City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

Can Rachael Ray’s ‘30 Minute Meals’ be made in 30 minutes?

courtesy of The Food Network

courtesy of The Food Network

It all started with a friend’s Facebook post:

“I’m pretty sure the 30 minute meal Rachael Ray is making would take me two hours (minimum).”

And the comments on the post:

“What’s she making?”

“Some meatball pesto creation with spaghetti noodles mixed in – and then some other dippers and dipping sauce…”

“Her pork-fried rice takes WAY longer than 30 minutes if you don’t have everything chopped & ready to go.”

“I hear ya!”

“You have to be on speed.”

“She doesn’t have 2 kids asking her questions every 2 minutes!!”

“I totally agree!”

“It’s only 30 minutes if you have a crew of assistants prepping everything for you.”

I then looked at the 30 Minute Meals website. Here’s what it says about the show:

From comfort food to sophisticated fare for entertaining, Rachael promises that her dazzling dishes will never take more than 30 minutes to make, from start to finish.

Wow. Rachael promises? Surely these recipes could be made in 30 minutes if you know your way around a kitchen.

Just for fun, I assembled a Facebook task force, some of whom were in on the original conversation above. Others, including a HUGE Rachael Ray fan sworn to defend her honor, stepped up for the challenge. We selected a recipe (Parimigiano-Reggiano-Crusted Chicken Piccata) from the 30 Minute Meals recipe archive and set a date and time to take the 30 minute challenge.

First, we set the ground rules. We would start with the ingredients on the counter (even though Rachael gathers them from fridge and pantry during the show) but we would do no prep work since that is part of making a meal. I would give the signal to start on Facebook and we would update our progress as time permitted. (I actually had my husband transcribe my updates to be sure that didn’t interfere with my time.)

Here are excerpts from our cooking log posted on Facebook:

J: GO! 5:58 p.m. [Guess I was a little early]

J: I hate pounding chicken! 6:02 p.m.

E: I do too – it creeps me out so I butterflied it. Chicken cooking and water is on… Waiting for it to boil. 6:10 p.m.

A: Step one done. 6:12 p.m.

J: Prep work done – now waiting for water to boil and chicken to cook. 6:25 p.m.

J: 30 minute mark – anyone done yet? 6:29 p.m.

E: Nope. Making sauce and pasta almost done. 6:30 p.m.

E: Just plated. 6:41 p.m.

J: E’s in at 43 minutes. 6:42 p.m.

J: Done and plated at 52 minutes. 6:50 p.m.

A: Okay, I’m done, but it isn’t pretty and my kitchen should be declared a disaster area! 6:57 p.m.

J: A is in at 59 minutes.

P: Made mine 60 minutes start to finish, including having to cook the chicken in 2 batches for lack of a giant pan & not wanting to use 2 pans at once – probably would have been 10-12 mins faster without that issue

So, we finished in 43, 52, 59 and 60 minutes. Why didn’t it work? Let’s consider some possibilities:Rachael's chicken

  • Cooking experience? Granted some people are not as quick in the kitchen, but several in our group are highly experienced cooks. Additionally, at least one person in our group took shortcuts such as using pre-shredded cheese and butterflying the chicken instead of pounding it.
  • Equipment? One of the cooks in our group has a professional range and was still unable to complete the meal in 30 minutes.
  • Sabotage? As I mentioned earlier, one of the cooks in our group vowed to avenge Rachael and raced to complete the meal. In fact, it was a challenge not to race while watching the clock.
  • Not following recipe? The person who finished first actually didn’t follow the recipe. She boiled her water in the first step instead of the second as the recipe instructed, which ended up saving her time. The rest of us delayed starting our water until the recipe instructed us to do so.

This was just one recipe, of course. But, the feedback we saw from the initial Facebook post suggests that our experience was not atypical.

I offered Rachael a chance to comment and here is her response:

The point of cooking at home is to enjoy the process and bring family together to celebrate good food. When I am cooking at home for John I don’t set an egg timer to make sure I finish in time. Thirty minutes is a guideline and there are so many factors that go into the prep and cooking time that can make the process take a little longer. If you’ve never picked up a knife in your life, it’ll probably take you an hour. If I open the wine before I start cooking, it takes me a good 47 minutes. But they all can be done in 30 minutes and to prove it when I launched my last cook book, Look + Cook, I taped several online videos without commercials to show folks just how fast and easy it can be.  Take a look at those videos here.

Have you tried any of her 30 minute recipes? Were you able to accomplish the task?

Jenny Turknett, Southern and Neighborhood Fare

Jenny Turknett, Southern and Neighborhood Fare

–by Jenny Turknett, Food & More blog

– Jenny Turknett writes about Southern and Neighborhood Fare for the AJC Dining Team. She also publishes her own blog, Going Low Carb.

