Can mise en place make your cooking more organized?

When cooking from a recipe, I usually:

  1. Read through the entire recipe to get a comprehensive idea of what I’ll be doing.
  2. Read through the recipe again, this time taking notes on the recipe that are helpful to me during the cooking process.
  3. Set out all of the equipment I’ll need to complete the recipe.
  4. Measure, chop, mince, etc. anything that has to be done at a very specific time during the cooking process. (If I’m making soup, I’ll chop all my vegetables first, but I tend to just measure and grab ingredients out of the refrigerator and pantry as I go.)
  5. Heat the stove or oven, if applicable.
  6. Cook.

You’ll notice that I don’t typically measure out all of my ingredients or get them out of the cupboard before starting the cooking process. This step, referred to as mise en place, has always seemed to me to be unnecessary. I also think measuring things ahead of time dirties a ridiculous number of bowls. Or, rather, I thought it was ridiculous until reading Michael Ruhlman‘s newest cookbook Twenty.

Before explaining what Ruhlman said to change my mind (or at least think mise en place less ridiculous), let me first give you some of his credentials. He co-wrote Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry Cookbook, been a judge on Iron Chef America, studied at The Culinary Institute of America, wrote Ratio (one of the most useful cookbooks ever written, in my opinion), and has also written books with chefs Eric Ripert, Michael Symon, and Anthony Bourdain. If you like to cook, Ruhlman’s books are valuable companions in the kitchen.

Now that I have my praises for Ruhlman out of my system, let me share with you what he wrote that helped to change my mind about mise en place. From pages 13 and 14 in Twenty:

There are all kinds of home cooks — people who cook to unwind; people who cook as a hobby; people who cook because they want to feed their family healthful, tasty, economical meals; and people who cook because it’s the least objectionable option in fulfilling a daily need. Regardless of what kind of cook you are, the most basic rules apply. First and foremost is that cooking is easier, faster, more efficient, more successful, and more fun when you think first, when you prepare and organize, when you set up your mise en place.

This is not an additional step — it’s simply doing all that you would do throughout the cooking anyway. You’re just doing it ahead of time, spending less time between cupboard and counter, refrigerator and stove. Be sure your counter or work area is completely clear. Go to the refrigerator, pull everything you’re going to need, and set it out. Go to the cupboard, and pull everything there you’ll need. Gather your tools beside your cutting board, set the pans you’ll need on the stove, and get the oven hot if you’re using it. Think about the sequence of your actions. And then being to work, and as you work while you’re doing one thing, think about what you’ll be doing next and next after that.

The past few meals I’ve made, I’ve tried mise en place (Ruhlman defines it as “organize and prepare,” even though it’s exact translated meaning is “put in place”). I’m not convinced it’s something I’ll do in the future for everything I make, especially the favorite recipes I know by heart and could make while wearing a blindfold. However, for all new and tricky recipes, I’m giving it a whirl. Being organized and prepared has served me well in so many other aspects of my life, it’s likely to benefit me in the kitchen.

What are your thoughts on mise en place as a way to help you be more organized in the kitchen? If you thought it was a waste of time, like I did, do Ruhlman’s words change your mind at all? Or, have you been a loyal mise en place preparation guru your entire cooking life? I’m interested in reading people’s thoughts on this cooking habit.

81 Comments for “Can mise en place make your cooking more organized?”

  1. posted by Annette on

    After college I was a cook in a restaurant. I learned it was much more efficient to have all the items at the ready and to clean up as I went. I do this now especially with baking. While I try not to dirty pans and bowls unnecessarily, having items premeasured makes the process go smoothly so you are not burning a sauteeing vegetable while you are chopping another. Happy cooking!

  2. posted by whislerpotpie on

    I taught cooking classes for a while. I highly recommend mise en place. It makes cooking so much more of a pleasure – it gives it organization and rhythm. I also think it makes clean up a lot easier.

    You don’t have to go nuts either. Put all your wet in one bowl, dry in another for example.

    Having a good set of prep bowls is key. (I like the set of 3 stacking melamine bowls with a pour spout. It’s usually just the right number and size of bowls needed. for anything from baking to making spaghetti sauce.)

  3. posted by Jennifer on

    I do this simply because 1) I’m wired that way and 2) it ensures I have all the ingredients I need before I start mixing (just recently, in fact, I used up the very last teaspoon of vanilla while making cupcakes). Though I have a system in place to check supply levels monthly, I sometimes use more than anticipated.

    I also run a sinkful of hot soapy water before I start and load the dishwasher as I go, so using extra dishes is not really a huge problem, though I do try to re-use when possible (i.e., if two ingredients are going to be mixed anyway, I will re-use the measuring device).

    Thank you for this post- I have recently gotten back into cooking and baking again so will also be checking out the cookbooks you mentioned.

  4. posted by Layne on

    I do this as a matter of course. It’s easy to rinse load in dishwasher/wash the “extra” bowls as you go, and if you are doing any more that 2 dishes at the same time (like Thanksgiving dinner) it’s pretty much impossible NOT to do some mis en place.

    I cook dinner after work several times a week, and I mostly show up to the table with all of the cooking vessels clean or in the dishwasher. Usually clean, dry and stored.

  5. posted by Alyssa on

    My cooking routine:

    -read recipe once through
    -read recipe and pull out supplies I need
    -cook

    I always pull out everything I need before I start. Sometimes recipes call for tasks in rapid succession, and I don’t want to have to scramble for something I thought I had but couldn’t find right away, no matter how organized I am. Plus, if I don’t have something I need, it gives me time to look up a substitute online. Once I have a moment while something is cooking, I put stuff away.

    On a side note, simply from an environmental viewpoint, it’s better to just open the fridge once to get stuff out and once to put stuff away rather than opening it over and over and over.

  6. posted by Andrea on

    This post makes me laugh. This is more or less what I do when I cook. My husband is a total opposite from me, and it drives us both nuts! I will share this with him and see if he might come around to my view. We have the book, Ratio, already, and my husband loves it, so maybe he’ll actually take this advice as he respects the author already.

