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Mise en place is a French culinary phrase that means “setting in place.” It refers to the set-up of precisely measured ingredients and necessary utensils at a cooking station in advance of food preparation. It may also include condiments, garnishes and serving dishes.
Pronounced “meez ahn plahs,” and sometimes spelled “mis en place,” this technique facilitates the smooth, successful preparation of foods. It is especially helpful for preparing dishes made from complex recipes. The set-up is most commonly used in professional kitchens where many dishes are prepared throughout the course of a work shift. Most restaurants spend the first few hours of each shift completing this prep work before the dining room opens.
A commercial cooking station in a restaurant or catering company may include both hot and cold food storage compartments for mise en place. Stainless steel trays for food storage fit into countertop compartments for easy access. The trays may be filled with ice for keeping certain foods cold, or they may be filled with a hot water ban marie to keep foods warm. Other containers may be stored in refrigerated compartments beneath the countertop or in walk-in refrigerators.
Common ingredients for a mise en place cooking station are large quantities of precut meats and fish, chopped vegetables and par-cooked foods. They may also include pats of butter, bottles of cooking wine and cubes of congealed bouillon for making sauces to order. Pre-made sauces may also be set up for speed and convenience. Prepared garnishes, as well as salad and dessert ingredients, are also common components.
Widely used in demonstration cooking, mise en place is featured in cooking shows, infomercials and trade shows. For these purposes, however, ingredients are typically set up in individual portions for the preparation of a single demonstration dish. Ingredients are usually placed in small bowls or ramekins on the countertop next to the cooking station.
Mise en place may also be used in home kitchens. It is especially useful for novice cooks or for those preparing multiple dishes in large quantities for entertaining guests. When prepared at home, the first step is to review the recipes and shop for all the necessary ingredients. Shortly before the cooking time, exact quantities of the ingredients needed should be prepared, measured and set up near the stove or barbeque grill.
Sometimes if I have to make homemade pita pizzas for my kids, I'll set up my own mise en place. None of them ever want the same toppings, so I'll stack the pita breads on the counter, put a jar of pizza sauce next to them, then a bowl of shredded cheese. All of the other possible toppings are chopped or sliced and sitting in the middle of the counter.
All my kids have to do is tell me what they want and I can put the toppings on the pita bread just before baking them. It sure beats having to run back and forth from the refrigerator because one child wants ham and another wants pepperoni.
We didn't call it a mise en place, but when I worked as a sandwich maker for a deli, I had a work station set up with every condiment, meat and cheese I needed. I had replacement tubs stored in the refrigerated cabinet below the sandwich board. I rarely had to stray more than three feet from my work area all day.
I knew a certain sandwich called for rye bread, mustard, corned beef and Swiss cheese, so I had the bread set up on one end, the mustard in a tub with a knife, the meat and cheese in pre-measured packs and the sandwich steamer on the other end of the counter. If the sandwich called for vegetables, I knew right where they were. I couldn't have handled a lunch rush without a mise en place.
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