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Mise en Place: what it means and why it's so important
By Kelly McGeehan - October 31, 2017
Mise en Place. It is the first phrase I learned when attending culinary school at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, North Carolina. It is a French term for "everything in it's place". Simple, huh? Well, not always. Having your mise set up properly is key to producing pastries (and savory food) in an efficient, clean, quick manner.
When I teach the Intro to Baking class at The Seasoned Chef, I always start my lecture with talking about the importance of mise en place. I can't tell you how many times I will go to assist a student in making a recipe and ask for the eggs and get looked at sideways. "Oh, I must have missed that on the recipe. Let me go crack 8 eggs real quick!" It won't always destroy a recipe, but if you know anything about pastry arts, it's that everything needs to be precise! So if you needed to add those eggs while your batter was at a certain temperature or consistency, you may have missed the boat.
Naturally, your first thought for mise en place goes to ingredients. Make sure you have all your ingredients and have them scaled out properly. (I suggest reviewing your recipe at least twice to check that you have all the ingredients before starting anything!) But, it extends to equipment as well. Make sure you aren't scrambling around to find the proper Kitchenaid attachment, silpat, or piping tip required to make your recipe. SO MANY recipes are reliant on specific temperatures, textures, and consistency to be made properly. If you think you can pipe perfect little marshmallows, but you didn't prep your sheetpans or piping bags, think again! You will have what I call "snowman poop" mallows, instead of clean, smooth ones. Marshmallows needs to be piped IMMEDIATELY once they are at the right consistency. Waiting even just a few moments can completely ruin their appearance.
Another important part of mise en place is making sure your oven is preheated to the proper temperature, or that you have room in your refrigerator or freezer to store your product.
Many people can be intimidated by baking, especially in higher altitudes. And while not every recipe you try will come out perfectly, you can at least set yourself up for success by having your mise en place ready to go. This is not a "beginners" baking tip, this is what professional bakers and chefs do every single time they produce something.