The Cooking Tip Ree Drummond Suggests Every Beginner Follows

Ree Drummond's career has been based around approachable country cooking that anyone can replicate in their own kitchen. Her recipes are designed to make anyone feel like they're cooking with ease on an Oklahoma ranch, but without mise en place, that flow can be hard to achieve. To make home cooking go as smoothly as it looks on television, Drummond implores new cooks to focus on mise en place.

This French cooking trick every home chef should know means "everything in its place." You'll see this very cheffy technique throughout Drummond's blog posts and shows. Mise en place also happens to be one of Martha Stewart's best hacks for aspiring home chefs.

All you have to do is prepare your ingredients and necessary tools before you even think about turning on the stove, but don't be intimidated! Little bowls with pre-measured spices? That's mise en place, as are the vegetables you cut and the bottles you pulled out of the pantry so they were at the ready. When Drummond has everything measured in bowls, that's not only for the camera — it's just plain sensible. The point of mise en place is to make sure you're not scrambling to find something at the moment it's needed, so any cooking experience is easier, more efficient, cleaner, and importantly, more fun.

How to set up your mise en place

Start by reading the recipe all the way through. You need to know not just what you're using, but how and when it is going to be cooked. Are the eggs room temperature or cold? Does the butter need to be pre-melted or cubed? You can even make yourself a prep list if you are improvising a dish. Take meatloaf, for example. Write down the tasks (defrost meat, preheat oven, add additions, make glaze, bake), and then write the ingredients list from there (ground beef, eggs, seasonings, breadcrumbs, ketchup, and so on).

Once you have a plan, make sure your work area is clear. This draws on another chef-approved tenet: Work clean. Extraneous stuff taking up much-needed space on your counter is a sure fire way to make you feel frantic as you start cooking.

Now, get to chopping, mixing, and grating. Small ramekins or condiment cups are great for spices, minced garlic, and more. If you don't have enough small bowls, at least make sure the bottles and spice jars are all within reach so you can measure them on the fly. For everything else, use glass jars, measuring cups, or regular old bowls. Feel free to combine ingredients that will be added at the same time, like stir-fry sauce components or onions, celery, and carrots for a mirepoix. Ree Drummond is a fan of prettily colored nesting bowls for this purpose, because attractive mise en place sparks joy.

Stay organized while you are cooking

Once you have fired up the burners, things can get a little chaotic, even with good organization. Fortunately, there are a few simple steps you can take that have a big impact. To keep yourself in a good, clean place, make sure you have a kitchen towel on hand to wipe up any accidental spills and to dry off after hand washing.

Also, it is helpful to start with a clear sink. That way, as you empty the bowls filled with your mise en place ingredients, you can swiftly get them out of your way. Keep a set of small spoons on hand so you are not running back and forth to your silverware drawer. This is the one kitchen utensil Ina Garten keeps by her stove at all times that is absolutely necessary for tasting for salt as you go and scraping sticky ingredients from prep bowls.

Even with all these safeguards in place, if the stove was on too high or you got distracted, things may have progressed more quickly than you predicted. Do not be afraid to cut the heat. Many items, like stir-fries, pasta sauces, beans, stews, and more, will do just fine with a little pause. At the end of the day, it is just food, and as a new cook, you are still learning. Take a deep breath, lean on your mise en place, and try to remember that cooking should be enjoyable, y'all!