Mise En Place (MEEZ ahn plahs) is a French term referring to having all the ingredients necessary for a dish prepared and ready to combine, up to the point of cooking.
Mise En Place (meez ahn plahs) means literally, “to put in place” or “everything in its place.” The concept is: A cook should have at hand everything he or she needs to prepare and serve food in an organized and efficient manner. A proper mise en place requires the cook to consider work patterns, tools and equipment, and ingredient lists.
Coordination of multiple tasks is important. An organized cook will think about the most efficient way to complete tasks before beginning the work.
Selecting Tools and Equipment
- Clean everything – all tools, work surfaces and equipment.
- Get the oven preheated.
- Make sure all your measuring devices are accurate and that you are using the correct measuring device for dry and/or liquids.
- Knives should be good and sharp.
- Mixing bowls, saucepans, and storage containers should be the correct size for what you are cooking.
- Foods should be gathered and stored at the proper temperatures.
- Have hand tools, utensils, cookware and serving plates nearby.
- Check expiration dates on everything.
- Have hand towels, gloves, foil, parchment paper, saran wrap, etc. nearby.
Some ingredients that are used frequently are often prepared in large quantities.
Whole butter can be used for cooking, but sometimes a more consistent product will be achieved by using butter that has had the water and milk solids removed by a process called clarification.
Procedure For Clarifying Butter:
- Warm the butter in a saucepan over low heat without boiling. As the butter melts, the milk solids rise to the top as a foam and the water sinks to the bottom.
- Skim the milk solids from the top when the butter is completely melted.
- When all the milk solids have been removed, ladle the butterfat into a clean saucepan. Leave the water in the bottom of the pan.
- The clarified butter is now ready.
Ghee – A form of clarified butter in which the milk solids remain with the fat and are allowed to brown.
Toasting Nuts and Spices
Nuts are often toasted lightly before being used. Whole spices are sometimes toasted before being ground for a sauce or used as a garnish. Toasting brings out its flavor and makes it crispier. Whether toasting nuts or spices, they should be watched carefully to avoid burning.
Making Bread Crumbs
Fresh bread crumbs are made from fresh bread that is slightly dried out. If the bread is too fresh, the crumbs will be gummy. If the bread is too stale, the crumbs will be stale as well. Dry bread crumbs are made from bread that has been lightly toasted.
To make bread crumbs, the bread is torn into pieces and ground in a food processor. After processing, the crumbs should be passed through a sieve and stored in a tightly closed storage container. Dried herbs and spices can be mixed into the crumbs for flavor.
Foods are often flavored with spices or herbs, rubs or marinades before they are cooked. This may require the cook to prepare various mixtures ahead of time.
Bouquet Garni and Sachet
A bouquet garni and sachet are used to introduce flavorings, seasonings, and aromatics into sauces, soups, stews, and stocks.
A bouquet garni is herbs and vegetables tied into a bundle. A standard bouquet garni consists of parsley stems (lots of flavor), celery, leeks, carrots and thyme.
A sachet is a cheesecloth filled with seasonings and tied together. A standard sachet consists of bay leaves, peppercorns, thyme, cloves, parsley stems, and garlic.
An onion pique is less commonly used to extract flavors. To make one, peel an onion and trim off the root end. Attach a couple dried bay leaves to the onion using whole cloves as pins. Simmer in liquid to extract flavors.
Marinating is the soaking of meat or poultry in a seasoned liquid to tenderize and flavor it. Marinades can be a simple blend of seasonings, herbs, and oil. Marinades can be a complicated blend of fruit, red wine, and other ingredients. Mild marinades should be used on meats such as veal. Strong marinades should be used on game and beef. White wine marinades are usually used for white meats and poultry, and red wine marinades are used for red meats.
When marinating, be sure to cover the item completely and keep it refrigerated. Stir or turn frequently so the marinade can penetrate evenly.
Rubs and Pastes
Additional flavors can be added by rubbing meats with fresh or dried herbs and spices. The flavoring blend, called a rub, can be used dried, or it can be mixed with a little oil, lemon juice, fresh garlic or ginger, or prepared mustard. This makes a paste or a wet rub. Rubs add flavor and a crispy crust.
Steeping is the process of soaking dry ingredients in a liquid to extract their flavors. Steeping is also used for re-hydrating dried fruits and vegetables.
Preparing To Cook
Breading and Battering Foods
A breaded item is any food coated with a dry meal during cooking. These may include bread crumbs, cracker meal, cornmeal, or other. Breaded foods are usually cooked by deep-frying or pan-frying.
A three-step process is used for the standard breading procedure:
- Pat the food dry and dredge it in flour.
- Dip the floured food in an egg wash. The egg wash should contain whole eggs and should contain 1 tablespoon of milk or water per egg.
- Coat the food with bread crumbs, cracker crumbs, or other dry meal. Do not stack items on top of each other.
I really like prep trays. It sure beats getting out 3 plates, and the ensuing mess.
Batters consist of liquids such as milk, beer, or water combined with flour or cornstarch. These items are usually deep-fryed or pan-fryed.
Procedure for battering foods:
- Prepare the batter.
- Pat the food dry and dredge in flour.
- Dip the item in the batter and place it in the hot fat.
Blanching and Parboiling
Blanching – Very briefly and partially cooking a food in boiling water or hot fat; used to assist in preparation as part of a combination cooking method or to remove undesirable flavors.
Parboiling – Partially cooking food in simmering or boiling liquid.
Parcooking – Partially cooking a food.
Shocking – Also called refreshing (usually a vegetable); submerging it in ice water to cool it quickly and prevent further cooking. Also, sets colors.
Making an Ice Bath
It is important to cool hot foods quickly before refrigerating them (you don’t want to risk contamination). An ice bath is an easy way to do this.
An ice bath is simply a container of ice cubes and cold water. The item will cool faster if it is in a metal container, rather than one made of glass or plastic.
Please don’t let the use of the French term, “Mise En Place” divert you from understanding and appreciating the importance of planning and coordinating your food preparation process before beginning. In my opinion, this is probably the single biggest difference between gourmet chefs and regular, once-in-a-while cooks.