Mise en place is French for putting something in place. It refers to what is perhaps the best advice you can get from anyone that's spent a good amount of time in a kitchen (that and wash as you go).
The concept is simple: Before starting out a recipe, measure out and place all the ingredients you will need within easy reach. What are some of the benefits of doing this? Read on:
- It makes you to read out all the ingredients, and perhaps even the recipe in full, before starting. That way you won't figure out half way that you're missing a key ingredient.
- It allows ingredients to get to room temperature, which is especially important if your recipe calls for whipping egg whites or using softened butter. If you need to keep some ingredients refrigerated, you can just put them in the fridge after they've been measured out.
- You make all the mess before you start baking, which leads us to the next reason...
- Preparing is so much easier, since you pretty much just have to add ingredients and forget about measuring out all of them and making a mess in the process of doing it.
- If your recipe has time-sensitive elements (such as reaching a certain temperature, boiling, cooking), it is easier to stick to the recommended cooking times and temperatures.
- If you have someone to help out, or a dishwasher, you can clean as you go.
Here are some samples of recent Mise en Place that I've done. It doesn't have to be complicated, and you'll get the hang of it in no time.