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Kitchen 101: 12 Things to Think of Before You Start Cooking

Is Your Mise en Place Ready???

Have you ever heard of the phrase “mise en place?” If you translate it from French, it literally means, “putting in place.” It is also known as “MEP”, or just “Mise”. After you are finished reading this post, you will know what questions to ask yourself before trying a new recipe.

Some people think “mise en place” just means that you have all ingredients on hand before you start cooking. That is certainly a great practice, but mise en place is more than that.

Mise en place is a readiness for what you are about to do. Below is a list of questions you need to ask before you try a new recipe for the first time:

  1. Have I read the recipe completely first? This question sounds redundant, but you would not believe how many people skip this step. Read the recipe front to back first, and you will save yourself from a surprise.
  2. Am I clear about the cooking method of the recipe? Most recipes do not list the cooking method in the beginning. It may be painfully obvious – for instance, cookies are baked. How about a recipe for beef short ribs? When you know your basic cooking methods, the recipe will give you clues. Short ribs are usually cooked by braising, but maybe the recipe calls for cooking them over indirect heat.
  3. Do I understand all the steps to the recipe? This question is usually overlooked. Perhaps the recipe is obscure, or there are terms that you do not understand in the recipe. Is there a step that you just don’t get? Ask the question before you start cooking, and save yourself some pain.
  4. How long does it take to execute the recipe? Some recipes require long, gentle cooking times. Others may take a bit of involvement. It is important to know that first, so you are not surprised when you need to attend to something for a long period of time.
  5. Is there anything I need to do before the recipe starts? Pre-heating your oven is a great example. Some recipes are written with the oven pre-heat temperature in the beginning, others will be in the later steps.
  6. Do I have all the necessary equipment to execute the recipe? Perhaps later in the recipe, it calls for a Kitchenaid mixer. You might be in trouble if you don’t have something that is comparable.
  7. Do I know how to use the equipment for the recipe? A step that calls for grinding the chuck calls for your understanding on how to use that grinder. If you are unsure of how to use the grinder, educate yourself before starting the recipe.
  8. Do I have all the necessary ingredients for the recipe? Ingredients are usually listed first in a recipe so you can see if you have them. Bison Chili needs to have bison before you can start.
  9. Are there any special preparations for ingredients you need to do before executing the recipe? If your recipe calls for mashed potatoes as an ingredient, then yes, they need to be mashed before you start the recipe. I cannot tell you how many times I learned this very lesson.
  10. Do I have all ingredients prepared, measured out, prepped, is my equipment in place? If your carrots or onions need to be peeled, it is best to have this done before you start the recipe. You do not want to be peeling garlic as your onions are browning in the pan. (That is, unless you like burnt onions in your dish.) Having your items prepped makes the execution of the recipe easier.
  11. Do I have all items in reach for the recipe? This is what people usually are talking about with mise en place. If you have everything within reach, you can execute your steps with minimal effort. If your spices are in the cupboard, in disarray, you will not have fun adding them to your stew when it is cooking.
  12. Do I have a plan for executing the recipe? Think of what you are going to do, in your mind’s eye. Much like an athlete envisions a race, you need to go through the steps in your head for what you are to do before starting. If there is anything you are unclear of, it will become clear.

Do you have any other mise en place questions you ask before tackling a recipe?

Do you have a question for the Well Done Chef? You can ask me by checking out my Ask the Chef! page.

{ 5 comments… add one }

  • Nick November 16, 2009, 12:19 pm

    Great tips. All of these are really good to think about. I can definitely think of a few recipes I’ve tried where I failed to notice the “Store overnight in your fridge before continuing”.

    Oops. Would’ve helped to read the whole thing first… which should be obvious…

    Thanks Jason!

  • SippitySup November 16, 2009, 8:33 pm

    I am very good at mise en place because I am a natural plan ahead kind of guy. So much less stress if you know what is coming in the kitchen and are prepared for it. GREG

  • jasonsandeman November 17, 2009, 6:35 am

    @Nick – Oh yes, I can tell you so many stories on how I learned about Mise En Place. There was the time that my Pate en Croute exploded in the oven because I missed the “poke vent holes in the crust” section of the recipe. I totally learned my lesson there, after cleaning little chucks of caribou that had exploded in the oven. LOL

  • jasonsandeman November 17, 2009, 6:40 am

    @Greg – I learned about the importance of planning from trial and error. It is no fun cleaning up after a mess, or ruining the outcome of a recipe because you were not clear on how it is executed. Your methodical approach is a good one. Kudos!

  • ana February 20, 2013, 9:36 am

    how ones get the ideal taste of a costumer ?

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