Mise en place (pronounced ‘meezon-plas’) 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 the necessary utensils and ingredients before you start cooking. This simple concept is one of the most effective tools used by chefs and amateur cooks, which is why it’s a required skill in culinary schools and high-end restaurants.
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 possible, arrange them in the order that you will be using them.
- If there are ingredients that require extensive special preparation, you can prepare them before you start the main cooking process, so that they don’t cause a delay in the middle of cooking.
- While cooking, you can use short waiting periods in order to get things ready for the next step in the recipe. If there’s nothing that needs doing at the moment, use these waiting periods in order to clean up as you go along, instead of leaving all the cleaning to the end.
If you follow these steps, cooking will turn from a haphazard attempt at juggling everything simultaneously, to an organized, enjoyable, and more successful process.
Applying ‘mise en place’ in other areas of life
While mise en place 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 don’t consist primarily of knives and pans. 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 can lead to a significant interruption to your workflow. For example, a person engaged in a programming task can take 15 minutes to recover after even a brief interruption. Furthermore, in addition to this resumption lag, task interruptions increase the odds of making errors after returning to the task. Therefore, it’s important to minimize these potential distractions and interruptions as much as possible ahead of time, which you can do by planning accordingly before you start working.
Note: If you want to read more on the topic of implementing mise en place in your workflow, the “Work Clean” book is highly recommended. It also discusses other helpful concepts which can be used to boost productivity, such as slowing down to speed up, which entails that it’s better to let yourself take longer to perform an action, if it means that doing so will lead to improved performance overall, and save you time in the long run.
Summary and conclusions
- Mise en place is a technique where you plan your work process ahead of time, and prepare the necessary materials and tools before you start working.
- This technique is most commonly applied in kitchens, where it can be used in order to help you cook better, by working in a more organized manner.
- The same concept can also be applied in other areas of life, and can improve your workflow and productivity in general.
- Mise en place is especially helpful in tasks that require a high degree of concentration, as preparing everything ahead of time can help you avoid costly errors and distractions.