69 comments Add your comment


July 26th, 2011
7:50 am

I think that if you followed the ingredient list as written, you are expected to have everything pounded and chopped before the clock starts.
In the recipe narrative there are no instructions such as mince the garlic, chop the parsley or pound the chicken.
If someone followed it exactly, the meal could be easily finished in 30 minutes or less with another 15-20 minutes of prep time which could be done the day before or earlier in the day (or the way she claims to do it — when she gets home from the grocery store)

Jenny Turknett

July 26th, 2011
7:53 am

Lisa, that was my initial thought, as well, but following the format of the show, you should be able to make the meal in 30 minutes without doing anything in advance — not even gathering the items first, which we did. The prep is part of making the meal.


July 26th, 2011
8:19 am

I’ve made quite a few of her recipes. My knife skills, or lack of, is what slows me down. I’m sure I’ve done a few in the 30 minute time frame, but distractions such as children, phones ringing, etc. also come into play. My other issue is not having enough “flowing” work space.


July 26th, 2011
8:27 am

Jenny — this was a great idea! I’ve made a few of her meals, but havent timed them. I imagine it took me closer to the 45 min mark at least though. Another idea — the AJC has 5:30 Challenge (30 min, 5 ingredient) recipes as well. Has anyone tried to make those in 30?


July 26th, 2011
8:34 am

It takes me 30 minutes just to get my mise en place set up


July 26th, 2011
8:38 am

I will say Publix recipes they tout are fast and easy. Granted some of them use processed foods to accelerate the recipe. Still the recipes are generally simple (few ingredients) and don’t take much time. The recent seared coriander salmon and artichoke and garbanzo salad tasted great and took 30 minutes or less to make for me.


July 26th, 2011
9:18 am

While time was what you were testing here, you failed to report the most important result. How did the food taste?

up north

July 26th, 2011
9:20 am

I heard that Rachel Ray has upwards of 30 staffers prepping for that show. It does not hurt when everything is right there and ready for you.


July 26th, 2011
9:28 am

In a word – no. Her recipes call for too many ingredients and are somewhat convoluted. And I’m not a novice in the kitchen. Also, does the girl eat anything besides sausage? I know she’s from up north, but eek gads, pick another meat, will ya?


July 26th, 2011
9:38 am

Jenny, I think on the show she pulls everything from the fridge chopped and ready. In any case, the total time probably works out to at least 45 minutes.
You should definitely do a second test of the AJC challenge recipes!

Jenny Turknett

July 26th, 2011
9:44 am

Good point, Barbara. We all agreed the dish was very tasty but needed more salt.

Jenny Turknett

July 26th, 2011
9:49 am

Reds/Lisa – you’re right – trying the AJC recipes is a good idea! And, Lisa, we confirmed before starting that she does, in fact, do the prep as part of the 30 minutes instead of having them ready to go.


July 26th, 2011
10:11 am

There’s not much I can’t throw together in 30 minutes, well, besides pulled pork. That takes all night. Some of you are just TOO SLOW….


July 26th, 2011
10:41 am

I think you should’ve stopped at 30 minutes, eaten the undercooked chicken, and sued Rachel and the Food Network for millions for food poisoning.

A participant

July 26th, 2011
10:41 am

I watch RR often enough to know she chops as she goes – often she’ll start chopping something, go to commercial & then have it done when she comes back. I also saw, recently, that she has the biggest skillet I’ve ever seen, so cooking 4 pounded-out chicken breasts at a time would be easy for her. I don’t have such a skillet, so 2 pans or 2 batches required. Still, I am fairly proficient with a knife & have a professional range at home, but couldn’t manage to get it all done in 30 minutes. I think my time would improve slightly now that I’ve fixed this recipe, but certainly not down to 30 minutes or less. Maybe 40-45 with no distractions & that big pan.


July 26th, 2011
12:02 pm

Yes — I have completed a few of her recipes in 30 minutes but certainly not all. And, in addition, I don’t always follow the instructions/directions exactly. As with any recipe, I look it over. I then undertand what is needed – and when it’s needed. As in your example, I would have started the water boiling as one of the first steps instead of waiting until the recipe stated.
Just for the sake of argument, however, I think I will try the Parm Crusted Chicken Piccata tonight just to see what my actual time is and, yes, I will stick 100 % to the actual recipe.

Rachael supporter

July 26th, 2011
12:07 pm

If you watch Rachael’s show, you know how it is done! I have made lots of her meals in 30 minutes. You have to multi task! You have to have everything ready to cook! I love her meals and they can be prepared in 30 minutes, if you know what you are doing!


