Mise en Place: Why Is It So Important?

ArchiViz/ iStock / Getty Images Plus
ArchiViz/ iStock / Getty Images Plus

In the days before the Food Network, I used to watch cooking shows with French chefs on public television. The shows introduced me to the term mise en place at a young age, and it wasn’t until I started cooking for myself that I learned how essential this way of thinking became in my cooking.

Mise en place means that everything is put in its place. I am a naturally organized person, so when I cook and my husband walks in, he doesn’t feel like a tornado went through the kitchen! You want your cooking to be fluid. You shouldn’t have too many distractions, such as realizing you forgot to chop up some celery after you cleaned the cutting board. If you’re following a recipe, read the entire recipe a couple times before getting all your materials together. If you’re just winging it, think of what ingredients you’ll need, what equipment you’ll use, and what your methods are. I’m a little tight on space in the kitchen, so being well-prepared is essential for my sanity. Here’s a few tips on getting your mise en place on:

  • Mise en place for the whole week! When I get home from the grocery store, I rinse and chop up green onions and cilantro and put them in a plastic container with paper towels so they’ll stay fresh. I use these for garnishes in soups and stir-fries all the time, so they never sit for long in my fridge. This is also great if you’re trying to eat healthier. You’ll tend to eat more fruits and vegetables that are already cut than reach for unhealthier things.
  • Use one cutting board to prep all your produce, and a separate cutting board for meats: I like a wooden cutting board for fruits and vegetables, and a large plastic one for meats.
  • Organize your prepped ingredients in separate bowls so you can add them to the pot in the order used in the recipe.
  • Clean as you go! So important. Wipe down counters, clean big pots and pans, and minimize the clutter. The messier you are, the more your cooking gets hampered. One time, someone (who shall remain nameless) decided to make dinner for us, and it was something she hadn’t made before. Although the intent was sweet, my kitchen looked like it was going through a home renovation! Cleaning as you go will streamline the process.
  • Review your cooking process. Can you sear something in a pan and then finish it off in the oven? If so, use an oven-safe frying pan and you won’t have to use a separate roasting pan in the oven. Think of what equipment you can combine to save you time on washing extra equipment.
  • Mise en place your pantry. Organize and separate items in your pantry, like canned beans, canned veggies and tomatoes and spices. Knowing they’re there at a quick glance while thinking of what to make for dinner can help you make healthy decisions. For example, you can quickly transform plain ground turkey into turkey chili with beans and tomatoes.

Making sure you have everything mise en place will make cooking easier and more enjoyable. How cool would it be to just dump a bowl of veggies to sauté, rather than realize you’ve forgotten to cut red bell peppers, and meanwhile burning the onion and garlic on the stove because you’re scrambling?

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Tram Le
Tram Le, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian living in Annapolis. Read her blog, This Veg Life, and follow her on Facebook and Pinterest.