  7. posted by Julie @ Willow Bird Baking on

    I’m a food blogger, and I cook a lot! Mise-en-place is something that, as I’ve spent more and more time in the kitchen, I’ve realized is crucial to my enjoyment of the process.

    Ever wonder why chefs on TV make recipes seem so easy? Watch closely next time and notice that they have their ingredients ready and measured out. They can just enjoy the process of combining, mixing, baking in a relaxing way because they’ve prepared (or, okay, assistants have prepared, but still!) their station beforehand. It really does remove the stress from cooking (no more realizing while you’re cooking sugar on the stove that you’re going to need to pour in some cream as soon as it reaches a certain temperature, but you haven’t measured it yet!)

    Apart from removing stress during the cooking process, it also serves as a check to be sure you have all your ingredients and tools before you start. If you set everything in place beforehand, you’ll notice if you used the last of the eggs last week or lent your bundt pan to your sister. Things you don’t want to realize in the middle of a recipe!

    Actually, for maximum enjoyment of the cooking process, my steps look something like this:

    1. Read through recipe making any notes.
    2. Spend some time visualizing the steps of the recipe — this really helps me!
    3. Clean my kitchen. I know this seems counterintuitive, but I clear the sink and clean the counters before I start. It’s SO much more pleasant to work in a clean, organized space. I also do mini cleans throughout the week so there’s not much to do at this step.
    4. Mise en place! I set out ingredients and measuring cups/spoons. I prepare a paper towel to set used tools on. I measure things out if: (a) I can go ahead and put them in the mixing bowl to start with, or (b) I’ll need them at a time-sensitive part of the recipe where I won’t want to stop and measure.
    5. Begin and just enjoy the smooth experience!
    6. Clean up as I go (sticking dishes in the dishwasher, wiping spills) to keep my area neat.
    7. Finish cleaning up immediately after I put my food in the oven so as not to lose my momentum.

    These steps have made my time in the kitchen really fun and calm.

  8. posted by María on

    Did you ever find out that you didn’t have backing powder after having mixed half of the ingredents for the cake already? I did, and since then I prepare my ingredents first.

  9. posted by Celeste on

    I am definitely FOR mis en place. I like to be able to do set-up ahead of time so that if it’s something a little pesky, I never have to take my eyes off the stove or mixer to fumble for the next thing. It’s just so much more enjoyable to be able to get into the mental flow when it’s all ready to go. Cold things can be kept chilled until the last minute.

    Confession: I did buy a little set of bowls for this purpose, but they’re not unitaskers. We can use them for different Christmas cookie and gingerbread house sprinkly things (nice because not all containers of them can be reached into) or different colors of egg wash when painting designs on cookies.

  10. posted by Steve on

    Every time I try to do this, even for the supposed “blindfolded” recipes I make every week, I forget at least one item. And every time I try to clean up while I go, I forget that I was going to re-use the bowl/measuring spoon/whatever on a later step.

  11. posted by Gemmond on

    Long long before I ever heard of “mise en place,” I cooked in this fashion. It just made sense to me (as someone noted, why find out at the end that you don’t have an ingredient needed or the appropriate cooking equipment, etc. ?).

    It saves time, saves energy and cleanup. Plus, it ensures that I follow the steps and instructions thereby upping the chances of a successful dish.

    What I don’t understand is people who don’t read a recipe beforehand and assemble equipment and ingredients beforehand. THAT makes no sense to me.

    I truly don’t understand how mise en place is MORE work for someone. (There are ways to combine ingredients and minimize number of bowls, spoons, etc. when you use mise en place. So you really don’t have to increase your dish load.)

    I’ve watched one or two people who don’t use mise en place. It took longer, made a bigger mess, but worse, they messed up ingredients and steps and they produced food that was close to inedible.

    However, even that was not incentive for them to “plan ahead.”

    FYI: Surprisingly, this kind of prep frees me up to experiment with some of my dishes. When I realize as I prep that i”m out of something, I see if I can make a good sub. I’ve come up with some great recipe variations in this way, but they were my choice.

    I think some people want to just “wing it” thinking that this is the more “creative” way to approach cooking. Or, frankly, they are just lazy.

    Erin, I’m a bit confused on something you wrote. You said you don’t do mise en place for recipes you know by heart. If you know them by heart, wouldn’t you automatically be assembling the various ingredients in advance anyway? And if you do as you go along, following steps, isn’t that a version of mise en place?

    FYI: Although I have all the ingredients out in advance, and equipment, I don’t necessarily place each ingredient in a separate container for all recipes (especially short ones). So maybe that isn’t strictly mise en place. I do however chop things in advance, and measure those ingredients that need to be added together and then mix them together.

    This could be a semantics issues in some kitchens.

    But, hey, whatever someone is comfortable with. It’s just a bit amusing that an unclutterer expert wouldn’t use mise en place (Not judging, just smiling).

    It just seems so logical for pre- and post-cooking.

  12. posted by Kenneth B on

    Cooking is one of the ways I relax. If I don’t do my mis en place, cooking is stressful, not relaxing.

  13. posted by Shelley on

    Many of the recipes I routinely use I know in my head and they are ‘universal’ ie I use a generic item based on what I have. I learned this from the Tightwad Gazette and it’s fundamental to my cooking.

    When I’m doing a different kind of recipe, though, I do try to pull out all the ingredients and utensils. There has been the odd occasion when I didn’t, got half way through and discovered I didn’t have what was required. In most cases I’ve managed a substitute, but I can remember once when I just threw it all away – a major waste (I was young…). It’s the sort of thing I’d far rather know in advance!

  14. posted by Jen on

    I never used to, but I do now. For cooking dinner, I know that I can (usually) chop everything while I cook, but I find the experience is calmer and more soothing when I get everything in place. I don’t feel as rushed, and I find that I have time to clean as I go.

  15. posted by Amber on

    I’m a big fan.

