If you’ve ever watched line cooks in a restaurant then you know that the secret to how they churn out all those plates of food so quickly is that all their ingredients are prepared, organized and ready to go when they get an order. Chefs call this idea of having all the ingredients ready "mise en place." Translated literally, it means everything in place. This is a great way to approach cooking at home, too—once you’ve read your recipe, head to the refrigerator and cupboards, pull out all the ingredients you’ll need and set them up next to your work space. If it’s going to take you a little while to chop and prep, then leave your meat in the refrigerator until closer to when you’re ready to put it in a pan. As you prepare ingredients, if you don’t have enough room to keep them organized in little piles on your cutting board, transfer them to small bowls. We like to use the glass ramekins that you can pick up at most supermarkets for prepped ingredients.
The other thing you may notice as you watch line cooks at a sauté station is that they use metal tongs for everything. Metal tongs are like an extension of the professional cook’s arm. Try them: a decent pair is inexpensive and you will never want to cook without them once you do. (If you cook with a nonstick skillet a lot, you should also get silicone-coated tongs.)