On the very first day of culinary school the lesson was Mise en Place. We learned the meaning of it, the importance of it, and that utilizing its principles would be key to our success in culinary school as well as in the real culinary world.
The very basic definition of mise en place is “everything in its place” or “putting in place.” Basically, it is a general idea for how everything should operate in a kitchen.
On a very broad scope, mise en place means that everything in the kitchen has a very specific place. Ideally each piece of equipment, each utensil, each ingredient, etc are always kept in their specific spot and that way they can always be found and easily accessed. It keeps the kitchen running smoothly. You might simply call it, “organization,” but its a much bigger idea than that.
On a smaller scale, it also refers to the way in which you prepare yourself to make a recipe. The idea is that you gather everything you need and organize yourself before you make the recipe. You set up any equipment you may need, gather & measure out your ingredients, and get everything organized.
As you work more in the culinary world, you realize that not only is it an overarching principle, but Mise en Place also becomes a verb and a noun interchangeably. You might hear the phrases “mise your station” in the kitchen or “mise your tables” in the dining room, using the word “mise” to describe the action of setting yourself up in preparation for dinner service. But cooks also refer to all of the items they have gathered for a recipe as their “mise en place.”
Seems simple enough right? In theory it is, but in practice it takes constant mindfulness to follow these principles. At least for me anyway. This way of thinking and working is not inherent in me, but I know that it is absolutely crucial for my success with recipes and keeping a kitchen running smoothly.
Tips for Utilizing Mise en Place Principles in Baking
Read the recipe completely and thoroughly.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but truly, not reading the recipe carefully before getting started can be one of the most crucial mistakes made in a baking recipe. Typically, if I am going to be making a new baking or pastry recipe, I read the recipe several times before the day I plan to make it. This way I can flesh out any questions I may have about a new technique, and I can have a clear timeline in my head for how much time I am going to need to dedicate to completing the recipe. I have learned the hard way by starting a recipe that needed several hours of chilling time that I did not plan for. Many baking recipes also call for room temperature ingredients. Looking at the recipe thoroughly well before you are making it will prompt you to plan ahead for these things.
Gain a clear understanding for the terminology and skills used in the recipe.
After you’ve read the recipe, identify any terminology and techniques used in the recipe that you may not be familiar with. Maybe the recipe instructs you to “fold meringue into the batter.” Do you have a clear understanding of what “folding” means in a baking recipe? If the answer is no, then familiarize yourself with this technique. Find a YouTube video showing the technique or baking literature online that clearly explains the process so that you can approach the recipe with confidence.
Start with a clean slate.
This is probably the part of my Mise en Place that I struggle with the most. Start with a clean kitchen, and empty sink, and an empty dishwasher if you have one. At times, I have the urge to think “I’m going to have to clean up after I make this recipe anyway, so I’ll just wait to do it all together.” Push that away. I’ve actually dumped a ramekin of salt into a cookie dough before thinking it was sugar. Lesson learned.
Gather everything you will need. And I mean, EVERYTHING.
I like to start with measuring out my ingredients. Technically, this can create more dishes to wash because I put each ingredient in their own little bowl or ramekin and set them up in order that I will need them. Many baking recipes call for dry ingredients to be mixed together separately from the wet ingredients, so I like to group my ingredients together by how they are added into the recipe.
After all of my ingredients are measured out, then I gather my equipment and any utensils I might need. This is also a good time to preheat your oven if needed, as well as to prepare any pans that may need to be greased, flour dusted, or lined with parchment.
One of the reasons I started a blog is because I wanted to make baking feel less intimidating for people. I hear people frequently say that they don’t bake because it is too precise and too difficult to follow the recipe. But I know first hand that all it takes is a little preparation and some practice! The more you bake the more it becomes second nature, and a little mise en place will definitely set you up for success!