Cooking Preparation

Mise en place is the foundation of cooking preparation. A French term, it refers to the assembly and measurement of all ingredients before beginning the cooking process. It ensures that you have all of the necessary ingredients on hand for your dish.

Recipes will help you become familiar with techniques, ingredients and flavors. There are a multitude of recipes available—from books, magazines, cooking websites and cooking shows—that will introduce you to the world of cooking and baking, and help you prepare your favorite foods. The following are a few tips to understand when using a recipe:

  • Read the entire recipe through ahead of time so that you know the ingredients used, the steps and time needed for preparation.
  • Ingredients and their measurements are usually written in a specific order such as the following:
    • "One cup chopped walnuts" means nuts are chopped first, and then measured.
    • "One cup walnuts chopped" means that the walnuts are measured first and then chopped.
  • Create a grocery list and shop ahead of time.
  • Mise en place all ingredients before you start cooking.

Accurate measurements are an important aspect of cooking, particularly baking. Measurements are typically weight, volume and count.

  • Weight, measured in ounces, pounds, and grams, relates to how heavy a substance is. Liquid ingredients such as milk, dry ingredients such as flour, and ingredients such as meat and vegetables are measured by weight.
  • Volume refers to the space occupied by a substance, and is expressed as cups, quarts, gallons, teaspoons, fluid ounces, and liters. It is most commonly used for liquid ingredients, as well as certain dry ingredients.
  • Count refers to the number of individual pieces. It also indicates the size of an item. Shrimp, for instance, is indicated by count. One pound of shrimp can include anywhere from 10 to 100 pieces of shrimp. When the count is 21-25, that means that there are at least 21 pieces of shrimp, and no more than 25 in that pound. In contrast, 60-80 count shrimp has more pieces, hence they will be a smaller size.

The following are common measurements and their equivalents:

1 pound = 16 ounces 4 ounces block cheese = 1 cup shredded
4 quarts = 1 gallon 1 pound cheese = 4 cups shredded
4 cups = 1 quart 1 stick butter = 1/2 cup
2 cups = 1 pint 4 sticks butter = 2 cups = 1 pound
1 cup = 8 fluid ounces
16 tablespoons = 1 cup
8 tablespoons = 1/2 cup
5-1/3 tablespoons = 1/3 cup
4 tablespoons = 1/4 cup
3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon

Common Cooking Terms

Al dente describes cooked foods, such as pasta, that are firm to the bite, not soft or mushy.

Au gratin foods usually have a browned or crusted top, sometimes made by adding bread crumbs or cheese, which are then browned.

Blanching involves briefly cooking items, such as vegetables, in boiling water or hot fat to partially cook the item.

Bouquet garni are fresh herbs and vegetables tied into a bundle, sometimes in cheese cloth, to flavor soups and stews.

Caramelization is the process of cooking foods, such as sugar, meats, and vegetables, so that they are browned and flavorful.

Deglaze is to stir a liquid in a pan to dissolve cooked food particles remaining on the bottom.

Glaze is a glossy, edible coating, such as sugar or sauce, applied after cooking.

Mise en place is a French term which means to put in place. It refers to getting all ingredients prepared and measured before beginning the cooking process.

Roux is a thickener for sauces and dishes. It is made with equal parts flour and fat (butter) or water.

Scald is to heat milk to just below the boiling point.