Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Mis en place and other final prep (Homeschooling in the Kitchen)

Homeschooling in the Kitchen: Mis en place and other final prep

mis en place. French. n. literally, “mine in place.” Used by professional chefs to refer to the organization and arrangement of ingredients used by the cook to prepare a dish.

Having a “mis” is important because the prep work before starting to cook will save you from ruining your meal. While most chefs mean “put the food they’re going to cook with on the counter,” there are two steps you need to do before you put your food on the counter.

1. Menu 

Plan your menu based on what is available
The first step is to plan a menu. Planning your menu ahead of time will give you the opportunity to shop for what you may need.

Start by considering your budget, what is in your pantry already, and what is on sale at the store. Also, consider availability of fresh foods - it’s going to be hard (or at least expensive!) to find asparagus (a spring vegetable) in September, or butternut squash in May. You may decide on a frozen version for your meal, or choose something different entirely.

Take also the time to incorporate your diner’s preferences, as well as any substitutions that are needed due to allergies.

After planning a rough idea of what you’d like to make, start looking at recipes.

2. Recipes 

First, check your calendar. You may have planned on a big turkey dinner for a Sunday afternoon, and then realize you have tickets to a baseball game and won’t be home to cook or eat it. (If you were planning on cooking it Sunday to use the leftovers for Tuesday, make sure you adjust Tuesday’s menu as well, or else you’ll be missing a main ingredient and scrambling!) Now would be the time to discover this, so you can go back and readjust your menu and grocery list. If you know that you won't be home on Wednesday afternoon, look for something that can be put in a slow cooker so it's ready when you walk in the door.

Read your recipe to see what is required
Read recipes to determine if it fits with your skill level.   Let’s say you want to make chicken in a cream sauce. It’s something you love, but looking at a recipe, you find it’s really complex for your skills. It could be too intimidating to try, or you may just not have enough time to dedicate to figuring out. You need to find something else to do with the chicken - maybe you decide that coating it in bread crumbs and baking is something you’re more confident about. 

If you decide on a particular recipe, check the pantry to see what you may already have, and what you will need. After you check on the food, check your cookware - do you have the correct pan, or one that can easily substitute?

True Mis: Food & Utensils

After deciding on and planning out your meal, it’s time to begin to prepare it.

Write adjustments and substitutions on recipe
Re-read the recipe before you start. Even if you’ve read it before during the planning, look it over to make sure that the steps make sense and you understand what to do. (You don’t want to get halfway through and realize that the recipe says “Add liquid a teaspoon at a time until the frosting is spreadable,” after you’ve added an entire cup.) Check what cookware you need, too. Sometimes you may be able to substitute cookware if you don’t have the exact one called for (an 11” skillet instead of a 9”, or vice versa), but it’s important to make sure this is possible before you start (you don’t want an overflowing or half-empty pan).

If you need to adjust the size of your recipe (double, halve, etc.), make sure you do it now. Multiply or divide your ingredient quantities and either rewrite the ingredient list with the correct amounts or write them in the margin of your cookbook. If you’re adjusting a recipe for allergies, write down your substitutions so you don’t use the wrong ingredient.

Check the ingredient list and gather everything. Make sure none of the food is past it’s expiration date. If you’re cooking for someone with food allergies, re-read the label one more time to make sure the food is safe to use.

Get out the appropriate cookware and utensils. Sharpen your knives, if necessary. Gather any incidentals - aluminum foil or parchment paper to line a baking dish - as well.

After you are completely sure you have all required food and cookware, and you understand the recipe completely, you are ready to cook.

Mis en place

Other posts in this series:
Real Men Make Quiche
Planning Meals
Food and Kitchen Safety

April Blog Hop
This post is part of the Schoolhouse Crew Review 5-Day Blog Hop.  There are over 60 families blogging about just about everything homeschool related you can think of.   Here are some friends you might like to check out (and what they're writing about):

Nicole @ Journey to Excellence ~ Missouri
Dusty @ To the Moon and Back ~ Babywearing
Kristi @ The Potter's Hand Academy ~ Spring Studies
Jennifer @ Royal Little Lambs ~ Essential Oils
Annette @ A Net in Time ~ Science
Jen @ Happy Little Homemaker ~ Frugal Fitness
Meg @ Adventures with Jude ~ Homeschooling from the Kitchen
Lori @ At Home: where life happens ~ Favorite Books
Tauna @ Proverbial Homemaker ~ A Christ-Centered Home

If you have a few extra minutes and would like to check out all of the blogs in the hop, click on the banner at the left!

©2012- 2014 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.


  1. There is NOTHING more frustrating than going to prepare an awesome meal, and finding out someone (generally... my kids) have used the last of an ingredient you thought you had on hand, and now don't. Great tips, thanks for sharing!

  2. Love this series! so important to get all the ingredients out and ready. Our kids love to help cook.

  3. Meg @ Adventures with JudeApril 10, 2014 at 11:32 PM

    Isn't that the truth? I've taken to leaving notes on a food if I need it for something and can't substitute or go back to the grocery store.


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