TASTE
12/07/2012 09:14 am ET Updated Dec 11, 2012

Easy Cooking Tip: Mise En Place Will Keep You Stress-Free

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We've all been there. You have your vegetables assembled, a plan in place. You start to cook. You chop your onion and add it to the pan. It sizzles, just how you expected it to. You start mincing your garlic and add it to the pan. It starts to smell great. You start chopping your celery, remember you need one extra thing from the fridge, and by the time you turn around, your onions and garlic are burnt and your confidence is rattled.

We have ALL had this freakout. Even the best cooks among us. There is very little you can do to prevent the occasional timing mishap in the kitchen. We're here to give you the simplest trick we have in our book for how to stay calm, cook things correctly and freak out less. Three words: mise en place. In French, mise en place means "everything in its place," and it is the reason TV chefs can hold it together, your kitchen savvy friends can cook in front of company and why most of us here at HuffPost Taste haven't melted into a puddle in the middle of the kitchen recently.

The concept sounds so idiotically simple, you might dismiss it. But trust us, being prepared is a powerful ingredient in some of the best dishes we've ever cooked. Here's all you need to do: assemble your ingredients in front of you. Whether you're making soup, pasta sauce or a stir-fry with 20 different vegetables -- you'll want to see them all at once. Then just start chopping. Because the pressure of the hot pan won't be giving you angst, you'll take better care of your ingredients. You'll be able to focus on cutting things into similarly-sized pieces so they cook evenly. Rushing less means fewer knife slips and kitchen injuries. Then, once everything is sliced, diced and organized, you finally turn on the heat and cook like a pro.

A few of our favorite mise en place tips:

  • This is how to dice an onion. It is the best, tried and true way. It will save your eyes from watering and save you tons of time.
  • After you mince your garlic, sprinkle a bit of salt over it to bring out its oils and temper its heat before cooking.
  • Taking a sliver-thin slice off the side of round fruits and vegetables (turnips, beets, potatoes, apples) will give you a flat surface and make them easier (and safer) to chop.
  • Ingredients like potatoes and artichokes that turn brown when they hit the air can be chopped and put in a bowl of water until you're ready for them.
  • Ingredients that cook at a similar rate can be organized together and go into the pan at the same time -- we're talking mirepoix here (onions, carrots, celery, which pretty start every soup you'll ever make).

Do you have any mise en place tricks that you use to keep your cool? Let us know in the comments!

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