Mise en place is a French term which means “putting in place”. It’s most frequently used in a culinary context, where it signifies that you should prepare all your ingredients and put them in place together with the necessary tools, before you start cooking. This simple concept is one of the most common and effective tools used by chefs and amateur cooks, which is why it’s a required skill in culinary schools.[1,2,3]
(It’s pronounced ‘meezon-plas’, in case you were wondering.)
Applying ‘mise en place’ in the kitchen
There are several steps to applying this technique:
- First, choose a recipe and figure out which ingredients and kitchen utensils are needed. Doing this before you start cooking allows you to spot missing items before it’s too late to get them or to change a recipe.
- Prepare all the ingredients so that they’re ready to be used: measure what needs measuring, chop what needs chopping, etc.
- Group ingredients and utensils together so that they’re easy to find and use while cooking.
- If there are ingredients that require special preparation (e.g. nuts that need toasting), you can take care of them before you start everything else, so that they don’t cause a delay in the middle of cooking.
- One caveat: if you prepare accordingly ahead of time, you can use periods of waiting in order to get things ready for the next step in the recipe. Otherwise, use these waiting periods in order to clean up as you go along, instead of leaving all the cleaning to the end.
Applying ‘mise en place’ in other areas of life
I refer to mise en place as a philosophy (what chefs believe) and a system (what chefs do). Later in this book I refer to it as an ethical code. Mise-en-place is all those things…[including] the mind state of someone who knows exactly how to think, plan, and move.
While mise en place is a practice that is most commonly associated with working in kitchens, many people use it as a guiding principle in order to increase their productivity and improve their workflow in other areas. There are some superficial differences in such cases: your ingredients aren’t food, your environment isn’t a kitchen, and your tools aren’t kitchen utensils. However, the idea behind this technique remains the same: better planning and preparation ahead of time facilitates the work process. This is especially important in jobs and processes that require a high degree of concentration, where even a small distraction leads to a significant interruption in your workflow.
In general, the concept of preliminary preparation and planning is the one most commonly associated with mise en place. In practice however, mise en place is a system which encompasses additional concepts, such as slowing down to speed up, which entails that it’s better to take longer to perform an action, if it means that doing so will lead to improved performance and save you time in the long run. These concepts and others are covered in the “Work Clean” book, which contains an in depth discussion of mise en place, and how it can be implemented in your life.
Summary and conclusions
- Mise en place is a technique which can be used to improve your workflow.
- It is most commonly used in reference to cooking, and mainly means that you should plan your process before starting and prepare your ingredients ahead of time.
- This technique can also be implemented in other areas of life.
- In practice, mise en place encompasses additional concepts, such as working more carefully in order to save time in the long-run.