What's mise en place? How to use the pro organization technique in your own kitchen, according to chef instructors

What's mise en place? How to use the pro organization technique in your own kitchen, according to chef instructors
Mise en place is the action of organizing before you cook, including measuring and gathering your ingredients.Westend61/Getty Images

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  • Mise en place is a French term that means "everything in its place."
  • The term is used to describe organization techniques that professional chefs use.

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, cooking and baking projects can go from a relaxing afternoon activity to an overwhelming journey in a matter of minutes.

Recipes can take a lot more preparation than we think, and it's all too easy to get frazzled in the process. But, that's where mise en place comes in – a French term used by professional chefs to describe their surefire organization techniques.

Institute of Culinary Education instructors Barbara Rich, lead chef of culinary arts, and Kierin Baldwin, chef-instructor of pastry and baking arts, explain why the technique is key for success and how you can use it.

What is mise en place and why is it important?

What's mise en place? How to use the pro organization technique in your own kitchen, according to chef instructors
Mise en place is important in professional kitchens because it helps keep chefs organized before service.Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

Mise en place literally translates to "everything in its place." In cooking and baking, it refers to the action of preparation before you start your recipe. The saying got its start in professional kitchens across the globe, as it's one of the first foundational techniques many chefs learn.


"You're planning ahead in order to set up for success," says Baldwin. "You want to make sure you know what you're doing in advance and you have everything set up so that when you

need it, it's going to be there for you and you're not going to have to scramble, which throws off the timing of everything else."

The process of setting up for a recipe or a cooking project in general can look different for chefs depending on the situation.

In restaurant kitchens, mise en place can be a long game. Cooks will have prep lists where they pre-cut vegetables, pre-cook certain dishes or sauces, pre-bake cakes and cookies, and set up decorations for dishes well before reservations arrive, Rich says. This helps them take up as little time as possible when they're busy with a rush of people, and ensures they have enough food to serve for the day.

Mise en place is also for single recipes, too: the cook or baker will gather all of the ingredients and tools they need and pre-measure them just before they begin a recipe. This is common in cooking, but also a crucial part of pastry where recipes are exact, Baldwin says.


Should you use mise en place at home?

Though this technique is essential for pros that are making large amounts of food or cooking for multiple reservations a night, it can be an incredibly beneficial technique at home, too.

"Cooking is a lot more enjoyable when you're organized, and getting ready to cook is almost as important as cooking. You want to enjoy both parts of it, and then you want to enjoy the food in the end," Rich says.

While cooks in professional kitchens often think of long-term prep work, home chefs and bakers can use the sentiment of mise en place in their everyday cooking projects.

How to use mise en place in your own kitchen

What's mise en place? How to use the pro organization technique in your own kitchen, according to chef instructors
To use mise en place at home, read the recipe then pre-measure and organize your ingredients.Westend61/Getty Images

Mise en place is a learned skill, like many other aspects of cooking. Over time it'll feel natural, but while you're still getting the hang of it, try to follow this list of key tips to help you along the way.


Step 1: Read your recipe ahead of time.

This is step one of mise en place, Baldwin says. Whether it's days ahead or just before you're cooking, always read the recipe and ingredient list in full before you begin. This helps give you a better idea of the project ahead, including how long it might take and what ingredients and tools you may need.

Step 2: Check items off the ingredient list

Whether you mentally or physically check things off your list, go item by item on the ingredients and tools list and pull them out to make sure they're ready to use, Rich says. This ensures that everything is accounted for before you really begin.

Step 3: Prep and measure items

Prep and pre-measure according to the recipe before you begin cooking or baking. If you're baking, prepare your pan or tray and preheat the oven, then measure out the ingredients you'll need and place them into little bowls or containers.

The same goes for cooking. "I always tell people, if you really want to cook at home, buy yourself a set of little bowls," Rich says. Pre-chop vegetables, measure out spices, and gather any specific ingredients and place them into little bowls or measuring cups before you begin.

Step 4: Organize your prepped ingredients

Mise en place means everything in its place, so you'll want to organize your prepped and measured ingredients in a way that works best for you. This ensures they're in arms reach when you need them. This is especially key with time sensitive projects where any small delay in time could impact the result, Baldwin says.


Step 5: Clean as you go

Whenever there's a lull in time, like when veggies need to be cooked down or your butter and sugar are creaming, clean any dirty dishes you can. Cleaning as you go is key in preventing cross contamination and helps you find everything you need as you cook.

It's also helpful to see whether or not you're going to reuse a tool somewhere in the process too, Baldwin notes. If you have one pair of tongs and need them to turn chicken and toss a salad, make sure you set aside time to clean the tool in between.

An example of mise en place in action

Mise en place is easy to use in both cooking and baking no matter what the recipe is.

If I were baking chocolate chip cookies, the process of mise en place would go like this:

  1. Read the recipe in full to make sure I have the correct ingredients and the right amount of time. This also allows you to set anything that needs to come to room temperature out for enough time.
  2. Grab and line my baking sheet, then preheat the oven.
  3. Gather my ingredients and tools (like your bowl and mixer attachment) and set them out on the counter.
  4. Pre-measure the butter, sugars, eggs, vanilla, flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and chocolate, placing them into little bowls. Put the original containers or packages (like the flour bag, the sugar, etc.) of your ingredients away at this time too.
  5. Organize the ingredients in the order I will need them. At this stage, you can combine ingredients into one container if they're being added at the same time.
  6. Begin the recipe, cleaning as I go.

Insider's takeaway

Mise en place is a French term that translates to "everything in its place." The term is used often in professional kitchens in order to represent the techniques used to prepare for cooking and baking.


Home cooks and bakers can use the technique to stay more organized throughout the cooking process by following a few simple steps: read the recipe, gather ingredients and tools, prep and measure ingredients, organize the prepped ingredients, and clean as you go. Following these key tips can make any cooking and baking project a breeze.