Cooking with Kids? Use Mise En Place
Cooking with kids can be an absolute disaster. How often have you heard other parents say, “I enjoyed cooking or baking with my kids”? Thats right. Never. You end up with a messy kitchen, or possibly a badly tasting finished product, or worse, the kiddo can get hurt. Instead, one of the very best solutions that can be used with, or without a child in the kitchen, is by using mise en place.
Mise en place is a French term that means, “everything in it’s place”. If you’ve ever worked in a commercial kitchen, you’re probably familiar with it already. Even if you haven’t worked in a kitchen, you’re still probably aware of the process without even knowing about it!
Almost every cooking show you’ve ever seen has used mise en place. BAM! The TV chefs have already prepared all of their ingredients and put them in little bowls, ready for use in the dish they are cooking! Everything has been pre-measured and is ready to use. They just dump the ingredient in when the recipe calls for it. None of them go to the cabinet, dig for the spice, then find the measuring spoon, then measure, and dump. It’s already been done so when you watch, it’s a very smooth, choreographed experience.
This is a huge help when cooking with kids. Their short attention spans mean they don’t have the mental capacity to wait for you to be digging for things, measuring, putting ingredients back. They want to help, and if they are idle for too long, they are likely to become crabby and make the experience a difficult one for everyone. Idle hands often mean wandering hands, and in a kitchen, it can be a dangerous proposition.
How to do it
While the kids are playing by themselves, or eating a snack, take the time to gather all ingredients for whatever you are cooking or baking, measure and put them in small bowls. Also grab all mixing bowls and utensils at the same time and lay them out in the order they are needed.
Once you are ready to go, gather the kids in the kitchen, and instruct them on which bowl to pour in and when! Since everything is pre-measured, you don’t have to worry about too much being poured in, and they can feel accomplishment since you didn’t have to help them at all.
I’ve used this technique on multiple occasions with my oldest son. It’s a great feeling when you can watch your kids have pride in something that they cooked or baked!
The only downside to using mise en place are the extra dishes and bowls that you will have to wash. To me, it’s a small price to pay for a smoother cooking experience with a child, and a great bonding experience.