Any chef will tell you that one of the most important things to smoothly preparing a meal is mise-en-place (mees-en-plaz). For anyone who doesn’t know, mise-en-place means “put in place”. It’s the practice of having all of the prep work done before you start applying heat and actually cooking. It keeps you from having peel and mince several cloves of garlic while you hope the butter on the stove doesn’t burn. Sure, completing the tedious chopping, shredding, dicing, and measuring beforehand can be a bit boring but it’ll actually make everything quicker and easier in the long run.
One thing about every cooking show that has always driven me crazy is the fact that they never seem to talk about the importance of mise-en-place yet it is so crucial to every show. You never see Rachel Ray chopping an onion but when she needs half of a cup of diced onion for a recipe, it’s already sitting in a tiny bowl on her countertop. The behind-the-scenes work of mise-en-place is essential to the success of these shows but it will also help make your cooking so much easier and less stressful.
I plan to start each recipe not just with an ingredient list but also with a mise-en-place list. That way, when you get to Step 5 and have the stove turned on and water boiling, you won’t realize that you haven’t yet peeled the potatoes. You’ll be amazed by how smoothly you’ll move from step to step once you’ve mastered the art of mise-en-place.