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Mise en place


weinoo
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In this topic, I'm wondering how the world moves cut up stuff from cutting boards into pot and pans on the stove.

Mr. Hennes then questioned whether or not I do my mise en place ahead of time and put it into small bowls. The next poster picked up on the mise theme.

The wikiGullet defines mise en place as:

everything in its place
specifically, I'm assuming, stuff that's prepared ahead of service and put in its place ready for service.

So I'm wondering; when I cut stuff up that's ready to be cooked, is that really mise en place? And do you refer to it as such?

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

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I'd only call it Mise en Place if everything I was going to use in the recipe was all nicely chopped/prepared, handy, and ready for me to toss it into the pan. Hence my assertion that I'll do my mise on my myriad chopping boards - I find that the traditional way of using small bowls a) cleans me out of small bowls, which I'm generally using for other things anyhow, and b) makes far too many dishes for me after the meal is over. I'll be cleaning the boards anyway, so why not use them?

On the other hand, Mise en Place is an excellent system for large-scale kitchens (like restaurants, hotels, etc) where you have a) an excess of crockery, and b) grunts to do the chopping and the dishes....

Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

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I suppose it depends on how much staging I need. If I'm stir frying, where the wok is really hot and everything needs to be ready to go immediately, then yes, I get everything ready. If I'm doing the kind of thing where I've got stuff on the fire and it doesn't require so much attention, and I can chop ingredients and wash a few dishes all at the same time, then I do that.

In a restaurant kitchen where one has to be ready to prepare a repertoire of dishes from a menu on a moment's notice and have five different things come out at the same time for one table, then obviously, a little more organization is required. At home cooking for three people, it's just more dishes to wash.

Edited by David A. Goldfarb (log)
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I/we do mise en place for some things: Ed does the mise ('meezes' as he calls them) when we do Chinese food. Each dish lined up on the counter to the right of the stove and then I basically saunter in and cook them all in a few minutes.

And confectionery partner and I do mise for making candies of various sorts. God help you if the needed ingredient is not measured and handy in some candies at just the right moment.

Hmmm....I suppose I do the mise when I am cooking or baking toute seule. I have a habit of leaving out the vanilla or forgetting to add things in the correct sequence, and having them all measured ahead of time and in a correct order helps a lot with that. The old steel trap mind of yore is gone forever. :raz:

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

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This may be the most important difference in becoming accomplished cook. For the most part, cookbooks gloss over mis en place - yes, they list ingredients, but seldom say or teach the importance that all should be laid out and ready.

I know, because I predominantly fall into the lazy catagory and grab things together while the cooking progresses. While I am seasoning my meat, I fumble through the spice jars to see what I have and always seem to lose the one I am seeking until I have shuffled through them a couple times. I am a victim of not pulling out the butter from the refrigerator, then finding I may not have enough or need to open a new carton while something is cooking away. Then I forget to pull the lemons out because they are in the second refrigerator behind something and have to hurry to cut them up. No doubt my flavors and finished dishes suffer.

Maybe we think time is the tyrant when we cook at home. That extra five minutes to put out the ingredient list may guilt us about taking 5 minutes from something else. I have tons of remekins and a dishwasher, so should I really worry about a few extra dishes used?

"A cloud o' dust! Could be most anything. Even a whirling dervish.

That, gentlemen, is the whirlingest dervish of them all." - The Professionals by Richard Brooks

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Way back in the fifties when in school, home ec classes taught us to always have a tray with all our items needed pre-measured and ready to go...be it baking or cooking a regular dish. THEY called it being prepared, no fancy terms, just being prepared. We students thought it was just to make it easy on the teacher of the course. NOW, I find it helps this old brain to remember what I have to do. My husband, who does NOT cook, always teases if he walks into kitchen and I am NOT prepared with mise and running around trying to find a needed ingredient.

So to make a long story short, yes, I TRY to always have everything ready to go and in bowls at the ready!

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So does mise en place include, if you're cooking from a recipe, reading that recipe before even starting? Because that's the most important thing I learned in cooking school.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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I disagree with JBailey -- I think Mise en Place is overrated for most kinds of home cooking. Imagine a soup recipe that first asks me to saute an onion until translucent, then add a chopped red bell pepper for a few minutes, then add some spices and toast in the pan, add some tomato paste and caramelize a little, then add a can of tomatoes and stock.

It would be a colossal waste of time for me to prep all these things first, and then stand there waiting around for each bit to cook. In the time the onion takes to sweat, I can chop the pepper. In the time the pepper cooks, I can measure out the spices and open the can of tomato paste... While those toast I open the can of tomatoes... Etc. Ditto for most dishes involving meat. Browning meat takes time, and requires that I not stand there and fuss over it. While meat for beef stew browns, I have plenty of time to chop mushrooms and onions, etc.

