Mise en place
I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that if you want to do just one thing to make yourself a better cook, get into the habit of preparing a mise en place for every dish. Mise en place means, literally, “put in place,” or “set up.” Think of a television cooking show and of the trays of ingredients with each ingredient measured out and ready to use, and you’ll know what a mise en place is. Invest in some pinch bowls and custard cups. Then, when you cook or bake, measure everything out, put all the little bowls of ingredients on a baking sheet or tray, along with ingredients like eggs and lemons and bottles of wine or extract, channel your favorite Iron Chef in competition, and set to work. The time you put into this preparation will reward you in the end — you’ll cook faster and more efficiently, and you won’t ever find yourself in the horrible (and common) position of being halfway through a recipe and discovering you’re missing a key ingredient.