    I am one of those delightfully ditzy cooks who get distracted and forget things, so I have developed the habit of pulling out all of the ingredients (although I don’t tend to measure them out – but I check the levels just in case) and putting each container away as I use it.

    This habit saved my butt for a bake sale recently, when I was about to pour the batter in a bundt pan, and realized that my baking powder was still sitting out. I’d gotten so enthusiastic about seasoning the cake, that I’d forgotten one of the most essential ingredients!

  16. posted by Kim on

    I usually gather all the ingredients before I start making anything in the kitchen. And I put them away as I use them. That way, if I get interrupted during the cooking/baking process I have a clue as to where I left off and don’t leave anything out or add something twice! I’m not a fan of premeasuring stuff as I think that just creates more dishes.

  17. posted by Kari on

    I tend to use it for recipes I am not familiar with, or recipe/cooking that has lots of ingredients/herbs and spices, etc. that may be easy to forget. Even if I don’t measure things out ahead of time, I do get all the ingredients out, as a way of not forgetting anything.

  18. posted by Melissa on

    Definitely helps when doing marathon cooking sessions for freezing or baking for the holidays. It seems to me that this works the best when I am working from a recipes that I am going to follow exactly or something I have never made before. It ensures I won’t forget anything.

    Also helpful is to prep, wash and chop fresh veggies before hand if you’re making more than one dish. I started cooking on Sundays for the whole week and found I saved a lot of time by chopping onions, peeling carrots, and scrubbing potatoes before doing anything else. This also saved space on my pretty small counter tops.

  19. posted by TopknotPigeon on

    I did cookery at a College catering level in my final 2 years of high school. From this I learnt a lot about planning your cooking in specific steps and being organised before you even get near the kitchen!

    Despite this mis en place training, my routine more goes like this:

    get recipe book
    browse ingredients list
    get ingredients out
    prep ingredients*
    get equipment out
    start cooking

    *I do some prep before hand but not all, for instance if there are ingredients to be added later whilst the meal cooks, I will let it bubble away and prepare the rest during that time. Things like herbs I also like to cut fresh just before they go in, as they can lose their pizazz if chopped too far beforehand.

    As I’m really comfortable in the kitchen, I will usually read the ingredients list whilst prepping them, quickly browse the recipe first steps, then start cooking. I find that whilst I’m cooking, its hard to keep more than 2 steps in my head at a time, so I would have to go back and read the recipe again, even if I have spent time reading it before I start cooking. Although I am reading a bit, cooking a bit its not stressful, my dishes turn out well and people consider me a good cook.

    If my partner is around, he may help cook or do the washing up as we go, if I’m on my own, I either leave the dishes for him or I do them after I’ve finished eating. I usually stack used items and dishes up by the sink or if I’m waiting for something to simmer or bake, I may fit in a bit of washing up while I wait. Much of this is unconscious, I just have an instinct now in the kitchen, this is the first time I’ve ever sat down and thought about what I really do…!

    As I’m scrupulous with my recipe planning, I ensure that I have all ingredients in my cupboard, fridge or freezer for my recipes. Monthly I have a delivery of cupboard and freezer goods, weekly I have lists of items I use to buy fresh produce. I don’t ever have the stress of not having ingredients because of this system. I also only choose recipes that are 30 minutes (or in winter, easy casseroles that are assemble and put in the oven recipes) as this means the time I spend in the kitchen is limited. I can afford to spend a little time prepping most of my ingredients before I start to cook.

  20. posted by Firesparx on

    Glad to know there is a fancy name for the prep work I do :o) I love the prep phase of cooking. It’s kind of like the calm before the storm. There are no pots over boiling, ovens beeping at you, onions burning (I really can cook, I swear!) The clock hasn’t started ticking yet. With all the ingredients laid out before me, it feels like I’m on a cooking show.

  21. posted by L. on

    I used to think mise en place was overkill. Then one time I was making challah (as I always do on Friday mornings) and put six of seven ingredients into the bread machine before I realized I was out of eggs. That was enough. Now I’m all mise en place, all the time.

  22. posted by Katie on

    Like Julie @ Willow Bird Baking said above, if you’ve ever wondered how TV chefs make a recipe look so easy, it’s because they do this. I definitely find that I have more fun with cooking when I do this. I’m not frantically chopping carrots while onions are already sauteeing and getting overcooked or worrying that something won’t be ready when I need it. Usually when I’m preparing my mise en place, I turn up the music and enjoy some time by myself in the kitchen while I’m chopping, measuring, etc. It makes the whole process more fun and helps remind me that food prepared with love and care usually tastes a lot better! :)

  23. posted by Steph on

    Oh yes! I have to start doing this. I never used to put things out and was constantly scrambling. I don’t usually cook from cookbooks but now I realize that even things I can cook blindly I have to take out otherwise I will realize I don’t have a particular ingredient. I think this is why I hate baking… too many things to keep track of.

    I recently came across a great tip for a measured out mis-en-place for lots of little dry ingredients – a cupcake tray – just line, measure out ingredients and then use as you go along. I haven’t tried it yet but I thought it was brilliant (I think it was cook’s illustrated).

  24. posted by Deborah on

    If I’m following a recipe, I always prepare my mis en place. About half of my cooking, though, comes from thin air. For those dishes, I usually assemble everything I want to use in one place and then chop as I go, since quite often I won’t know what I’m going to do next. But if I’m following a recipe, I love the step of preparing all of the ingredients ahead of time.

  25. posted by Cindy on

    If I don’t have at least most ingredients gathered, measured out, and ready to use before, as Firesparx put it nicely, the clock starts ticking, then cooking starts to feel frantic and stressful. I recently read where some cooking expert said that mise en place was unnecessary and made cooking too much work. For me it’s the complete opposite.

