and I execute in the most haphazard way possible. Yeah, that’s me chopping an onion while heating the skillet for sauteing it. But mostly I force myself to be methodical. That means taking extra minutes to save aggravation…and destroyed meals because I forgot something important.
This makes sense. In my experience, unless a meal needs to simmer or braise or roast for a long time, the prep work is generally the most time-consuming, hands-on part of the cooking experience. Because I’m familiar with the recipe and have the ingredients ready to go, the cooking part goes very fast.
I think this is even more critical for the gluten-free chef. Not only do we have to ensure every ingredient, utensil, and work surface are gluten-free, but we also need to prepare meals that are creative, tasty, and — for me — quick. Being prepared, while it seems to slow down the process, actually makes it all come together quickly.
As you think about your kitchen and cooking style, how does mise en place figure into your process?