As I mentioned last week, one of the central themes of National Nutrition Month 2017 is to "Practice cooking more at home and experiment with healthier ingredients."
Today I want to share a way to make cooking at home easier and more fun.
It all comes down to mise en place.
What is mise en place? It's a French phrase that's usually used to refer to cooking and it means that everything is in its place.
So, why is this important in a normal kitchen?
Let me answer that question with another question. Have you ever forgotten to read a recipe through all the way and been stymied by a hidden instruction? I know that I've been tripped up more than once by things like "place in a preheated oven" and "take the dough, which has been chilling in the fridge for 2 hours" as I have been cooking away in the kitchen.
Other times, I've ended up risking burning things as I try to get one ingredient prepped while the others are cooking.
Not having everything ready to go before cooking leads to mistakes, stress, and frustration in the kitchen. Mise en place is the perfect tool for getting rid of all that.
Here's what you need to do in order to maximize your use of mise en place.
- Read the ingredients carefully. Does the recipe call for prep before the actual step-by-step portion? You'll need to do that prep before you begin. For example, if the recipe calls for "1 onion, chopped" in the ingredient list, then you should have the onion washed, chopped, and ready to go before you begin cooking.
- Read the recipe all the way through. Are there hidden steps that are only alluded to within the recipe itself? Make sure that you do anything you need to do ahead of time (like chilling dough or preheating the oven) on the schedule recommended by the recipe.
- Lay out all the ingredients you'll need before starting to cook. Make sure you have all the ingredients you'll need for the recipe before you start cooking. Put them on the counter so that you can see everything you need before you need it. Pre-measuring things like spices and flour will help the actual cooking part go even more smoothly. Note that food safety should still be a consideration and thus you might need to make some exceptions to this rule. For example, if you have food in the fridge that you won't need right away (like milk) then it's best left there until you need it. Still, make sure that you actually have enough of everything before you begin. Nothing is worse than lifting up your container as you're cooking to find that you don't have enough to actually complete your recipe.
- Get out your implements. You don't want to be digging for a spatula while your dinner burns on the stove. Set out all the equipment you'll need for the recipe before you start to cook and you won't be scrambling for tools later.
With these tips and tricks, getting healthful meals on the table will be easier than ever.
And speaking of easier than ever, here are a few materials that can make your Nutrition Month planning a cinch!
Stephanie Ronco has been editing for Food and Health Communications since 2011. She graduated from Colorado College magna cum laude with distinction in Comparative Literature. She was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 2008.