  26. posted by Becca on

    I feel like I’m jumping on the band wagon here, but last night I chopped all my vegetables for the various dishes I was making this week, began cooking by just pulling everything else out, started melting the butter for a recipe (I was trying to cook two at once) and realized I didn’t have ANY barley in the house. Nor was there anything that would substitute well for the recipe. I definitely need to do mis en place from now on, or at least pull everything out of the darn cupboards.

  27. posted by Beverly on

    Mise en place gives you a rhythm that makes the whole exercise much more pleasant. Also, it helps you to ensure that you haven’t forgotten to add a critical ingredient.

    Start with clean, empty countertops and an empty dishwasher. Set out everything that you need, lined up in the order that you need it if possible and with all ingredients prepped, and measured out if that makes sense to do.

    Then prepare your dish. As you incorporate each ingredient, drop the used dishes directly into the dishwasher, or set the bottles/jars back into their storage places. When you finish, your dish is in the oven and your countertops are clean and empty again.

    Then pour yourself a glass of wine and put your feet up.

  28. posted by Marie @ Awakeatheart on

    I can confess, I love the idea of mise en place but rarely put it into play. And I get caught up by that. A lot. I’ll go to read the next step and realize it’s going to take me too long to prep that bit while the food is burning on the stove. Which means less than stellar food and me being quite stressed.

    When I do large meals, like my yearly 4-course feast of the 7 fishes, I will ALWAYS do mise en place. I’ve been doing it about 5 years now, in year 3 I learned my lesson and I do all the prep work the day before. It saves my sanity.

  29. posted by cagey (Kelli Oliver George) on

    I enjoy cooking more I have things prepared ahead of time. Regarding dirty dishes? If it is just some sliced veggies, I usually just rinse the bowl and let it dry in the dish drain. Obviously, meat and messier things would require a full cleaning, but veggies are innocuous.

  30. posted by susanbdot on

    Surface preparation. Years ago I heard a sentence that has stuck in my mind: “90% of any job is surface preparation.” I’m sure it was in the context of physically preparing a surface like the wall of a room (we were stripping wallpaper and painting walls in an older house at the time), but I’ve realized it applies to many jobs & tasks. Surface preparation is the (sometimes seemingly unrelated) stuff you have to do in order to do what you think of as the “real” job, like painting a wall. It’s what makes the “real” job go fast and what will yield the most satisfying results. Expanded a little, it can include information & resource gathering, coordinating with others on a project, etc.

    If you do poor surface preparation, you may get poor results. At best, your “real” job can take longer and perhaps be frustrating.

    I see mise en place as the surface preparation of cooking. And for me, it includes the suggestions I’ve seen here of having the kitchen tidy and running a dishpan of hot soapy water at the start.

  31. posted by Julie on

    Wow! Cool! I had no idea it had an actual name! And a French name is even cooler! Can I now call myself a French chef? Probably not, but when my six-year-old son complains about what I’m fixing for dinner, now I have a French weapon with which to impress him. Heh.

  32. posted by Amber on

    I’ve been watching cooking shows and heard about mise en place but cook as little as I can get away with so haven’t really tried it. I dislike cooking and only do it if I have to but have been trying to save money so am trying to figure out ways that will work for me.

    Some of my major issues are that I have a tiny apartment kitchen with nearly zero counter space, no dishwasher and just a single kitchen sink so the dish drainer lives on the counter. Any tips from other people that are stuck in small kitchens?

  33. posted by Jasmine on

    I tend to gather all my ingredients, spices, seasonings, etc. before I begin. Ensuring my pre-made broth is defrosted before I have to deglaze a pan, preheating an oven for searing off meat while I prep and season, all this just makes dinner roll along more smoothly and has naturally developed over the years as I transitioned from college student learning how to make real food, to wife and home-maker trying to ensure my family has the healthy fuel it needs to get through the day. And since I don’t actually use recipes, gathering all my seasonings together helps be determine the flavour profile of my main dish so I can whip up tasty sides and ensure everything hits the table at the same time.

    Goodness knows if I’ll be able to keep it up when I have kids, but practice now will hopefully save me a lot of stress and hassle when my kids are an added distraction to the routine. Mise en place? Oui!

  34. posted by Celeste on

    @Amber, I have a tiny galley kitchen and while I have a double sink, I don’t have a working dishwasher right now. One nice thing about mis en place is that if you don’t have a lot of counter space, you can get the box out, measure what you need, and put it back. Then you don’t have to keep looking for a place to set the boxes, etc. down as you bring them out to work with.

    @ Erin: Maybe “tiny kitchens” should get its own post.

  35. Profile photo of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @Amber and @Celeste — Most of Matt’s posts on SimpliFried.com are dedicated to small-kitchen cooking. Until a few weeks ago, he lived in an RV full time. Check out his post on “Maintaining sanity in your tiny kitchen” as a good start: http://simplifried.com/2011/02.....y-kitchen/

  36. posted by Kim on

    While I do not think it a waste of time, I have never used mise en place to simplify my cooking. When the only counter work space in your kitchen measures a mere 23 inches across and 24 inches deep, you do not have the luxury of setting out every ingredient beforehand. Using my kitchen table as a counter is usually not feasible since there is no dining room in my home – we eat in the kitchen. However, I do make sure that I have all the ingredients I need before starting.

    I have cooked complete Thanksgiving dinners in my kitchen, but I have to write up a time table in advance, stay super-organized, and wash dishes continuously since I have no dishwasher – which means I can’t cover over my sink with a board for extra counter space.

    I have endured these conditions for twenty-three years. But at least I have clean water and food to eat.

  37. posted by Sue on

    Years ago, in 4H, we did Demonstration Contests, and you would have all your cooking ingredients prepared and organized before you started. Made it easy to stay under the time limit.

    Now, I get out all my ingredients and put them away after I add them! No wondering if I’d added the salt.

  38. posted by Sharon on

    Part of uncluttering, for me, means not doing things that I consider a waste of my time. That includes recipes. I’m happy to eat a plain chicken breast, steamed veggies and rice, and any condiments I can add at the table. (Actually, I have a little plastic container that contains bottles of dressings, sauces; I carry it from refrigerator to table and back, instead of multiple trips back and forth.) I can see it for the occasional special meal, but the very concept of preparing recipes that have enough ingredients that mise en place would be warranted or helpful means that my cooking life is far, far too cluttered.

