If you've ever worked in a professional kitchen, you've probably heard the term "mise en place" (meez•on•ploss). I don't speak French, but I'm told the phrase means "put in place." Makes sense, because that's the whole idea with these bowls.
They're made by Pyrex, and they're officially known as 10-oz Rimmed Custard Cups. They can go in the oven or in the freezer. They can go in the dishwasher. I have seen more than one bounce off my kitchen floor and come away unscathed. These are glass, people. No, scratch that: These are magic.
I spent many of my college years in kitchens — my parents only signed up to pay my way for four years, and I took a lot longer than that to get my degree. I was a little shit. Didn't know how easy I had it — until I had to shell out $US1,264.33 every month to keep myself registered. I only had to borrow money once. The rest of the time I earned it working in restaurants: first waiting tables, and then, eventually cooking — the first job I ever truly loved.
I burned out of professional cooking pretty quickly — I wasn't tough or talented enough — but I brought a lot of the habits into my home kitchen. The most important by far is mise en place. When you're cooking for 80 heads a night, you use giant steel prep bowls. But the principle stands, and the home version is a small glass wonderbowl that I first saw on Yan Can Cook. (I love that guy — saw him debone a chicken at Wegmans once. 18 seconds!)
You've totally seen this on cooking shows too (and maybe you do this already — it's not rocket science). The host already has all her ingredients prepped and in the bowls. Yeah, sure, some underpaid showbiz monkey probably does it for her but whatever.
There's no reason why you shouldn't adopt the technique if you haven't yet. Just divide the cooking process into two segments: prep and preparation. If your recipe calls for something to be, for example, salted and peppered and then sauteed with garlic and then garnished with parsley, you put garlic, salt and pepper, and parsley in three separate bowls and then add them when you need to, etc. No rushed grinding or chopping or fridge runs from across your sprawling TV kitchen.
Yeah, you could just ghettoize your cutting board and get the same effect, but these bowls are so clutch! They make the whole experience less cluttered and altogether cleaner. Oh, and here's the best part: They're like $US3 apiece. COME ON BUY SOME YOU WILL LOVE ME. [Pyrex]