The Cooking Prep Step That Really Makes A Good Home Chef

According to Supermarket News, 55 percent of Americans have found themselves cooking at home more in the last year, and 35 percent have developed an increased enthusiasm for home cooking. While there are practically endless ways to cook food, it's undeniable that some cooking methods are more successful than others. No matter if you're making a simple spaghetti and meatballs or an elaborate soufflé, one fact remains true: preparing for the cooking process is practically as important as the cooking itself.

Writers and editors who work for The New York Times's food section recently rounded up their top suggestions for home cooks who want to take their food game to the next level. The first recommendation they have for their readers is mise en place, a technique that food writer Kim Severson says "separates the good cooks from the mediocre." Don't be intimidated by the French phrasing; mise en place is a simple (yet crucial) step for home cooks.

Mise en place makes for a prepared chef

When literally translated from French, mise en place means "putting in place" (via NPR). In the kitchen, it means preparing each component of a meal prior to cooking — or as The New York Times puts it, "before you even turn on the stove." That means chopping vegetables, measuring out seasonings, preparing proteins, and more. Per NPR, some cooks are so dedicated to mise en place they have the phrase tattooed on them.

You've probably witnessed mise en place on your favorite cooking shows or online cooking tutorials. All those little bowls of pre-measured spices and pre-cut veggies may look nice for the camera, but they also serve a practical purpose. Sara Bonisteel at The New York Times explains that recipes are like "a series of chemical reactions on a fixed schedule," so having everything ready to go ahead of time prevents mishaps like overcooking a dish because it took longer than anticipated to find the Italian seasoning or mince garlic that you needed.

Food experts agree that getting your mise en place ready ahead of time is the way to go. But there is one thing both NPR and The New York Times agree you should do while you cook: clean.