  39. posted by Jodi on

    It appears i am in the minority! For regular cooking I don’t do this at all. If I am out of something, I improvise…and I love the feeling of being able to conquer SOMETHING that I feel when I improvise a recipe.

    That being said, I do check my ingredients a little closer when baking (although we always have baking soda in the house, and baking powder can be improvised by adding cream of tarter). I am also able to bake gluten-free, so if I discover I don’t have enough flour, I improvise with my hubbys coffee grinder and corn, oatmeal or rice flour. Eggs can be improvised by boiling flax seeds in water…

    For me, the creativity of the “oops I am out of” is just such a wonderful feeling!

    Disclaimer: The bulk of my cooking is done through a method called MegaCooking, and I make 6+ months of meals at a time, which requires TONS of prep work, so maybe part of my “now and then” cooking is more lax because I hardly spend any time in the kitchen most days. :-)

    I have enjoyed the comments tremendously! Good discussion!

  40. posted by Bonnie on

    Half mise en place:
    1. Read the recipe twice and work out steps
    2. Make sure I have everything I need and pull it all out on the counter.. grouping my steps
    3. If savoury: I cook by feel and measure by eye as I am cooking. If baking/making sweets: I will measure out beforehand*
    4. As I am cooking, I clean up as I go whenever I have a spare moment. I find putting stuff back/washing up as I cook relaxes me as I know after I eat I won’t have a mountain of dishes to do all at once.

    *I tend to fold my own origami bowls though from (clean) catalogs and magazine pages. When I am watching tv etc I sit down and make a stack of them, then I pull one out when I need a throwaway bowl. It doesn’t work for wet ingredients of course, but it’s great for flour or as a snack bowl.

  41. posted by Lala on

    Not enough space to do that for me.
    Always marvelled about cooking shows. Sometimes they have way too much of an ingredient and they only take a teaspoon of it. This could be for Chinese cooking shows only idk.
    I do definitely get all my ingredients ready for a particular dish before starting to cook that dish. As a beginner cook I can’t imagine chopping something while something else is going on in the pan – though it saves time as you are doing it concurrently
    Certainly I would get the rice going before chopping veggie for sauteing for eg. As opposed to measure rice , chop veg, then wash rice, put rice in cooker , fry veg ??

  42. posted by kara on

    I think mise-en-place has gotten a bad rep from all the cooking shows and blogs that say you must have all these twee little bowls and cups into which to measure out each little teaspoon of spice or drop of liquid.

    It’s possible to do a much less dish-intensive mise-en-place by simply grouping your ingredients together in one area and making sure you have the measuring utensils you need w/in reach.

    Once you have everything handy, then you can measure, sort, pour, whatever, and not stress about having to dig through the drawer for the 1tsp measure or figure out at the last minute that you’re short 1 egg.

    In that sense, yes, mise-en-place should always be a part of the cooking process, IMO. As far as having 50 little dishes around with tiny bits and pieces .. nah. Not necessary unless you just want to.

  43. posted by EJH on

    As a new mom, Mise En Place is essential! I can chop my vegetables during the morning nap, measure my spices during the afternoon nap and throw it all together during the early evening nap. There is no way I’d be able to still cook healthful dinners without planning the prep work out ahead.

  44. posted by Mo on

    Semi mise en place here –

    Always get the ingredients out and in rough order. Beyond that, the prep level depends on the dish. Baking I just measure into the bowl. If I’ll be adding stuff into hot pan on a schedule, it all gets prepped beforehand. Slower cooking foods like chili and such, I study the recipe to see if I’ll have time to prep step 2 while step 1 is happening.

    Two notes: I have all my baking ingredients (baking powder, soda, cinnamon, cream of tarter, etc) in their own plastic box on the shelf. That means I can just put it out on the counter and work from that. Highly recommended.

    Also – if you want to mise en place a bit more – The Mario Batali measuring prep bowls are fantastic. They are five nesting prep bowls with markings for half and the whole bowl – 1/8 to 2 cups. I am really bad at eyeballing size and these are great for savory dishes and stir fries where precision isn’t key. They are melamine and things dump out of them very easily and completely. I use them enough that they definitely are out of the unitasker category – so many times you just need a little bowl that washes easily in the sink.

  45. posted by Kairisika on

    I won’t measure out my ingredients beforehand, which seems like a great way to use up a whole lot more dishes.
    But I do always take out all of the ingredients I will use, and line them up along the counter in the order I will use them. I get out all my measuring items, and put them with what they will measure as well.

  46. posted by Alex on

    I love the cupcake tray idea and origami bowls. Does anyone know of a link with directions for these bowls? Also what is mega cooking?

  47. posted by Jodi on

    @Alex: MegaCooking is a method of cooking ahead to save time and money. I MegaCooked nine months of food this fall; total cost $1200.00 (averages to less than $135/month to feed my family of 6). It took three days, including planning, shopping, prep work, cooking and cleaning (average: 15 minutes per meal from shopping to clean-up).

    The book is MegaCooking by Jill Bond, and they are a military family and have lived in very small homes so she has advice for tiny kitchens too. :-) I enjoy cooking “by the seat of my pants” from time to time since I typically spend 90 minutes a day in the kitchen (including dishes, and 3 meals). If I spend longer than that its because of good dinner conversation! :-)

  48. posted by Bonnie on

    @Alex: This is the folding method I use.

    http://blog.greggman.com/blog/useful_origami/

    It’s very useful as it works best with rectangular pieces of paper which is what most catalogs come in. I make a bunch of those and store them flat and clipped together til I need them.

    Also don’t let the 13 steps scare you.. it’s actually a really simple and quick thing to make (especially once you have had some practice).