For Chinese food I agree with the notes above about prepping everything ahead of time. But for *most* of the meals I cook -- including baking -- I think it is unnecessary. Even for baking -- why on earth would I measure flour into one bowl, baking powder into a ramekin, baking soda into a second ramekin, and cocoa powder into another prep bowl? Assuming I'm not sifting, to me it makes so much more sense to take out one big bowl for the dry ingredients and measure each ingredient into it.

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I disagree with JBailey -- I think Mise en Place is overrated for most kinds of home cooking. Imagine a soup recipe that first asks me to saute an onion until translucent, then add a chopped red bell pepper for a few minutes, then add some spices and toast in the pan, add some tomato paste and caramelize a little, then add a can of tomatoes and stock.

It would be a colossal waste of time for me to prep all these things first, and then stand there waiting around for each bit to cook. In the time the onion takes to sweat, I can chop the pepper. In the time the pepper cooks, I can measure out the spices and open the can of tomato paste... While those toast I open the can of tomatoes... Etc. Ditto for most dishes involving meat. Browning meat takes time, and requires that I not stand there and fuss over it. While meat for beef stew browns, I have plenty of time to chop mushrooms and onions, etc.

For Chinese food I agree with the notes above about prepping everything ahead of time. But for *most* of the meals I cook -- including baking -- I think it is unnecessary. Even for baking -- why on earth would I measure flour into one bowl, baking powder into a ramekin, baking soda into a second ramekin, and cocoa powder into another prep bowl? Assuming I'm not sifting, to me it makes so much more sense to take out one big bowl for the dry ingredients and measure each ingredient into it.

I find a halfway point to work for this sort of thing - something a girlfriend taught me years ago - no need for bowls - just take out all the ingredients you need and put them on a tray or surface. As you use each one return it to its proper place. No chance of forgetting an ingredient or finding halfway through that you don't have it. No extra dishes to wash.

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

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"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

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I do. Almost always. I have a slew of pinch bowls and such just for this purpose. My first love was Chinese cooking and it teaches you quick to have everything ready. This morning for instance I was marinating bulgogi and had all the ingredients out before the first one went in the bowl. Force of habit I guess.

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Way back in the fifties when in school, home ec classes taught us to always have a tray with all our items needed pre-measured and ready to go...be it baking or cooking a regular dish. THEY called it being prepared, no fancy terms, just being prepared. We students thought it was just to make it easy on the teacher of the course. NOW, I find it helps this old brain to remember what I have to do. My husband, who does NOT cook, always teases if he walks into kitchen and I am NOT prepared with mise and running around trying to find a needed ingredient.

So to make a long story short, yes, I TRY to always have everything ready to go and in bowls at the ready!

Exactly. If I ever find myself working in a high-end restaurant kitchen, I'll call it mise. If I'm home, it's just prep.

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

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I usually start by copying the recipe, or printing a copy from the computer. I don't bring my cookbooks into the kitchen, and the act of writing down the recipe helps me remember what I need to do when. If it's something I find myself making again and again, I type it into the computer, and by that point I don't need a procedural reminder so much as a quantitative reminder.

And then, I start my prep. I do tend to streamline somewhat: if the mushrooms and peppers get added at the same time, they go into the same bowl. If the onion gets chopped and the garlic only smashed, even if they get added to the pan at different times, I can put the garlic on top of the onions in the bowl. I make a point of dealing with raw meat and other potentially toxic substances last in the prep process, to minimize work surface contamination risks if someone else wanders by and snatches a piece of chopped raw pepper to snack on.

I don't necessarily take the tops off cans, if I'm going to be adding the entire contents of the can, but if it's something that will need to be drained, rinsed, or otherwise processed, I make sure that also gets done ahead of time. At the very least, I put the can opener next to the can.

As far as baking: I first get everything out of the cabinets or the fridge. This is especially true if something (butter, eggs, dairy) needs to be brought to room temperature. I certainly don't put each dry ingredient into its own separate bowl if they'll all get combined anyway; they just get measured into the same place. (The exception: if I'm working with a recipe that uses mass measurements for even things like baking powder, salt, and yeast, where I prefer to use a pocket scale rather than the larger model I use for "bigger" ingredients. For those, I'll use a very small bowl on the scale and then dump the measured ingredient into my big dry ingredient bowl. But I'll use the same small bowl for all those measurements.) Eggs get individually cracked into a small bowl and then added wherever they need to get; I have no problems using a small bowl that was used for something else (like maybe weighing small-scale ingredients). As soon as I'm done with an ingredient, it gets put back where it came. When I'm done, I shouldn't have anything left on the counter in front of me.

