About mise-en-place containers
Mise en place is kitchen french for a way of work (not a particular set of bowls) and means “everything in its place”. It refers to how a chef organizes a work station before the guests arrive – because when orders start pouring in it’s too late. It is about planning and working in an effective way – something at which professional chefs are experts.
When they run out, you’re in trouble.
– Chef de Cuisine Albert Lindo on the small stel containers, “one-ninths”, preferred by chefs
Work like a chef
All professional chefs prepare by peeling, slicing and chopping the ingredients. For the sake of effectivity and hygiene, they should be arranged neatly within reach of the work station.
Kitchen tools too
Mise en place is also about the necessary kitchen tools being in order and within reach.
Knife and cutting board
A favorite knife and a generous cutting board are crucial when the chef is setting up the kitchen.
No more cutting
During the actual service, no more cutting should be necessary. The chef concentrates fully on getting the plates ready.
Appropriate containers for a mise en place need to be compact, neat, easy to handle, durable, hygienic, sealable, and preferably attractive (making the chef's work look ordered and attractive).
In between services, the chef’s mise en place can end up in the refrigerator. Containers with lids are preferable. And they should be easy to sort and arrange when setting up the work station again.
How to mise en place
Note : The expression doesn’t refer to particular containers. It is simply a rational method used by all professional chefs:
- Go through, measure, trim and wash all ingredients in good time.
- Peel, chop and prepare greens and garnish.
- Keep ingredients apart in small, clean bowls. Keep in a cool place and cover with a lid or a humid kitchen towel.
- Arrange the containers at your work station. The fewer the trips to the pantry, the better.
- Look forward to effective, unstressed and enjoyable cooking.
Common amateur mistake
When inspired, it is easy to draw up a rough menu and buy the meat, the greens and the potatoes. But when the time comes to cook, you may discover you have missed some minor, but an important ingredient.
Those minor, but visible ingredients are often crucial. A mise en place in good time will give you an early warning signal if something is missing.
Do it in advance
You can chop vegetables, pre-cook ingredients, marinate meat and fish, prepare desserts, and more. Once the guests have arrived, the chef should concentrate on only the final touches.
Don't forget the meat
Take it out of the fridge in good time. This is also a form of mise en place.
This is also something to think about beforehand. A warm plate prolongs the warm food experience.
Orderliness and effectivity mean less wasted food and less wasted money. In all types of kitchens.
For the guests
Even if you are not a professional chef, you should be well prepared for the sake of the guests. After all, you invited them so you could have time to talk.
The wrong containers
Most kitchens end up with an assortment of throwaway plastic containers. But they were made for transporting food to the consumer, not for good hygiene. And many plastics cannot take heat and might end up in your food.
Glass is so-so
Glass bowls are attractive, hygienic and microwave proof. But the material is brittle, heavy and clumsy. The risk of glass ending up in food rules them out in a professional kitchen.
- Small stainless steel containers (the tough, practical, square ones used by pros in many kicthens are known as "one ninths") can withstand boiling water, acidic ingredients, steel utensils, detergents, and more.
- They can be machine washed over and over again. Dry and store in a dry place.
- Expect the shiny surface to become dull with time, especially if you use a dishwasher. This will not have any effect on function and qualities.
- Fill with water and leave to soak for a while to soften up any food sticking to the container.