I’d like to introduce you to the motto that organizes my kitchen, actually it is more than that it’s probably what organizes my life: Mise En Place. It’s a French phrase that professional kitchens use, and basically translates to: “putting in place.” Otherwise known as getting ready or setting yourself up for success.
In a professional kitchen, that usually means setting up little trays of diced onions, carrots, sauces and whatever else is on the menu so that your meal can be quickly put together when you order it. When I’m teaching cooking classes or doing a demonstration this is CRUCIAL for me because more likely than not I’ll start talking and forget what I’m doing, if everything is set up and organized I can look down and quickly know where I was in the process, if I have to run around and chase down an onion I might get confused… and in front of a bunch of students that can be kind of embarrassing.
I argue that the same process can be your best friend at home. When you clear out the clutter and make things as easy as possible on yourself cooking seems like a much less stressful endeavor. Here are a few tips for putting everything in place… your “Mise en Place.”
- Clear everything off of your counters that you don’t use all the time. Is there a quesadilla machine on your countertop? Do you make quesadillas every day? Can you make them in a pan? There are some things you use all the time and plenty that you don’t. Allow precious counter space for kitchen workhorses like toasters and knife blocks, whatever you use all the time. Put things you use occasionally in close cabinets and put those novelty hot dog cookers in the basement somewhere, once a year when you need them the trek down there will be worth feeling less stressed in the kitchen every other day of the year.
- Throw out the cooking equipment that doesn’t really work. I’d like to argue that the scratched pan that everything sticks to is not worth the trouble. The carrot peeler that doesn’t peel? Chuck it. I’m not suggesting outfitting your kitchen with gold plated expensive items but as your budget allows throw out the frustrating tools and purchase good quality equipment that will make your life easier. It doesn’t have to be expensive, not even knives have to be expensive. I suggest referring to equipment tests and ratings by Cooks Illustrated magazine.
- Put things together that you need together. Put pans, tongs, and wooden spoons near the stove. Maybe you can store your tape and sharpie markers near the leftover containers. Flour, sugar, and other baking supplies can live together because you use them together. Think about where things are in your kitchen and put what you need within arms reach. On a stressful day, you’ll be glad you did.
- Make lists – lists are my BFF. If something makes it to my list, it is getting DONE. (Flip side of that if it’s not on the list it totally doesn’t exist to me, years of lack of sleep is my standard excuse!) In the kitchen I have lists of what’s in the freezer, what groceries are out, what equipment is needed and meals in the hopper. These lists can be on some cute Pinterest inspired chalkboard, paper taped to the inside of the cabinet or even your phone.
- Prep what you can – When you put the groceries away why not put things away clean? Some produce goes bad quicker when washed but many is just fine. Are you going to eat carrot sticks every day? Why not make them all at once. Whatever you can do ahead in bulk is a gift to yourself and the essence of Mise en Place. You’ll be surprised what a kitchen rockstar you are with your kitchen organized like a chef!
What kitchen organization tips make your life easier?