I find that having things completely prepped and ready to go helps my sanity level tremendously. As other people have mentioned, it also eliminates the risk of discovering mid-dish that you're out of some critical ingredient (always a hazard when there are multiple cooks in the house). And in most cases, getting the prep (or mise, if you prefer) done before I start cooking) doesn't take significantly longer than doing it along the way. Because I get things done ahead of time, it frees me to concentrate more on the stove, which means I can cook more than one thing at a time if I need to, or read a few pages of a book, or unload and reload the dishwasher while the onion softens, or even just sit down for a moment.

MelissaH

MelissaH

Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

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sometimes I do this, but usually I work more in the Mess in Place style and add things I randomly come across. But I usually do not cook from recipes.

With recipes I sometimes to the whole mise, just to make sure I don't forget something. I have a bunch of little pyrex bowls for that purpose and it IS fun to have everything lined up - looks so professional :cool:

The only time I always have it all is when I cook with my new wok burner, this thing gets so hot and there's really no time at all to do something in between.

But I agree with Emily upstream, if I'm cooking something where the onions (or what ever) have to sweat first, I cut those, cook them while I prep the next things.

Of course in a restaurant you have to have everything ready, but that's a different scenario anyway.

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

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I suppose it depends on how much staging I need. If I'm stir frying, where the wok is really hot and everything needs to be ready to go immediately, then yes, I get everything ready. If I'm doing the kind of thing where I've got stuff on the fire and it doesn't require so much attention, and I can chop ingredients and wash a few dishes all at the same time, then I do that.

In a restaurant kitchen where one has to be ready to prepare a repertoire of dishes from a menu on a moment's notice and have five different things come out at the same time for one table, then obviously, a little more organization is required. At home cooking for three people, it's just more dishes to wash.

Totally agree, and totally my system as well. But I do pull ALL the ingredients out and stage them on a side counter. And I wash and trim all the veggies and trim/season the meat before I get going. I learned to pull all the ingredients and stage them after one-too-many times of leaving out something key (like an egg in a muffin recipe !).

I've tried doing the full-blown mise, just to be cool I guess, and found it wasn't efficient for me, unless I'm doing rapid fire stuff like a stir-fry. Or if I need a large amount of chopped veggies added at once, like to stop a roux for gumbo.

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In our kitchen, we call it 'weasel hats'...kind of a misheard lyrics kind of a thing :smile:

Yes, we always get our weasel hats on before we start cooking!

Don't try to win over the haters. You're not the jackass whisperer."

Scott Stratten

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"Mise en place" is more than the practice of having lots of little bowls filled with prepared ingredients... it's a culinary state of mind. It's the mind set of having everything ready that should be ready where and when you need it. It is the only way to cook efficiently wether at home or in a professional situation. (and there's nothing wrong with cooking inefficiently if you're so-inclined and have that luxury, I'm just saying...)

There is no way to properly do stir-fries, table-side or other a la minute dishes like Caesar Salad, Steak Diane etc. without mise en place, by whatever name you call it. That said, you can't be a slave to it or any other preparation technique. If you're making a stew it would be silly not to get the meat browning and prep the rest of the ingredients while you wait instead of getting every little thing laid out and prepared in advance = typical "mise".

"Mise" is also a way of thinking ahead about your cooking in a multi-layer non-linear fashion. For example, if you're making dinner with that stew plus a salad and some herbed yeast rolls it would make sense to do all the veggie prep for the stew and salad together; to clean and chop the herbs for the stew and rolls at the same time.

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For me mise en place is partially simply a defense mechanism against my own stupidity. I cannot count the number of times I have started into making a dish only to discover I was missing some ingredient, or didn't have enough of it. In the case where I am actually trying to follow a recipe, I basically have to force myself to do a complete mise, efficiency be damned. If I don't actually measure out the required quantities, odds are incredibly good that I'm going to be short something. Ergo, I own a ton of bowls, all of which are dishwasher safe.

Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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It depends on what I'm doing. If everything needs to be cooked quickly and/or there are critical stages, yes (much Chinese, Mexican, some cakes and pastries). Otherwise, I pride myself on seamless multitasking--chopping the next ingredient while the first is sauteeing, sifting the flour while the butter and sugar are creaming in the stand mixer, etc. If I am making several things at once I do tend to do more of a mise and certainly prep enough for all dishes that share an ingredient.

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I disagree with JBailey -- I think Mise en Place is overrated for most kinds of home cooking. Imagine a soup recipe that first asks me to saute an onion until translucent, then add a chopped red bell pepper for a few minutes, then add some spices and toast in the pan, add some tomato paste and caramelize a little, then add a can of tomatoes and stock.

It would be a colossal waste of time for me to prep all these things first, and then stand there waiting around for each bit to cook. In the time the onion takes to sweat, I can chop the pepper. In the time the pepper cooks, I can measure out the spices and open the can of tomato paste... While those toast I open the can of tomatoes... Etc. Ditto for most dishes involving meat. Browning meat takes time, and requires that I not stand there and fuss over it. While meat for beef stew browns, I have plenty of time to chop mushrooms and onions, etc.

