- Baking Fundamentals Lesson #1: The Most Important Thing I Learned in Culinary School (Mise en Place)
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Mise en Place Lesson Overview:
On my very first day of culinary school the lesson that was taught was the concept of Mise en Place. And I would venture to guess this is likely the first lesson in most any culinary or pastry school. So I figured that it is only fitting that it is our first lesson!
That day we learned the meaning of the phrase and the importance of it in the kitchen. We were also told that utilizing its principles would be key to our success in culinary school as well as in the real culinary world.
I didn’t fully understand the weight of this lesson at the time, but looking back I now see that the concept of mise en place is the skill I utilize the most in the kitchen.
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What Does Mise en Place Mean?
“Mise en place” is a French phrase that translates to mean “everything in place” or “putting in place.” It is a general concept for how everything operates in the kitchen.
I’ve worked in restaurants since I was 14 yrs old, in pretty much every position in both front and back of house. In a restaurant, the concept of “mise en place” gets thrown around quite a bit. And as I worked more in the restaurant world, I started to realize that not only is mise en place an overarching principle, but it has also become a noun and a verb 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 service. But cooks also refer to all of the items they have gathered for a dish they are cooking or baking as their “mise en place.”
Mise en Place in the Home
On a very broad scope, mise en place means that everything in the kitchen should have a very specific place. Ideally each piece of equipment, each utensil, each ingredient, etc are always kept in their specific spot so that way they can always be found and easily accessed. It can make your whole baking process run very smoothly. You might simply call it, “organization,” but it is a much bigger idea than that.
On a smaller scale, mise en place 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. And this is the kind of mise en place this lesson is going to focus on.
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.
Utilizing Mise en Place Principles in Baking
These are my tips for utilizing mise en place with your home baking. As someone who struggles with staying organized, I can attest that these principles set me up for success with baking time and time again.
#1: Read the Recipe Completely and Thoroughly
I want you to read the recipe through completely, from start to finish, before you start anything. Ideally, read it more than once! Not reading the recipe carefully before getting started can be one of the most crucial mistakes made in tackling a baking recipe.
By reading the recipe through fully, you can gain a clear understanding of the workflow of the recipe and the timing involved. 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. Reading the recipe thoroughly well before you start making it will prompt you to plan ahead for these things.
#2: Gain a Clear Understanding for the Terminology and Techniques Used in the Recipe
After you have read the recipe through, 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.
YouTube and Google are your best friends to find descriptions and tutorials for techniques you may not understand. We will also be reviewing the most common baking techniques and terminology in Lesson #3 of Baking Fundamentals. This would be a good lesson to bookmark as a reference for yourself.
#3: Start with a Clean Slate
Admittedly, this is probably the part of my mise en place that I struggle with the most. Start with a clean kitchen, an 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 those thoughts away. I’ve actually dumped an entire ramekin of salt into a cookie dough thinking it was sugar because I didn’t take the time to clear my work space. Lesson learned.
#4: Gather Everything you will Need for the Recipe
Gather any equipment you may need, any utensils, and all of your ingredients. Then measure out all of your ingredients before you start combining them.
I have often heard the argument with this step that it creates more dishes to wash. Listen, I get it. I am constantly recipe testing and I wash SO MANY dishes. But I’m here to tell you this is going to prevent numerous problems.
By measuring out all of your ingredients before you start you will ensure that you actually do have all of the ingredients you need on hand. It will also ensure that you don’t accidentally forget to put an ingredient into your recipe or accidentally add it twice. I like to line my ingredients up in the order they will be used. Many baking recipes call for dry ingredients to be mixed together separately from the wet ingredients, so I also like to group my ingredients together by how they are added into the recipe.
#5: Start Baking!
Now that you have prepared yourself well, you can start baking! I am here to attest that when I am diligent and practicing the principles of mise en place, I have a much more relaxing and successful baking experience!
Homework for this Lesson
The homework for this lesson is to make something this week. Anything you want! It can be something new or something you’ve made time and time again. But I want you to truly practice the principles of mise en place with the recipe.
I’d also love to see your mise en place set up before you make your recipe (I’d love to see the final product too!).
You have a few ways to share it: