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Become a Master of Meal Prep

By Maki Yazawa | September 11, 2020 | Real Simple

This essential cooking skill will make your home-cooked meals a million times easier.

Mise en place is arguably one of the most important lessons taught at culinary school, but you don’t need to be a professional chef to perfect it. This French term that literally means “putting everything in its place,” refers to the act of organizing the ingredients of a recipe in a way that is as convenient and as accessible as possible. Learn how to master this skill to make your meal prepping a whole lot easier.  

Study Your Recipe Before You Start Cooking.

Before you even turn on the stove, the first thing you’ll want to do is thoroughly study your recipes. Create an organized list of the ingredients for each dish that you’re making and note the amount needed and the type of cut (julienne, minced, cubed, etc.) it requires.

For example, if you are making two different recipes that both call for garlic, you may need two tablespoons of minced garlic for one and a half cup of thin slices for the other. Making a list will help you realize if you’re missing any essential ingredients from your pantry and need to make a last minute run to the store before it's too late.

Make an Efficient Prep Work Game Plan.

Instead of doubling your work and preparing the ingredients for each recipe individually, plan to group the ingredients of all the recipes together and prep the different cuts and portions for that item all at once. That is to say, instead of grating carrots, mincing garlic, and chopping celery for recipe number one first—and then julienning carrots, slicing garlic, and dicing celery for recipe number two, prep these items grouped by ingredient. You'll want to grate and julienne the correct amount of carrots for each recipe at once before moving on to the next task to avoid having to clean your tools and waste precious meal prepping time by jumping back and forth between ingredients. 

Gather Your Tools and Ingredients.

Now that you have come up with an effective prep game plan, it's time to gather your tools and ingredients to start cooking. Instead of rummaging through your drawers to find your spatulas, vegetable peeler, and citrus press while cooking, spare yourself the mid-prep headache and lay out the tools you anticipate you’ll need beforehand.

When it comes to mise en place, perhaps one of the most beneficial tools to keep readily available are small bowls or containers you can put your ready-to-go ingredients in. Restaurants typically rely on deli cups or 1/9 “hotel” pans, however small reusable bowls are the perfect at-home solution. As you work your way down your mise en place to-do list, simply place the ingredients in your small containers to keep them organized for when you’re fully ready to go. You can also use a sheet tray to easily gather and separate the different prepped ingredients for each individual recipe for easy access.

Clean as You Go to Avoid One Huge Mess.

Once you’ve prepped out all of your ingredients, you’re ready to cook. Though the process of setting up your mise en place may sound time-consuming at first, once you get the hang of it, you’ll be finishing your meal prep work faster than ever. 

One great way to reduce the amount of time you spend making a meal is cleaning up as you go, rather than leaving it all for the end. Instead of letting your dishes pile up in the sink, pause between tasks to give the dishes a quick rinse or load up the dishwasher when you have a minute to spare. Put away the ingredients once you’ve taken out the necessary amount and gather your scraps in a large bowl that you can keep on the counter for easy disposal. 

Spare Yourself a Juggling Act in the Kitchen.

When cooking, the next step in a recipe happens quicker than you would expect. Don’t get caught off guard ever again and risk overcooking your dish while doing last-minute prep work you originally forgot and rely on your trusted mise en place skills instead. You'll look like a television show pro as you effortlessly reach for your pre-portioned and chopped ingredients to add to your recipe—not to mention spare yourself the stressful juggling act of cutting up your ingredients as the next step of your recipe calls for. Master this mise en place technique and you'll be cool as a cucumber in the kitchen with your highly organized and efficient prepped-ahead spread.

This article was written by Maki Yazawa from Real Simple and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@industrydive.com.

Maki Yazawa
Real Simple