And it's something cooks at any level can do.

One of the first things they cover in culinary school is preparation and time management—two things that are essential to the French code of mise en place. Loosely translated, mise en place means to "put in place" or "setup." It is a system that French cooks have used for centuries to keep their workstations tight and organized and ensure that restaurant-goers have a seamless dining experience. The idea translates well to home cooking. If you have all your ingredients prepped and ready to go when you start cooking, you are setting yourself up for success. No one wants to be stuck frantically grating cheese that you didn't have ready for a recipe—or worse still, discover right at the last minute that you don't have the cheese you need. By following these three easy steps, you will gain the kitchen confidence you need to create delicious food.

prepped vegetables in bowls

Read the Recipe Through

If you do nothing else in the kitchen, make sure to read the recipe through entirely before you start cooking. Every recipe is different. Some recipes will list the water or salt and pepper measurements in the ingredient list, and others will work it into the technique. Some will remind you to bring your pasta water to a boil; others will simply say to 'cook pasta in a pot of boiling salted water until al dente.' A recipe may note that an ingredient is to be divided, meaning the ingredient is used in two different places within the recipe. You will want to know how to divide the ingredient, so you don't add too much of anything at the wrong time. Reading the recipe ahead of time will help you work these often-overlooked details into your cooking schedule.

Prep Ingredients

Next up, gather your ingredients and equipment. While your oven is preheating, or your pasta water is coming to a boil, take this time to get the rest of your ingredients prepped out. This can include things like chopping onions and garlic, opening cans of beans or tomatoes, grating cheese, and measuring oils and vinegars.

Clean as You Go

Perhaps most importantly, it is crucial to clean as you go. This is something Martha always does. And in the test kitchen as well as at home, we food editors like to keep a big bowl handy so that our countertops aren't littered with food scraps.  Onion skins, egg shells, and the like go into the bowl—once full, these scraps can either be composted or discarded. Finally, always keep a dish towel handy for quick wipe-downs. Nothing makes getting dinner on the table more overwhelming than a dirty workspace.


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