I prep a modified mise when I'm making dishes (mostly Indian), that have a lot of different ingredients. I'll go through the recipe first and figure out all the spices I need, when they go in, and if any can be grouped. Then, measure them, toast and grind any that need it (mostly cumin) and divide and line them up according to when they go in. I also include minced ginger and garlic and other small quantities in this process. The bigger items that are added as the dish progresses are usually prepped as I go along. If I'm baking, I usually only pull out all the ingredients, but I don't measure them until I need them.

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I think Mise en Place is overrated for most kinds of home cooking. Imagine a soup recipe that first asks me to saute an onion until translucent, then add a chopped red bell pepper for a few minutes, then add some spices and toast in the pan, add some tomato paste and caramelize a little, then add a can of tomatoes and stock.

It would be a colossal waste of time for me to prep all these things first, and then stand there waiting around for each bit to cook. In the time the onion takes to sweat, I can chop the pepper. In the time the pepper cooks, I can measure out the spices and open the can of tomato paste... While those toast I open the can of tomatoes... Etc. Ditto for most dishes involving meat. Browning meat takes time, and requires that I not stand there and fuss over it. While meat for beef stew browns, I have plenty of time to chop mushrooms and onions, etc.

I pretty much agree with this. For every day cooking - the dishes I know like the back of my hand, I just prep as I go, in the order it's needed for a recipe. I will lay out all of the ingredients on the counter in front of me, so I have everything on hand and don't forget anything.

But for elaborate dishes or meals (like Thanksgiving) I will definitely do all my prep before even firing up the stove, mise en place style. Just makes it so much easer to pull off complicated, highly staged dinners.

In the home kitchen, I certainly think both approaches have their merits, given the situation that you find yourself cooking in.

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For me mise en place is partially simply a defense mechanism against my own stupidity. I cannot count the number of times I have started into making a dish only to discover I was missing some ingredient, or didn't have enough of it. In the case where I am actually trying to follow a recipe, I basically have to force myself to do a complete mise, efficiency be damned. If I don't actually measure out the required quantities, odds are incredibly good that I'm going to be short something. Ergo, I own a ton of bowls, all of which are dishwasher safe.

For me, Chris has said it all and clearly. I don't always do it by a long shot, but it works best when I do.

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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The wikiGullet defines mise en place as:

everything in its place
specifically, I'm assuming, stuff that's prepared ahead of service and put in its place ready for service.

So I'm wondering; when I cut stuff up that's ready to be cooked, is that really mise en place? And do you refer to it as such?

You've (sort of) answered your own question. A true mise en place would include not just ingredients that need to be prepped and cut up but also other ingredients like soy sauce, pepper, butter, etc. You could pre-measure those latter ingredients and have them in their own little bowls like you would if you were on the PBS show "America's Test Kitchen" where everything is pre-measured.

Mise en place is a key to successful chinese wok cooking since everything is cooked so quickly there's no time to cut and chop and measure. Ideally, it all should be done in advance.

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

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I always check to make sure I have the ingredients, but rarely set them out in premeasured amounts - for instance, what's the point in getting eggs out and putting them in a separate container(if I don't put them in something, I'm practically guaranteed to roll one off the counter)? Wasted motion in getting a bowl/tray/whatever, and washing it afterwards. My spice rack is one step from the stove, it's easy to use the measuring spoon hanging on a rack over the stove as a scoop, and I adjust the spice by taste anyway. I use a plate or two to stage stir fry - fewer dishes to wash and I can carry all ingredients from the counter by the fridge to the stove in one trip.

I'm more likely to have mushrooms sauteeing gently in butter in a 6"(15cm) frying pan while I'm sauteeing carrots/onions/celery/garlic, prepped on the fly and added in that order in another larger pan, while the tomato sauce is reducing in a pot on the back of the stove.

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I think it is very dependant on what you are cooking. As others have noted things that go fast like stir frying need very strict prep. Other things can that go more slowly, can leave you with time to prep as you work. Even in those situations though, I am gathering mutliple ingredients as I go and placing them in my prep area, instead of going to find each thing as I need it. When doing prep for a stir fry I always used to use lots of little bowls and plates. I have now gone to just using one large rimmed sheet pan. I prep in small separate piles by order they go into the wok . I mostly like to stir fry over charcoal in my bbq, it is much easier to bring the one sheet pan outside than 10+ small dishes.

The mise for something simple like making butter biscuits is just to have your oven hot and the flour, butter, salt, milk and baking powder all out on the counter with a large bowl before you start measuring .

Edited by Ashen (log)

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