Perhaps you have heard the saying, “Prior preparation prevents poor performance.” It’s a memorable saying that reminds us that if we want to be successful, we must first spend time preparing for the task at hand. This principle is essential in commercial kitchens. When serving a wide variety of dishes to several people a day, preparation is crucial to success. In fact, preparation is a key principal in professional kitchens, and it has a name: Mise en place.
What is Mise en Place?
Mise en place (rhymes with cheese on sauce) is a French term that literally means to put in place. It describes all of the advance preparation that takes place in the kitchen before the doors open for business. For every dish on the menu, the chef gathers, prepares, and organizes all the necessary ingredients. Vegetables are chopped. Salad greens are washed. Sauces and stocks are prepared. Cuts of protein are trimmed and portioned. The chef also gathers and organizes all the necessary tools he will need once the meal service period begins. When he completes his mise en place, the chef should have everything he needs within reach to assemble every dish at his station.
You can actually see the results of mise en place when you watch a cooking show. All of the ingredients the chef is using on camera are already prepared. All of the tools needed are already within the chef’s reach. He doesn’t have to stop his demonstration to mince a clove of garlic or look for a whisk. That’s because before filming begins, the chef or his staff did their mise en place beforehand.
A State of Mind
There’s no time during the lunch or dinner rush to stop and prepare an ingredient you need for a dish. Let’s say you have a strip steak on your menu served with a bordelaise sauce. If you failed to make enough sauce during your mise en place, you won’t be able to sell that dish. What happens when you run out of that sauce and you still have three steak orders to fill? Some of your guests are going to walk away disappointed.
Mise en place is more than just preparation; it’s a state of mind. In the previous example, either the chef did not anticipate the number of steak orders that night, or he miscalculated the amount of sauce needed. Understanding the concept of mise en place means anticipating what tasks need to be accomplished and in what order. It is the ability to be proactive rather than reactive. The chef who masters the practice of mise en is the chef who is in control of the kitchen. The kitchen is not in control of him.
Tools for Success
As we mentioned, an important step for mise en place is gathering all the necessary tools. Having all the tools you need within reach before you need them will help set you up for success. With that in mind, here are several useful tools commonly used for mise en place:
- Kitchen Knives – Knives are arguably the most important tool a chef can invest in. The most important knife to have is an 8-10 inch chef’s knife. For more information on kitchen knives, check out our blog series, Keeping Your Edge.
- Cutting Boards – Having plenty of clean cutting boards on hand helps keep your station clean and sanitary. We recommend using different color cutting boards for different tasks to prevent cross contamination. For example, using a yellow cutting board exclusively for raw chicken will prevent salmonella from cross contaminating ready to eat foods.
- Kitchen Utensils – Determine the best tool to use for each prepared ingredient on your menu. These may include high heat spatulas, ladles, tongs, basting spoons, whisks, spoonouts, and dishers.
- Mixing Bowls – Mixing bowls are useful for tasks such as dressing salads, adding salt or seasoning to fried foods, and more.
- Thermometers – Instant read thermometers are indispensable tools in the kitchen. They are one of the most important tools you can use to ensure food safety. It is highly recommended that every staff member carries one with them at all times.
- Cookware – You will want to have plenty of clean sauté pans and stock pots on hand when service gets busy. Nothing slows down service quite like having to wait for clean cookware! For more information on cookware, check out our blog series, Pan Handling.
- Oven Mitts – It goes without saying that all that cookware is super-hot! Oven mitts, hot pads, and kitchen towels are essential for safety and maintaining the pace of service.
- Storage Containers – Store prepared foods in clearly labeled and dated storage containers. This will keep you organized and efficient. It will also ensure the FIFO principle (First In, First Out) meaning that oldest product chronologically is always used first.
- Disposable Gloves – One can never have enough gloves on their station. They are great for handling hot and ready to eat food.
- Plating Tools – You spent so much time and effort into preparing your dish. Now it’s time to make it look beautiful on the plate. Plating spoons and tweezers help the chef make the most of the presentation. Squeeze bottles help you put sauces and dressings right where you want them.
- Refrigerated Prep Tables – Also known as cold tables or make lines. Refrigerated prep tables provide quick, easy access to your prepared ingredients while maintaining them at safe temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. As far as equipment is concerned, this is the one piece of equipment that can make a significant impact on organization and mise en place in your kitchen. You will want to have plenty of extra poly food pans on hand to use with your prep table.
This was by no means an exhaustive list of tools, but it is a good place to start. You can find all of these products and more in our store at 3110 Preston Hwy in Louisville, KY. Or, you can shop our online store. Remember that mise en place is more than just the process of preparation. It’s a way of thinking. It’s a state of mind. At Dine Company, we are here to serve you! Let our experienced foodservice professionals help you with product ideas to help increase efficiency at your foodservice establishment. For more information, call (866) 591-3463 Monday through Friday, 8am-6pm EST to speak to a knowledgeable sales associate.