July 26th, 2011
12:08 pm

I like the idea behind testing the 30 minute ‘promise’, but I also like the way she responded (and just the fact that she did) to your email regarding your results. I’m sure she gets that a lot, but either most people don’t care about the 30 minutes or a lot of people are getting done in that time frame. Otherwise, she wouldn’t still be as popular as she is.


July 26th, 2011
12:10 pm

I think an important point is that Rachael said that “it can done” in 30 minutes, not that YOU nor I could do it in thirty minutes. I think frankly that the biggest factor is distractions, because kids definitely slow you down. Undistracted, I’ve cooked many a meal in 30 minutes that my wife simply couldn’t believe was done that quickly. Meals like pork chops with rice and a cabbage chop salad, shrimp linguine, or a steak stir-fry from scratch.


July 26th, 2011
12:18 pm

What a wonderful idea. Excellent post, Jenny!

Ostrich Racer

July 26th, 2011
12:27 pm

It’s a question of experience with the techniques, and your ability to juggle a couple or three tasks. Try the same recipe again, and you’ll do it faster and better. Her recipes are usually very good and reliable.

Eric Payne

July 26th, 2011
12:28 pm

I’ve made several of Ms Ray’s “30-Minute Meals” in 30 minutes (or less). In fact, the most recent was just two days ago: Mac and Cheese Dog Casserole (

There’s two “tricks” to making any of her 30-minute recipes on-time, however – one is Ms Ray being familiar with the recipe.She whips through her recipes in half an hour because they’re all dishes she’s made, and rehearsed making, long before recipes are chosen for her show. The other trick is, as a cook, Ray doesn’t MEASURE ingredients… she just pours them in the palm of her hand, says “close enough” and dumps ‘em in.


July 26th, 2011
12:31 pm

Nothing can be done well in 30 minutes.


July 26th, 2011
12:45 pm

@ jack, You are inviting all kinds of humorous responses. I will however refrain.


July 26th, 2011
12:47 pm

Jack: Apparently, RR can be airbrushed pretty well in 30 minutes. Check out the poster versus her face.


July 26th, 2011
12:49 pm

Uh-uh. And she also tips at least 15% on her $30/day. Really.


July 26th, 2011
12:52 pm

Excellent idea and well done on the blog.

Atlanta Native

July 26th, 2011
12:57 pm

Great article with a good premise and just the right length. Not an issue for me, as I rarely use a recipe at all for most things I make (or use one that is seemingly wholly unrelated).


July 26th, 2011
1:01 pm

To her advantage, she is very short and therefore much closer to the prep/cooking surface. No wasted energy=faster cook times.

Seriously, she cooks very quickly due to experience and repitition. Watch an experienced accountant use a ten-key calculator and compare it to how fast YOU can do it…Same principle.


July 26th, 2011
1:06 pm

…I think an important point is that Rachael said that “it can done” in 30 minutes, not that YOU nor I could do it in thirty minutes. …

Which means Rachel should run for public office since she can mince words with the best of the politicians.


July 26th, 2011
1:08 pm

I have made many of her 30 minute meals in 30 minutes or less. And if you have kids old enough to help with the prep work, then it should be doable in 30. If your kids are a distraction, then it is not a fair assesment to state that it takes more than 30 minutes. That is unfair.


July 26th, 2011
1:19 pm

If you are familiar with the recipe, good with a knife and good at cleaning as you go, you can accomplish in about 30 minutes (give or take a few minutes). I use her recipes all the time. It never takes me anywhere near an hour as some have said.


July 26th, 2011
1:21 pm

While I love to watch Rachael cook, I think she uses way to many igredients. I don’t keep a lot of that stuff on hand, and it can get pretty expensive. I’ved tried several “30 minute receipes”, but they are not done in 30 minutes, and I’m a darn good cook, excellent knife skills too. I can chop veggies with the best of ‘em.

I have a couple of her cookbooks. The ingredients list on the majority of the recipes is just too much for me.

V C Fuqua

July 26th, 2011
1:23 pm

My greatest problem with RR is that she wastes so much food and money. She represents an approach to cooking that went out of style when the economy tanked. Even if you compost all her wastes (She doesn’t look like the kind of girl who composts), it’s very expensive. If a cook or anyone just turns off the television we all have plenty of time. The average person in the US watches 7 hours of tv every day. I urge everyone to just turn off the infernal thing. It’s become a shadow of it’s former importance in daily life.