  49. posted by Maren on

    I have a measuring bowl which I use with my scales and measure all dry ingredients in for baking. And i have a Pyrex measuring jug for liquids.
    When I cook, I like to prepare (at least roughly) everything I will use. Chopped veg I put on one of the plates I will eat from – I rinse it if necessary and it’s good to go on the table.
    That’s not mise en place, it’s just common sense. And good upbringing from a mum with a high school degree in housekeeping!

  50. posted by organizingwithe on

    I cook a lot, but I’d rather use the time to read a novel then set up a mise en place. Possibly more suited to those who cook purely for fun and want to prolong the experience?

  51. posted by Sara {House Bella} on

    I definitely benefit from mise en place, especially for complicated recipes. Too often I have found myself in the spot of saying “Crap, I need onions, NOW, and I still need to stir the pot!” Plus, I just find it makes cooking more enjoyable. I experience it more, if you will, when I can be fully present in the actual act of cooking.

  52. posted by Jen on

    I usually don’t pre-measure ingredients, since it does dirty up an unnecessary number of dishes, as you mention. But I do make a point of taking everything out ahead of time (and pre-chopping most of the time, as you do). I have run into the problem one too many times of being in the middle of making something and finding out halfway through that I need 4 eggs but I only have 2 in the house. It also makes things go a little faster while cooking, especially in recipes where things happen pretty quickly and I don’t want to take the time to hunt down ingredients while a sauce boils over.

    I bought Ratio but haven’t read it yet (next on the list). Very interested in reading Twenty also, thanks for the tip!

  53. posted by Anita on

    My cooking style is a bit “middle of the road”. My steps:

    1. Read the recipe and take out all necessary ingredients and pots/pans that I’ll need.
    2. Read the recipe again and figure out what I need to prep ahead of time (e.g. anything that’s time-sensitive, mainly).
    3. Prep and measure as needed. I mostly measure and prep things I’ll need to add quickly or while stirring a pot; otherwise, if I have time, I’ll measure as I go. I also never measure out spices or anything else I can eye. I’m fairly certain I can eye a half-teaspoon of nutmeg or salt or parsley, without needing 3 pre-measured half-teaspoons. And even if that fails, a taste test can always fix it :)
    4. Cook.

    Mise en place is enormously helpful for chefs who need to create the same dish consistently and in record time, but for home cooks I don’t think it’s as vital a step, and it comes down to personal preference.

  54. posted by Nancy on

    Perhaps true mise en place is beyond most home cooks who lack a team of dishwashers. Unlike chefs, we probably don’t need each element in its own bowl. For easy clean-up, I lay my stir-fry veggies on sheets of wax paper.

  55. posted by Rondina on

    I do this when I am making a complicated dish, but I’ll try it for simpler dishes to see if it makes cooking more enjoyable. I see the number of dishes used as a minor problem unless you are short on dishes. The amount of counter space this requires may be more than I have.

  56. posted by Karyl on

    I love cooking this way. The only thing I don’t like is the added dishes but I still think it’s worth it. Loved this post – love your blog!

  57. posted by Carol on

    I do mise en place to some extent.

    I find that getting things out as I go is too difficult with most the the recipes I make because either something burns on the stove while I’m getting my next ingredient or I get halfway through the recipe only to discover I’m missing an ingredient that I thought I had. I don’t, however, measure everything out into individual little dishes the way they do on cooking shows. That seems like just too much to clean.

    Usually for me I just set everything I need out on the counter or get it out, measure what I need then put it away. Items that get added at the same time in a recipe are usually measured out into one small bowl. For example, if the recipe calls for 5 dry spices to be added at the same stage in cooking I may pre-measure them into just one bowl so that I can dump them all in at the same time while cooking. It also depends on the recipe itself. With meatloaf I can get away with getting stuff out as I go since everything is mixed in a bowl before cooking. Anything cooked on the stove usually requires items to be added at a faster pace so mise en place is a lifesaver.

  58. posted by Mackenzie on

    I do it when making something involved. I was kicking myself for not doing it on Sunday when I baked cookies and halfway through mixing discovered a lack of baking soda.

  59. posted by baker_bear on

    Hooray for Mise en place! :) I find that doing my Mise en place actually saves time. I get everything ready and things flow together seamlessly which definitely eliminates stress>

  60. posted by lafou on

    After learning Chinese cooking, I got in the habit of setting up small bowls with various ingredients ahead of time. And baking is so easy to screw up by leaving things out or not following the prescribed sequence.

    My big problem is the mass of pots, pans, etc. that takes me 3 times as long to clean up than it does to use them!

  61. posted by Jessica on

    I’m going to have to give this a try. I’ve always found cooking to be tedious at best and overwhelming at worst. And that’s probably because of the way I’m doing it.

    I don’t do mis en place, but I now realize that this is how recipes are written: all of the ingredients and quantities are listed, followed by the steps. I always found it incredibly confusing to read a step, and then have to look back up through the ingredient list to figure out how much of an item is needed for that step.

    It makes much more sense to have all the ingredients prepared and ready to go, then follow the steps and add the prepared ingredients accordingly. I like the tips about having the dishwasher empty and a sink of hot soapy water ready as well.

  62. posted by Roxanne on

    I’m going to repeat what some others have said: I’ve always cooked and baked this way because it’s just my nature to be organized. I don’t necessarily put each ingredient in a bowl, though I’m thinking of getting prep bowls to do so–I don’t mind the extra dirty dishes if it makes cooking easier.

    When I first started cooking, mise en place was just something I picked up on, though I wasn’t aware it had a name at the time. There were times I was in such a rush to get dinner made that I started one step of the recipe before checking to make sure I had all of the ingredients and supplies. It’s terribly frustrating to realize you’re out of something when it’s too late to stop!

  63. posted by Barb @ 1SentenceDiary on

    My DH and I have an ongoing diagreement about this. His way is to get everything entirely set up, then cook while cleaning along the way. My perspective is that his method just plain TAKES LONGER. Yes, it’s often true that he’s all done and the food is just in the oven, but nonetheless, the meal is not ready to eat. I think that all those years of coming home from work with hungry kids (and hungry myself, too) has always made me focus on how long it will be until the food is ready to eat.

