Mise en Place: How to Be More Efficient in the Kitchen and in Life

Mise en place

 

Mise en place (pronounced ‘meezon-plas’) is a French term which means “putting in place”, and which denotes that you should plan and prepare for a task before you start working on it. Mise en place is most often used in a culinary context, where it signifies that you should prepare all the necessary utensils and ingredients that you need before you start cooking.

This simple concept is one of the most effective tools used by chefs and amateur cooks alike, which is why it’s a required skill in culinary schools and high-end restaurant kitchens. Moreover, because it’s so effective, it can also serve as a useful productivity principle when implemented in other tasks besides cooking, such as programming or studying.

As such, in the following article you will learn more about mise en place, and see how you can apply it in the kitchen as well as in other areas of your life, so you can improve your workflow and become more efficient.

 

Examples of mise en place

A basic example of mise en place is that, if you’re cooking a meal at home, you should go through your planned recipe before you start cooking, and confirm that you have all the necessary ingredients and utensils, while also making sure that they’re all ready for you to use.

In a professional restaurant kitchen, mise en place would generally be applied in a similar manner, with a few notable differences. For example, when preparing your mise en place in a restaurant kitchen, you will prepare your tools as you would at home, but this preparation will likely be more thorough and extensive, and include things such as sharpening your knives and stocking up on enough supplies to last for a full shift.

When it comes to other contexts, such as study, mise en place will involve making sure that you have all the material that you need (e.g. your textbook), as well as the relevant tools (e.g. highlighters, a notebook, water, and a snack), before you sit down to start studying.

 

The benefits of mise en place

Implementing mise en place in the kitchen and in life has a number of benefits

First, mise en place allows you to plan your work in advance. Accordingly, you’ll be able to make any modifications that you need before you start working, while it’s still possible and convenient to do so. For example, if you’re missing key ingredients for a certain recipe, you’ll be to account for this and possibly choose a different recipe, which will be harder to do once you’ve already started cooking.

In addition, mise en place allows you to streamline your work process. Specifically, by making sure that everything you will need for your work is prepared, organized, and placed strategically, you ensure that when you’re working on the main task at hand, whether it’s cooking or studying, you’ll be able to focus on the task itself, and avoid distractions.

This is especially important when working on tasks 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, which causes you to waste time, task interruptions also 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.

Finally, mise en place will help you feel more in control. Specifically, by making sure that everything is organized according to your needs and preferences, and by minimizing the number of interruptions and potential issues that may arise during the work process, you ensure that you will feel more in control of this process.

Together with the fact that mise on place will also allow you to be more efficient in your actions, and will allow you to achieve your goals better, this technique can therefore make the work process much more enjoyable overall, and can transform otherwise stressful tasks into something that you easily manage.

 

How to implement mise en place in the kitchen

Implementing mise en place in the kitchen is relatively straightforward. To understand how to do this, familiarize yourself with the following steps, before you start cooking:

  • First, choose a recipe, and figure out which ingredients and utensils you need. 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, and allows you to plan ahead properly.
  • Prepare all the ingredients so that they’re ready to be used. This means that each ingredient should be ready for you to use as you cook, without requiring any additional preparation. Essentially, to do this you should defrost what needs defrosting, measure what needs measuring, chop what needs chopping, and so on.
  • If there are ingredients that require extensive special preparation, prepare them before you start the main cooking process, to avoid a delay in the middle of cooking. Examples for such cases include dough that needs to be chilled in the fridge or nuts that need to be roasted in the oven. Preparing these things in advance ensures that you don’t get stuck with long waiting periods in the middle of cooking.
  • Group ingredients and utensils together, so that they’re easy to find and use while cooking. If possible, you should arrange your ingredients and utensils in the order that you will be using them. Essentially, you want to make it as easy as possible for you to use the necessary materials as you cook.

Note that, if you know that there will be short waiting periods during the cooking process, you can plan ahead and decide to use these waiting periods in order to get things ready for the next step in the recipe.

Furthermore, if there’s nothing that needs to be done at the moment, you can use these waiting periods in order to clean up your work area and any used utensils, instead of leaving all the cleaning to the end. This will help keep you engaged in the process, and will reduce the amount of cleaning that you have to do when you’re finished cooking.

Finally, note that in order to implement mise en place properly, you need to make sure to give yourself enough time. Rushing things will often lead to more mistakes, and will likely make the cooking process less successful and less enjoyable for you. Conversely, implementing mise en place properly by giving yourself enough time and by following these steps can turn cooking from a haphazard attempt at juggling multiple things simultaneously, to an organized, enjoyable, and more successful process.

 

How to implement mise en place in other tasks

While mise en place is most commonly associated with the cooking process, you can also use it as a guiding principle in order to increase your productivity and improve your workflow when it comes to other tasks, such as studying.

There are some superficial differences in such cases: your main ingredients aren’t food, your tools aren’t cooking utensils, and your work environment isn’t a kitchen. However, the idea behind this technique remains the same: better planning, preparation, and organization ahead of time facilitates the work process later on.

As such, you can take advantage of mise en place when it comes to various tasks, by doing the following before you get started:

  • Clearly outline the tasks that you intend to work on, and identify what you will need in order to complete each one.
  • Ensure that you have the necessary material and tools that you need in order to complete each task.
  • Arrange your material and tools so that they can be retrieved without interrupting your workflow, and organize your work environment in general.

Furthermore, you can go a step further when implementing mise en place in this manner, and arrange your tasks in a way that optimizes your work process, such as by batching together similar types of tasks.

Note: If you want to read more about how to implement mise en place in your workflow, both in the kitchen and in general, the “Work Clean” book is highly recommended. It discusses the concept of mise en place together with other related techniques which can be used to boost your productivity, such as slowing down to speed up, which denotes 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 (pronounced ‘meezon-plas’) is a French term which means “putting in place”, and which denotes that you should plan and prepare for a task before you start working on it.
  • Mise en place is most often used in a culinary context, where it signifies that you should prepare all the necessary utensils and ingredients that you need before you start cooking, but it can also be a useful productivity principle to apply when it comes to other tasks, such as studying.
  • Mise en place is beneficial because it allows you to plan your work in advance, streamline your work process, and feel more in control of your work.
  • To implement mise en place in the kitchen, you should first pick a recipe and figure out which ingredients and tools you’ll need, and then prepare all the ingredients so that they’re ready to be used, especially if they require extensive preparation, before organizing everything so that it’s easily accessible and ready to use when cooking.
  • To implement mise en place in other tasks, you should first outline the tasks and identify what you’ll need in order to complete them, and then make sure that you have all the necessary materials and tools that you’ll need to complete those tasks, and that they’re all organized in a strategic manner.