Mise en place all set up for turkey stock. Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman.


Want to make Thanksgiving day easier on yourself and ensure you have the best gravy ever? Start now. (Or this weekend.) This, too, planning ahead, is part of mise en place, one of the most important cooking “techniques” to recognize.

Mise en place literally translates as put in place. To a cook, mise en place refers to his or her station set-up—having all that you need, at your station and in place, to accomplish the work ahead. Mise en place is shorthand for being prepared, at your station and in your mind. (I write about this more completely in Ruhlman’s Twenty.) It’s the cook’s first order of business, at a restaurant, at home. Making a roast chicken dinner with green beens and baked potato? Get everything out on the counter before you pick that first bean—including the butter that you’ll use for the baked potatoes and beans, the lemon or whatever you’ll be seasoning the beans with. See what you’re looking at—again, see what you’re looking at. So that you can see ahead, without obstructions.

See Thanksgiving Day ahead. If you’re ready or not, it’s going to be here regardless. Above is the actual mise en place for making turkey stock. A couple chicken wings and necks roasted till golden brown, chopped carrot and onion, bay leaf, tomato paste (for sweetness, depth of flavor and color), garlic, peppercorns (they’re best cracked with the flat side of a knife or a pan, or in a mortar). Put it all in a pan, cover with tap water, and put it on a low burner for four or five hours and strain. Freeze until the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

Easy Turkey Stock

Yield: 2 quarts stock

  • 2 large turkey drumsticks
  • 2 large turkey wings
  • 2 Spanish onion, sliced
  • 4 carrots, cut in pieces
  • 4 celery ribs, cut in pieces
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon peppercorns, cracked beneath a pan or with a mortar and pestle
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • fresh parsley and thyme (optional)
  1. Roast the turkey pieces (you should have 5–6 pounds/2–3 kilos) in a hot oven, 425°F/218°C at least, till they look delicious. Scatter the onion, carrot, and celery in the same pan, and take them out when you take out the turkey. Don’t let the veg burn. (You can cut the meat off the bones for dinner if you wish, but the meat will add lots of flavor to the stock.)
  2. Put the turkey bones in a big pot and cover them completely with water, 3–4 quarts/liters, and put the pot over high heat. Turn your oven to 180°–200°F/80°–90°C. When the water comes to a simmer, put the pot in the oven, uncovered, for 8 hours or overnight.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients (if you don’t have enough room, remove the turkey bones—they will have cooked out by now). Bring to a simmer, then reduce the temperature to low and cook for another hour or so. Strain into a clean pot. Cool, then refrigerate.
  4. Reserve any fat that’s congealed on top for the roux on Thanksgiving day. Reduce the stock to 1 1/2 to 2 quarts/liters if it’s not already at that level.


If you liked this post on Mise en Place, check out these other posts:

© 2015 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2015 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved.


33 Wonderful responses to “Importance of Mise en Place (and Easy Turkey Stock)”

  • susan

    most important part of thanksgiving, in my humble opinion
    happy thanksgiving!

  • A.S.

    “Get everything out on the counter before you pick that first bean—including the butter that you’ll use for the baked potatoes and beans, the lemon or whatever you’ll be seasoning the beans with. See what you’re looking at—again, see what you’re looking at.”

    I’m curious. Do the other home cooks here REALLY do this??? Do you really find it important to get the rice out of the pantry and the salad lettuce and cukes out of the fridge before turning on the oven to preheat for your roast chicken?

    • Michael Ruhlman

      I’d turn the oven on first since that takes longer. and yes I think home cooks should do this, unless it’s a really simple meal. Certainly for more complex meals it’s a good idea.

      • Guy

        In my opinion, I think it’s important (to gather everything) — how do you know you’re not missing something, until it’s too late? I know someone who ran into this problem just yesterday — she was making a beef stew, and found out she had no carrots. So sent her son to buy some. A half hour after he came back with carrots, she found that she didn’t have tomato sauce that she needed for another dish. Aaargh!