    So yes, maybe it would be more “enjoyable” if I took the time to prep everything first, but seriously, who has that kind of time?

    That said, I think the hardest part of cooking is having all the pieces of the meal ready at the same time. So I will read the various recipes and make a general plan as to when each item should start cooking. I often pull out the ingredients in advance, just for convenience, but am not fanatical about it.

    One thing I really don’t understand is many of the commenters above who say that for baking, they prep by measuring the dry ingredients into one bowl and the wet ingredients into another bowl. How is that any different from — you know — actually following the recipe?

  64. posted by Ann KB on

    I guess I already do this…just didn’t know there was a name for it. I always get all ingredients, pans, and utensils out on the counter before starting and its a much easier process this way. I also try to wash any dishes while the meal is cooking so I don’t have to worry about it at the end of the meal.

  65. posted by Barb @ 1SentenceDiary on

    Also, I just had to laugh at Beverly’s comment above to “start with clean, empty countertops and and empty dishwasher.” Of course, I do understand that she meant that as a general guideline only. But the idea that I should have to first empty the dishwasher before I can even start cooking — not gonna happen when I have hungry kids to feed.

    Generally, on a weeknight:
    — double check recipe for the details
    — pull out most ingredients
    — chop, cook, baste, etc.
    — when there’s downtime (e.g. while meal is simmering or broiling or whatever), empty dishwasher and wash dishes
    — kids set table
    — we eat!

    If the dishwasher didn’t get emptied or the dishes didn’t all get cleaned, that can happen after the meal as well.

    Then, evening snack and morning breakfast dishes get added to the dishwasher in the morning, and we run the dishwasher. Repeat.

  66. posted by Jennifer on

    A tip to add – this might seem so small, but I have found keeping a towel on my shoulder to wipe my fingers on saves me so much time over going to the sink. Plus it saves the skin underneath my wedding rings from too many washings!

  67. posted by Christina Rodriguez | The Diva's Home on

    I do that! I don’t measure everything ahead of time though. If I forget something, I get one of my kids to bring it to me!

  68. posted by Keri on

    I am a fan of laid-back (or lazy-ass) cooking. I’ve learned, through experience, that there are some things that need to be exact (the measurement of red pepper), and some things that don’t (the amount of onions used).

    When I am cooking from a recipe, I try to make only on trip to the fridge, pantry or spice rack, and I try to get out everything I will need at one time. But pre-measuring spices into another bowl? Are you kidding? I have to wash all of our dishes by hand!

    Which is, incidently, why I never sear meat. That seems like a waste of a clean dish to me. All of my meat goes on to be cooked in a roasting pan or crockpot, so it stews in its own juices anyways. And I have NEVER served dry or flavorless meat, so obviously it is not a necessity (indeed, I’ve never noticed it to contribute anything to the flavor).

    Likewise I don’t cook something, put it aside, cook something else, then put everything together to re-heat. All you have to do is cook in order of cooking time.

    Meat should always be cooked first, since it needs to be on the heat the longest time. Cook it until it’s barely pink in the middle. Large vegetables–like broccoli–and frozen veggies go in next (make sure to use a lid to get them to cook faster and more thoroughly). Tough fresh veggies–like bell peppers and celery–go in next, followed by softer veggies. Onions, being the softest, quickest to cook, go in last. Spices go in when you start to develop a sauce.

    And this makes pre-cutting and pre-measuing unnessary. Put your pan and oil on to heat while you cut up the meat. Toss the meat in the pan and clean your cutting board and start in on the tough veggies. By the time you’re done cutting them, the meat should be cooked enough. If you’re making a sauce with the addition of water or wine, add it and the spices, then the veggies. Then start cutting the next veggies. By the time you’re done chopping, it will be time to put them in the pan. And so on until everything’s in the pan. Then you start tasting it and adding spices, as necessary. When it tastes right and everything is hot, it’s ready to serve, or you can put it on the lowest setting to stay warm until the family can be gathered.

    Trust me, this is pretty foolproof cooking. Do one thing at a time, one step right after another. Cooking doesn’t have to be complicated; it doesn’t even have to be exacting, unless you’re entering some sort of cooking contest.

    This is cooking as art, not science.

  69. posted by Charlotte on

    I could see mise en place being useful for baking, particularly as I’m prone to making errors when I bake, but that’s about it, really.

    When I cook, I usually multitask, e.g., chop veggies while the onions are sauteing, get spices out of the pantry when veggies are sauteing, begin cleaning up and putting things away as they are not used/dirtied. I think my method is a better use of time and resources, personally.

  70. posted by Allison on

    I have a work space is at an absolute premium in my kitchen (about two usable feet of counter space) putting every tool and pre-measured ingredient out on my workspace would mean no workspace to work on. I work in stages, cleaning (or at least piling dirty items in the sink) and prepping as I go.

    I’m not sure if I would do it if I had the space, I can see how it would make everything very efficient, but except for baking, where I have learned the hard way about the value of precisions, I’m more of a figure it out as I go kind of cook, than a precisely plan to execute a complicated recipe kind of cook.

  71. posted by Melissa Ward on

    One of the things I do and have been doing for decades is teaching healthy organic cooking classes, both private and public, for decades. While I’m self taught, and never attended a cooking academy, I had a restaurant at age eighteen, and discovered on my own that it is the way to go. When I cook and teach cooking to others, I insist on organizing in the order that Michael Ruhlman suggests.

    It lends to developing a better cooking “brain” and to self teaching. If you’ve ever painted a room, you know that the prep is most of the work, and prep done right and thoroughly lends itself to a beautifully (and easily) painted room. While it may seem unnecessary, I wouldn’t go without my little bowls that I use for mise in place. They next inside each other in the cabinet in my small apartment kitchen. I enjoy using vintage bowls, so it makes the process even more pleasurable. Oftentimes the ingredients are on the dry side, so just a swipe with a dishcloth instead of washing them will do.

