Recently, I was talking to a friend who is trying to improve his cooking skills. Knowing that I attended culinary school, he asked if I had any tips. First and foremost, I told him, he needed to cook using ‘mise en place.’
A French term that roughly means “everything in its place,” mise en place is about setting up all of the ingredients needed before you start to cook. Like on a television cooking show, it’s placing all the prepped ingredients – peeled, chopped, ready to go – in little bowls and containers you can pull from when the time is right.
More than anything else, cooking well is about paying full attention to the food. Watching, listening, and smelling as food cooks, tasting and seasoning along the way.
If you go the route of most home cooks, you toss in the first ingredients right away, slicing and assembling the rest in parallel as you go. And though experienced chefs can make that work in a pinch, it’s far too much distraction for anyone still honing their skills.
Setting up your mise first adds only a few minutes to the total cooking time, but it pays huge dividends in the quality of food you can produce. So if you want to improve your cooking, try it out yourself. Prep first, then cook. Mise en place.