Orderliness is a virtue. It means you are organized and you know where things are when you need them. In the kitchen, it’s called mise en place (French pronunciation: mi zɑ̃ ˈplas), which means “putting in place” as in set up. We like to call it prep. It is used in professional kitchens to refer to organizing and arranging the ingredients (e.g., cuts of meat, relishes, sauces, par-cooked items, spices, freshly chopped vegetables, and other components) that a cook will require to prepare a dish.
The practice is also effective in home and camp kitchens. When cooking, timing can be very important. In the time it can take you to search for an ingredient and get it ready to add to your pot, you can completely burn what is cooking in the pot. Whereas, if you had that ingredient already set out and chopped or measured then you can add it at the appropriate time with no worries that your dish is ruined.
In camp, we all know that whatever you’re looking for is always at the bottom of the cooler or at the bottom of the food tote or at the very back of the chuckbox. Sometimes it can take much longer than you think it will to find the items you’re looking for.
Now, some may argue that you’re creating more work because the dishes you’re using to hold your assembled ingredients will all need to be washed. And, they are right. They are absolutely right. However, experience has taught me that the little extra dish washing I have to do is well worth eating a perfectly prepared meal that is not overcooked or burnt or missing ingredients that I ran out of time searching for.
So, whether at home or in camp, before you begin cooking, review your recipe and pull out all the equipment you will need, and pull out all the ingredients and prepare them in the manner that you need to. Only then should you begin cooking.
If you’re already doing this, give yourself a pat on back. You earned it!
If you don’t do this, give it a try. Trust me. You will be amazed at how much smoother and better your dishes will come together.