Sara's Kitchen Revelations – Mise En Place is a Waste of Time for the Home Cook.

I take my life into my own hands by saying this. I’m sure all my chef instructors from my alma mater, the Culinary Institute of America, will want to shoot me at dawn. But here is what I have discovered from cooking dinner at home 5 or 6 nights a week for the last 25 years – mise en place (meaning, prepping and measuring all your ingredients before starting a recipe) is a waste of time, literally.

Here is the mise en place for the entree “Det Burgers” I made for my daughter Ruthie’s birthday on July 4th

mise en place for The Det Burger

 1 medium onion sliced

eight cremini mushrooms, sliced

one 4-ounce can diced, green chiles, drained

1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives, sliced

6 ounces cheddar cheese, cut into 4 slices (here I cut it into 8 smaller slices)

1/3 cup beer

rustic bread slices, toasted, brushed with olive oil and rubbed with a cut garlic clove

(missing from the photo- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, 1 1/2 pounds ground chuck or round, shaped into 4 burgers)


This preparation took me about 15 minutes before I even turned on a burner. I could have saved that time if I proceeded this way.

1. Pull all the ingredients from the fridge/cupboard and put them on the counter

2. Heat up a skillet with 2 tablespoons oil while I peel and slice the onion

3. Add the onion to the skillet and cook it about 5 minutes, stirring, until it is caramelized

4. Slice the mushrooms while the onion is cooking and then add them to the pan and cook, stirring for 4 to 5 minutes or until the liquid they give off has evaporated.

5. Open and drain the chiles, pit and slice the olives while the mushrooms are cooking

6. Add the chiles and the olives to the onion mixture and transfer the topping to a bowl.

6. Wipe out the skillet, add the remaining tablespoons oil and cook the burgers while I slice the cheese, measure the beer and start to toast the bread

7. Top each burger with one fourth of the topping, then with one fourth of the cheese. Pour the beer over all, put on a lid to cover the skillet and let the cheese melt.

8. Finish toasting the bread while the cheese  melts and when the burgers are ready, put them on the toast, pour the “sauce” from the skillet over the burgers and top with a second piece of toast.

If I had prepared and cooked the recipe this way it would have taken me 15 to 20 minutes. If I did all my mise en place first, dinner would not have been ready for 30 minutes, it would have taken double the time.

Do you see my point?

There are two situations where you MUST prep all your food before you start cooking:

1.When making any kind of Asian food that involves a lot of ingredients (each ingredient might spend 30 seconds in the pan, so if you are still mincing your chiles while the garlic and ginger is being stir fried, your garlic/ginger mixture will burn).

2.When cooking in a restaurant

If you are dying to make this recipe (which you should be, it is really tasty) you can find it here:

Det Burgers

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12 Responses to Sara's Kitchen Revelations – Mise En Place is a Waste of Time for the Home Cook.

  1. juanita says:

    I think it is also helpful when baking. Otherwise you might leave something out, and especially forget if you already added it. Julia Child recommended getting the ingredients ready & measured ahead of time. For my attention deficit brain, I find it helpful.

  2. You forgot a third situation where the mise is desirable–TV cooking demos :-)!

  3. Cathy says:

    Thank you for challenging the myth! I have long thought everything was more efficient when cooking/chopping/cleaning as you go. Seriously, I feel so much better now that you’ve endorsed the same. (Have you read Tamar Adler’s book, An Everlasting Feast? She writes with this same sensibility.)

  4. Todd Hart says:

    Some people might still be better off with a Mise. Cooking like dancing has a rythm. Some people have it and some don’t. I seem to do well when timing preparations so I rarely do a Mise.

  5. Fred Marks says:


    I agree fully. However, I find that if I have company coming and I am preparing something that must be prepared at the last moment it is very beneficial if I have everything prepped before guest arrive.

    Have enjoyed your second season and am delighted to hear you have a go for your third. The PBS station that carries your show where I am as you right after Julia Child which I think is very appropriate.

    Looking forward to season 3.

  6. David from last November says:

    Mise en place can also dirty up more dishes than necessary (small bowls, little plates) 🙂

  7. John C. Campbell III says:

    Ah!!!! Sara!! sacrilege (sprinkling of holy water) I ALWAYS perform the rite of Mise En Place whenever I cook (well, er, ah, most of the time anyway) mainly because I’ll bloody forget a step in the process otherwise and besides the chefs de cuisine who trained me as a young man in college? Would rise up out of their graves and come after me (it’s been a long time since college -snicker-)
    a different perspective …

  8. Marguerite says:

    I can understand what you’re saying, however, those of us with tiny kitchens, like those in France and throughout Europe, mise-en-place is a lifesaver!! I only have one space in my kitchen and that’s for the blender that’s always out, because I use it everyday and the water filter machine, so I can have chlorine-free water. My work surface is a thick butcher block that I lay over one of my sinks and that’s it!! If I don’t measure and/or prep everything before I start, then most of my dishes are ruined somehow, whether I do it from memory or a recipe: I will either leave a key ingredient out or something gets burned or overcooked because I didn’t prep.
    I can understand in American kitchens (I’m in San Francisco) where a lot of people have islands and can leave a few appliances on the counter for ease of use could easily nullify mise-en-place, but I simply cannot. There’s only one place to stand and no space for a kitchen helper, but the upswing, is that I don’t have far to go to get something out of the fridge or the appliance shelf or the pantry.

  9. Barb Sanko says:

    I’ve been cooking for 50 years now, and I totally agree with Sara. I get everything out on my counter so I know that I’m not missing anything, and then I start to cook. I watched a tv program a couple of days ago where the chef had barely gotten the ingredients in the pan, and he already had a stack of glass bowls that looked about 8″ high. Those bowls had served no purpose but to hold little bits of seasonings and vegetables until they were dumped in a pan. I remember chuckling at it and thinking that it must be nice when someone else comes in and cleans up after you. That doesn’t happen much at home!

  10. I love the idea of prepping, in theory. It makes me feel more organized than I really am. But on most nights, if the recipe isn’t a zinger, I find that I am perfectly apt at prepping while I go. I also have a feeling that is going to be the trend once children enter the picture!

  11. […] don’t normally get my ‘mise en place’ when say, making dinner, but when making ice cream, I make it a point to get the various bowls, whisks and ingredients at […]

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