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What Is Mise en Place, and Why Should You Use It?

Mise en Place: The Best Way to Start Cooking

Everything in its place. It’s a tidy philosophy for life—and even more so in the kitchen. Enter mise en place, a practice that makes cooking and meal prepping easier, quicker, cleaner, and more efficient.

“Mise en place” roughly translates from its native French to “everything in its place.” In short, it’s the practice of setting up the cooking station so that everything the cook needs is readily available. Ingredients, utensils, and other supplies are gathered; ingredients that need to be prepared, such as produce, are cleaned and made ready for cooking.

Mise en place is so important that it’s one of the first things aspiring chefs learn in culinary school. But it can—and should—extend to the home cook. In fact, HelloFresh believes in mise en place so thoroughly that it’s at the base of everything we do, from ingredient preparation to our recipe cards. Read on to learn more about the history and activities involved in mise en place.

The Beginnings of Mise en Place

While cooks have presumably always had some sort of system for organizing their ingredients, mise en place as a practice is thought to have begun with legendary French chef Georges Auguste Escoffier. Before his culinary fame, he was in the army, where he witnessed the value that discipline and order brought to the military. When he teamed up with famed hotelier César Ritz, he applied that ethos to the way his hotel kitchens operated. Escoffier established a chain of command that many restaurants still use today, with chef de cuisine playing the role of general, sous chefs coming in as lieutenants, and so on.

Mise en place was another iteration of his belief in discipline and order. He understood that by setting up each cook’s station just so, with all ingredients ready and at hand, the kitchen he commanded could maximize its efficiency.

The tradition remains unchanged in professional kitchens more than a century later. Before meal service, cooks set up their mise en place. It’s their chance to discover what ingredients need to be restocked, to hunt down any pieces of equipment that have gone missing, and to start preparing ingredients before cooking. Once meal service begins, they can focus on the task at hand. It’s such a lifesaver that “mise en place” has become a popular tattoo in the professional chef community.

Benefits of Mise en Place for Meal Prepping and Beyond

Mise en place has a special place in professional kitchens, where cooks are often lined up practically shoulder to shoulder with little room to move around. If cooks don’t set up their mise en place, they risk having to run to another room to get ingredients or supplies, costing them precious time.

But mise en place is important in the home kitchen too. With mise en place, you’ll never risk discovering at the last minute that you’re out of chili powder. (Of course, with HelloFresh that’s never a risk—yet another reason we’re big believers in this practice.) Not that it’s limited to ingredients: If you gather your utensils beforehand, you’ll have your colander at the ready instead of trying to track it down with a pot full of al dente pasta boiling away.

It can help you manage your cooking time too, by breaking up the process into steps so you don’t have to do everything at once. It’s also handy when you’re sharing cooking responsibilities: One person can play “sous chef,” doing the mise en place and preparing ingredients, and then the other person can step in and bring it all together.

Mise en place is also a huge help in meal prepping. With meal prepping, you’re preparing larger quantities of ingredients to use throughout the week. The work involved with meal prepping is often simpler than what you’ll do when you actually cook the meal, so mise en place with meal prep is a little less about gathering ingredients and more about getting those ingredients ready.

How to Set Up Your Mise en Place

The activities involved in mise en place are straightforward and adaptable to your kitchen. If you know that your mixing bowls are always in the same place (and that place isn’t the dishwasher!), you don’t necessarily need to gather them. Here are the basic steps of mise en place:

Mise en Place Step 1: Read the Recipe

Before you can gather what you need, you have to know what you need. Read the recipe—not just the ingredients list—and figure out what’s involved. Note any steps that need to happen rapidly, like stirring cream into a caramel sauce to keep it from burning.

Mise en Place Step 2: Round Up Your Supplies

Teaspoons, measuring cups, paring knife, chef’s knife, zester: Make sure everything is clean and at hand. If there are steps in your recipe that require precise timing, look at what supplies you’ll need for that step—if you’re supposed to stir half a cup of cream into that caramel sauce, but you’ve used your liquid measure earlier in the recipe, consider having two measures ready or plan to wash one before you need it.

Mise en Place Step 1: Read the Recipe

Before you can gather what you need, you have to know what you need. Read the recipe—not just the ingredients list—and figure out what’s involved. Note any steps that need to happen rapidly, like stirring cream into a caramel sauce to keep it from burning.

Mise en Place Step 2: Round Up Your Supplies

Teaspoons, measuring cups, paring knife, chef’s knife, zester: Make sure everything is clean and at hand. If there are steps in your recipe that require precise timing, look at what supplies you’ll need for that step—if you’re supposed to stir half a cup of cream into that caramel sauce, but you’ve used your liquid measure earlier in the recipe, consider having two measures ready or plan to wash one before you need it.

Mise en Place Step 3: Gather Your Ingredients

Fetch all your ingredients from the pantry or refrigerator. Measure out the ingredients (a set of small bowls comes in handy here). Again, do what works for you: If your recipe calls for six different spices, you can put them into bowls or just have the spice jars at the ready. If you’re setting up your mise en place well before you actually start cooking, you can put the ingredients that require refrigeration on a tray and store it in the fridge until you’re ready.

Mise en Place Step 4: Prep Ingredients

This is when you get ingredients into the state they’ll need to be in when you start cooking. Wash and dry produce, then slice, chop, or mince it according to the recipe. Wash and trim meat, zest citrus fruits, separate yolks from whites—you get the picture. Once you’re done, you can clean up your workspace, getting it ready for the main event.

Mise en Place Step 3: Gather Your Ingredients

Fetch all your ingredients from the pantry or refrigerator. Measure out the ingredients (a set of small bowls comes in handy here). Again, do what works for you: If your recipe calls for six different spices, you can put them into bowls or just have the spice jars at the ready. If you’re setting up your mise en place well before you actually start cooking, you can put the ingredients that require refrigeration on a tray and store it in the fridge until you’re ready.

Mise en Place Step 4: Prep Ingredients

This is when you get ingredients into the state they’ll need to be in when you start cooking. Wash and dry produce, then slice, chop, or mince it according to the recipe. Wash and trim meat, zest citrus fruits, separate yolks from whites—you get the picture. Once you’re done, you can clean up your workspace, getting it ready for the main event.

HelloFresh’s Method to Mise en Place

Mise en place is part of the HelloFresh DNA. Each meal kit comes with preportioned ingredients, so we’ve already done one step of mise en place for our subscribers. Beyond that, all HelloFresh dinner recipes use mise en place, including our crowd favorites. But some categories of meals particularly benefit from the practice:

  • Easy recipes and one-pot meals: Mise en place can be especially helpful for beginner cooks and those looking to minimize cleanup.
  • Pasta recipes: Because most pasta recipes begin by boiling water to cook the pasta, you can boil water while you set up your mise en place, putting you one step ahead.
  • Kid-friendly recipes: Having your ingredients laid out and ready to use comes in handy when you’re trying to make dinner amid the potential distraction of your “kitchen helpers.” Mise en place also lets you bring them into the mix if you’d like: Younger children can lay out ingredients such as seasonings, and older children who are ready to handle knives can chop vegetables according to the pictures on the recipe cards.
  • Korean recipes: Korean food has a reputation for being complicated, but mise en place streamlines the process of these vegetable-forward meals.

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