        Michael wrote a whole chapter about this — “Think.” 🙂

      • Dean

        I completely agree that getting everything in place before cooking is critical. Even when I had a very small kitchen to work in and space was hard to find, it was always easier to cook than if I was looking in cupboards or cabinets at the last minute. Not only did getting the ingredients out beforehand prevent discovering too late that something was missing, it made it easier for me to pay attention to what I enjoy most – cooking. I didn’t have to interrupt the fun part by hunting for an ingredient, pan or tool at the last minute.

        • Marshall

          It’s especially important if you have a small kitchen. Organization is the key. Prep veg that will be added together and place in a container…free up the prep space for next task.

    • Elliott Papineau

      Good home cooks do this. Bad ones stay bad because they don’t.

    • Doug R.

      I do it as often as possible. Half the time, the first thing I figure out is that I forgot to buy some essential ingredient. Like, you know, the chicken for the roast chicken…

    • derek

      of course not, because no one has a big enough kitchen, and even if they do have a big enough kitchen/cutting board/sink, they are not trying to wash 10 bowls of mise en place per meal. but sometimes it is useful to get everything pre-prepped and grouped so that the actual cooking is more fun.

    • chad

      I received a subscription to for a Christmas present a couple years ago. While I would never pay that much money out of my own pocket for those meals, I liked it for two reasons:

      1 – It teaches mise en place. They send exactly what you need for every recipe. I just had to chop, mix, cook, etc. But the organization of the ingredients was really great. I’d highly recommend it for someone learning to cook, especially as a gift.

      2 – I tried things I wouldn’t have otherwise. You know those recipes that call for some obscure ingredient, but you don’t want to buy a $15 bottle of something when you need a tablespoon? Problem solved. Just… expensive in a different way.

  • Allen

    Most important prep for the hollidays?
    Aged eggnog.
    Start a batch for next year if you don’t have any prepped.

      • Michael Trippe

        I actually have some left over from last year in the back of the fridge. It was a huge hit at parties I went to. Anticipating tasting it this year to see how it has aged.

  • Ryan G.

    This is another instance where the pressure cooker comes in handy! I cook turkey stock for longer than chicken, but it’s still pretty darn quick.

  • Dave Stuart

    I noticed in the setup for the recipe it calls for chicken wings and necks. (3rd paragraph 2nd line.) I don’t see where they’re used in the recipe, am I missing it?

    • Michael Ruhlman

      you can use any meaty boney cut, wings, neck drumsticks, a couple pounds of them should do.

    • Lisa A

      My guess is the text is a typo – says “chicken” wings and necks but means turkey. The picture definitely looks like they are turkey – too big to be chicken . . . .

  • Gregory

    I use chicken stock that I make periodically in the weeks leading up to T-day, usually from the remains of rotisserie chicken.

  • Trish

    Mise en place is the most useful thing I’ve learned in cooking classes. Getting it all out, measured, weighed etc. helps me think through the steps and the make adjustments I want before I start to cook. Maybe some of you can remember it all, but not me. This is one cooking routine I wouldn’t give up for anything!

  • Cheryl

    Am I missing a print button on the site somewhere? (I copied and pasted into a Word doc so I could print out the recipe, but can’t believe there is not a print option–so where is it?)

    • Maria

      Right click (or option-click on a mac) anywhere in the page, it should pop up a drop-down menu with “Print” as one of the options. Works everywhere.

  • Maria

    “Reserve any fat that’s congealed on top for the roux on Thanksgiving day.”. My eyes are opened.

  • Leisa

    I spend quite a bit of time prior to each Thanksgiving in giving careful thought to everything that I can prep in advance for each recipe. I like most of my dishes to be fresh, so i do the ingredient portioning and prep ahead of time. Ziplocl, jar it, label it and note on the recipe what I did. Like going to war–pan, timing logistics. I print out all the recipes; put them in plastic sleeves; put post it notes on when to go into oven; schedule them on a printed agenda page from outlook, and detail out every prep item that can be done in advance. I even print out an ‘agenda’ for the day so that I know at one time every dish has to go in, at what temperature, how long, including rest. (working backward from dinner ‘time’ ). At some point in time you are just too tired to think. In the thick of battle find calmness in the agenda.

    For each dish….mis en place…

    and for when blindingly tired…step away from the knife.

  • Chuck Shaw

    HI Michael,

    Do you put the roasted legs and wings along the roasted veg in the stockpot at the same time?

    That first step is somewhat unclear.


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