One of the secrets to efficiency in the kitchen, whether professional or home, is a technique which in French is called Mise en Place (pronounced 'MEEZ on Plahs'). In some kitchens, the term is shortened simply to Mise. The term literally means to put things in their place. It refers to having things ready before you start cooking.
In the simplest terms, mise is taken to mean having the vegetables properly cut and portioned or collecting together the ingredients to make a meal. In broader terms, it also means having equipment ready and refers to a certain order in the kitchen. Things like getting out the appropriate cooking pans, spatulas and other equipment, Pre-heating the oven or having a serving dish chosen before cooking actually starts. If you are working from a recipe, it might mean having read through the recipe and then having it close by, but not in the way, for reference if you need it.
All of these considerations create a flow to preparing food that reduces your chance of mistakes. If you are already halfway through making a dish when you realize that the garlic wasn't minced or the milk had to be scalded, then the stage is set for food to burn, or for something else to end up waiting while the dish you are working on catches up.
Mise en Place also means readying yourself -- being prepared mentally and physically for the job at hand; putting aside outside distractions and focusing on the single task of cooking. For some, mise becomes almost a way of life that turns disorganization into dance, and work into expression.
Even small, familiar dishes can benefit from this sort of planning. If you aren't doing it already, start making it a habit to plan out all of the aspects of what you are preparing before you actually begin to cook. Like an athlete who goes over his or her routine before entering the arena, plan the event mentally first. At a minimum, you will find your kitchen will become a calmer place. More likely, you will notice that the quality of your cooking improves.
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