I'm going to be up front with you here. Most of the time, when I'm finished cooking, my kitchen looks slightly as though it's been ransacked. When I try to clean as I go, I get distracted from the actual cooking and when that happens, things get burned, abandoned, forgotten or neglected. The majority of my culinary mistakes happened because I just wasn't paying a bit of attention.
Enter, the mise en place.
Mis en place is a French phrase defined by the Culinary Institute of America as "everything in place," or set up. Think of your favorite food show: you've never seen Paula Deen scrambling to find the pepper while her onions sizzle away on the stove. She has her ingredients organized, measured and prepared before she gets started. Now, let's ignore the fact that an intern probably does it for her and concentrate on the task at hand.
Having your mis en place before cooking means that your ingredients are measured out, washed, chopped, and placed in individual bowls. You have all of the equipment you need, such as spatulas and bowls, within arm's reach. Your ovens are preheated and your trash receptacle is at the ready.
Preparing the mise en place ahead of time lets the chef (you!) cook without having to stop and assemble items. It may seem like you're spending more time in the kitchen but in the long haul, you're actually saving time.
Clear away any trash, such as egg shells, spilled flour or empty wrappers once you've measured and your ingredients are ready to go. Wash or load the dishwasher with the measuring cups or spoons you used to prepare your mis en place.
Assemble your mis en place on a tray - in the event of spills, drips or drops, you'll only have to clean one surface instead of your entire countertop and floor.
Keep your mis en place together. It sounds intuitive, but if you have all of your ingredients located in one place before you begin your recipe, you'll save a ton of time.
How do you prepare your ingredients or cooking space before you begin a recipe?