Mise en place

This is one of the most important tips I will ever share with you, so pay close attention.

One of the greatest challenges for the home cook is having all your ingredients ready on time, all your dishes composed and ready to serve hot (or cold), especially if you’re doing a dinner party. But the professional restaurant kitchen has a secret — the mise en place.

Borrowed from the French, mise en place translates as “everything in place.” It’s what you’ll want to do before you begin. Anything you can make beforehand, do. If your recipe calls for chopped onions, have them chopped and waiting in a bowl well before you begin. If you’re sprinkling a bit of minced parsley over a pasta dish at the last minute, have the parsley ready. Otherwise, your food will get cold.

The above photo is a portion of the mise en place for my annual New Year’s Eve dinner, in which I do 8-12 courses for 8-12 people. Other than serving and volunteer sous chefs, I have no help. But I am preparing for several days before the event. I make stocks and reductions days before, I spend the day of chopping and cutting ingredients, pre-cooking any vegetables I can, setting everything up. In the photo above, you can see four different little bowls of flower petals I picked that morning, which I sprinkled over different dishes for color just before serving.

It’s a little thing. It makes a big difference. Next time you have friends for dinner, experiment with mise en place. See how much of your dinner you can make before your friends even come. Once people are there it should be about composing more than cooking. You’ll have more fun, and you’ll have more time with your friends.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. paul
    Aug 22, 2010 @ 11:07:47

    Probably the most important lesson I learned as I began cooking although I had no idea that the term “mise en place” existed.


  2. g
    Aug 22, 2010 @ 17:48:19

    I started using this technique about ten years ago, and the difference it makes is amazing – couldn’t imagine cooking otherwise.

    Nice blog, Sean!


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