    The first thing I do when teaching someone in their own kitchen is to have them clear the countertops. I frequently find that people use their kitchen countertops for everything and anything not related to food preparation. This prevents one from cooking, or wanting to cook. It is a blockade, so clear them and keep them clear and clean, even of appliances you don’t use everyday. Have cutting boards at the ready and set up two, so you can be even more efficient. Systems do work well for cooking, and mise en place is the way to go for me, and for all of the professional chefs I know, even when they are cooking at home, or when we get together for casual/fun projects.

  72. posted by Haley on

    Mise en place is important for me since I can get a little distracted while cooking. This helps me from having to remove something from the stove only to put it back when I am ready. I also measure all the dry ingredients first so I can use the same measuring cups/spoons/bowls for the wet later. The only con is my kitchen is tiny and I have to clever with placement/stacking things.

  73. posted by Kaylee on

    Huh. I didn’t realize this was a technique. It’s just the way I cook. Get everything out, chop whatever needs it, and go. I only measure ingredients ahead for complex or new recipes.

  74. posted by diane on

    before i became a culinary student i never heard of mise en place, but now that i’m a student, i wouldn’t cook without it. i’ve found that it’s much for efficient and that i don’t have to keep looking at the recipe while i cook bc i just grab the bowl of the ingredient i need and just focus on cooking instead of the measuring. it’s less trouble to clean up a few small bowls (ramekins are great) than to use up time reading and measuring. we should always check to make sure we have all our ingredients anyway, so why not prep them all before you cook. it also prevents me from mis-measuring by focusing on one task at a time. in a large professional kitchen, less time and energy is used running around gathering ingredients and tools. it’s a great concept, no matter what it’s called.

    also, if you have a list of spices that will be added at the same time, just put them all in the same bowl for less cleaning. easy.

  75. posted by Licia on

    I like to cook with kids and if we don’t do a mise en place (or at least get out all the ingredients beforehand), the kids spend way too much time dancing around the kitchen looking for something and forgetting what they’re looking for.
    It really helps too, when I’m cooking at someone else’s house with their kids and don’t know where everything is right away.
    I also have the kids do a mise en place before they start their homework.

  76. posted by Barbi on

    Ellen,

    Thanks for posting this! It comes at the right time for me. I love to cook but I am always disorganized and my meat tends to get done before everything else. I was recently rethinking my cooking strategy (or lack of it) and hoping to come up with a solid plan, which you have posted!

    Although I love to cook, the preplanning does not come naturally for me in any area of my life, so cooking was just another messy ordeal.

    So two things:
    1) I will happily follow Ruhlman’s tips.
    2) Because of your “Unclutterer” blog, I now have much less in life that I do have to preplan for :)

    Cheers,
    ~Barbi

  77. posted by Paula on

    That’s why I love Jamie Oliver’s recipes: his recipes don’t say “onions, carrots” but “onions, chopped” and “carrots, sliced”

  78. posted by Hanna on

    I had no idea that this method had a name or was a “method”. I just assumed everyone cooked like this, I’d never even thought about something so obvious would have to be tought… or was in any way revolutionary.. or.. . This is an eyeopener for me. Weird. I’m a really messy person in all other areas of my life, but this is just second nature.

  79. posted by Laetitia in Australia on

    For me it depends on the dish.

    Pasta sauce is one where chopping as one goes means that the various ingredients end up going in at the right time (provided you chop the ‘hard’ veges first) a bit like Keri said. Also, as my husband is almost vegan, our base is lentils rather than mince so the timing works well for that.

    For risotto though I’d chop everything first as, personally, I can’t stir constantly and chop at the same time.

    For baking I like to get out all the ingredients first even if I don’t measure them all (I can usually eyeball whether I have enough for the dish) – there’s nothing like starting and then finding that one doesn’t have enough flour / oil / sugar / other crucial ingredient to finish.

    Re: Paula’s comment about Jamie Oliver’s recipes saying things like ‘carrots, sliced’, I write my recipes in a similar way. I also make it easy to see what the ingredients are by writing things like “self-raising flour – 1 cup” rather than “1 cup self-raising flour”.

    Additionally, I tend to either group all my dry ingredients separately from all my wet ingredients (all my dry ingredients are likely to be in the pantry so it means I visit the pantry less often to retrieve all the ingredients) or write them in order of their addition to the dish. For baking this is generally one and the same – dry things are mixed first and then the wet ones are added. Within each group I write them in order of addition if possible.

  80. posted by Mark.Knox on

    Mise en place is a concept I took from my position as a sous chef in a kitchen in my twenties on to the corporate workplace. I actually was asked once to give a presentation to our division on how I stayed organized and I used “mise en place” not only as an example of how I keep everything I need in a certain place and within easy reach (physically and mentally) but I also talked about how you always have to protect your personal “mise” from overzealous micro-managers. :)
    Mise en place is a concept that can be at least figuratively applied to any task you want to do well. I guess that’s obvious from the overwhelming number of comments that support the idea. Great post (as always). Thank you.

  81. posted by TootsNYC on

    Whisperpotpie wrote:
    “Having a good set of prep bowls is key.”

    This is so true! And I really started doing this when I got a set that worked. Oddly enough, they’re just these little metal bowls from the local dollar store; they hold about 2 cups, which means I can pile stuff high, or not worry about.

    To me the most compelling reason for a mise en place is that you can focus on the food as it cooks, and tell what’s going on in the pan, rather than chopping, measuring, etc.

    I’ve found it tremendously restful.

    And in baking, it actually makes the mixing process seem shorter. It probably isn’t, but it feels that way.

    If ever I double a recipe, I get really strict about using a mise en place. To prevent errors. (though that chocolate cake is one of my favorite stories)

    It’s also restful because I put the containers back right after I’ve measured. If I don’t measure ahead, then I feel like I don’t have time to ALSO put the container away.

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