Mise en place – literally, “setting in place,” or the act of preparing each ingredient you’ll need for a dish – is a crucial step toward becoming a better cook.

Let’s say you have all your ingredients. You have your recipe. You’re ready to go. Right? Not so fast. If you’re simply looking at the cooking directions, you might wind up without the right ingredients prepared. If you’re making a stir fry, and the instructions say to add the sliced beef but the pan is hot and your beef isn’t sliced yet, you’re going to be in a bind. And by bind, we mean a smoky kitchen covered in oil splatters.

Professional chefs always do mise en place so that each ingredient, whether soy sauce or sliced beef, is measured and ready to go when needed. No panic, no splatters, no inefficiencies. Though it may seem like an extra, time-consuming step at the beginning of cooking–especially if you’re hungry–in fact it usually saves mistakes and time as you cook. So if you’re looking for an easy way to improve your kitchen skills, we’ve got it right here. Do your mise en place, every time, no matter how simple the dish appears to be. You’ll become a calm and organized cook, speeding around the kitchen, cooking dinner in no time.

What do you think? Do you always do your mise, or do you skip forward in a rush to get to the finished artichoke?