Roughly translated, mise en place means "everything in place." It is the practice where cooks make sure that everything is ready to go before they begin cooking. Everything means everything. It means reading over the recipe at least once, if not more than once. It means having all of the equipment plugged in, tested, and ready to go. It also means laying out all of the needed ingredients while ensuring that the vegetables are sliced, diced, julienned or otherwise cut according to the recipe.
You might be thinking mise en place means lots of focus and deep breaths because it is a lot of work! But in all seriousness, getting everything ready beforehand can really reduce kitchen mishaps. There is no scrambling, digging in the refrigerator, or trying desperately to remember how the food processor bowl fits on the base while food is about to burn on the stove.
Mise en place is especially important when doing things like stir-fry, where the food can burn, or delicate things like making a sauce, which can easily break. All in all, having your mise en place ready can be the difference between disaster and delectable.
Undoubtedly, delectable is always better than disaster, but there's just one question left: How ever do you organize it all?
In many cases, chefs use plastic cups. Everything is measured out, placed into a plastic cup, and when it comes time for the ingredient to be added, the ingredient is poured into the skillet or bowl. Chefs often then discard the plastic cup, which is not the most eco-friendly mise en place option to practice.
On the other hand, you can use your own bowls, cups or even ramekins, a much more environmentally-conscious option. What can you do if you need them for actually serving the meal? Enter mise en place bowls, specifically designed sets of bowls for holding and measuring mise en place.
Mise en place bowls are truly cool, time- and error-saving kitchen gadgets, even if you are not much of a gadget person. Perhaps their best feature is that they double as measuring cups.
Many mise en place sets are labeled with a line and two measurements, such as "1 cup / 1/2 cup," which means that if you fill the bowl up to the line, you have the first measurement of the ingredient and if you fill the bowl all the way to the top, you have the second. While they are a bit too unwieldy to replace all your measuring cups, they do make measuring a lot easier since you can pour ingredients (i.e. flour, dried herbs, spices, water, broth, soy sauce, wine, etc) into them and know exactly how much you have.
Given that most mise en place bowl sets have six or more bowls, you are going to have one or two of the most common measurements (one cup, two cups, one-half cup). Still, that sounds like a lot of things that take up a lot of space. Not so. The bowls are stackable and take up less space than a single soup bowl! They are also dishwasher safe, which means cleaning them is easy.
Mise en place bowls or not, practicing mise en place is a good idea and one of the ways that restaurant kitchens turn out a lot of food in record time. Take this secret of the restaurant chef home with you and use it to rock your kitchen. Opt for the mise en place bowls and you can make a good kitchen practice even better.
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