July 26th, 2011
1:26 pm

Two slices of bread, mustard, lunch meat, sliced tomatoes, chips and dip, pop a top. Meal in less than 30 minutes. There is no way to account for the time between shots on a pre-recorded tv show. They never allow for that in my kitchen. Like every good show, movie, play or game of chance there is always a hook to get you in the door. Stores do it every day. Don’t sweat the small stuff.


July 26th, 2011
1:36 pm

As an experienced cook and a busy person, my pet peeve is “quick” recipes with an ingredient list like, “Two pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breast, cooked and cut into strips” and “One cup of fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped”. THEN the “quick” recipe begins. Yes, if I had all of that ready to go, I could whip up a meal in less than 30 minutes. But all that cooking, chopping and peeling takes real time out of my real life. Grr.


July 26th, 2011
1:36 pm

Sure it only takes R Ray 30 miniutes to cook. It only takes her .05 seconds or less to say EVOO.


July 26th, 2011
1:42 pm

I’ve made her oven fries MANY, MANY times. It actually is done well within the 30-minute time frame. I can make cheeseburgers on my Foreman grill and Rachael’s oven fries in that time limit. How? I have a great patty maker, only takes five mins for my grill to warm up, and about 6-7 mins to cook the patties. It takes 20-25 mins to back the oven fries, but I can cut up the potatoes pretty quickly.

I’ve also tried her spaghetti recipe that she named after her brother — one of her oldest recipes. I’ve had to tailor the recipe to meet my taste. But, it cannot be completed in the 30-min mark. I have an electric stove, whereas I believe she has a gas stove. So cooking times can vary depending on the type of stove you have. Rachael has some good recipe ideas, but 30 minutes isn’t always realistic.


July 26th, 2011
1:43 pm

It takes 20-25 mins to back the oven fries, but I can cut up the potatoes pretty quickly.

CORRECTION: It takes 20-25 mins to bake the oven fries.

Sorry about that! :-)


July 26th, 2011
1:46 pm

One other thing that saves Rachel time is the fact that her fridge and pantry are set up just so. Notice how she rarely has to search for something. Do most of us have it arranged that way? I know I don’t, and I don’t even keep that much on hand, being just the two of us at my house.

A participant

July 26th, 2011
1:59 pm

I must say that even though it took longer than 30 minutes, this is a delicious dish. My family, including 4 & 6-year-old boys, devoured it & pleaded for me to make it again. The amount of pasta is HUGE & makes for a great lunch the next day. There are nights when I need something quick, like grilled pork tenderloin & sauteed green beans, but when I have a bit more time, this is a great option.

Jenny Turknett

July 26th, 2011
2:20 pm

GaCookGal – That’s exactly why we started with the ingredients on the counter instead of grabbing them as we went like she does on the show. ;)
Shana & JoeV – thanks!
Grant – let us know your time after you try it!

Janet in Cummin

July 26th, 2011
2:39 pm

Nice job and well written article!


July 26th, 2011
4:31 pm

I LOVE watching the cooking shows. I believe RR can do the meals in under 30 minutes because of her expertiese. I personally think more credit should be givin to the contestants on “Chopped.” They are the ones that show true culinary skills and creativity under pressure and can pull an entree together in less than 30 minutes from sctrach with those beloved mystery items.


July 26th, 2011
4:52 pm

@Mad Russian: This is a food blog. Not the politics blog. If you don’t like it, don’t read it and don’t waste your time posting comments when you could be figuring out the solutions to the problems you’re bringing up.

Was this a recipe in one of her books, or was it one on one of her shows? She doesn’t seem like the most organized person (even though she claims to be super organized with her pantry, fridge, and produce “processing” upon returning home from the store). Seems like it would be pretty easy for her to actually put the water on to boil before she says to do so in the written recipe. And she doesn’t measure anything. The only time I’ve ever seen her measure anything is when she makes rice, couscous, or similar that requires an exact ratio. She’s even mentioned that she doesn’t own measuring cups/spoons.
Also, I know I’ve seen episodes of hers where she has plated practically raw meat, claiming that she prefers it “rare” (tuna, beef). That certainly helps keep the cooking time down.


July 26th, 2011
4:59 pm

I have actually had exactly this discussion with friends as well. I am an experienced cook, I have a couple of her 30-minute recipes that I use frequently, and I still can’t get them in under 30, though I’m pretty close now. I think there are two parts to this for newbies to her recipes. 1: The time spent on prep work. While I can chop pretty rapidly, Rachael takes it to a whole new level with speed on this. 2: She does not list things in the most efficient order (i.e., the boiling water bit, which could be referred to earlier in the recipe). You have to walk through the recipes and know ahead of time what to do.


July 26th, 2011
5:02 pm

I think RR has run her time out and then some. There are a group of CHEF’s on TV now that are way better at what they do then she is!! So, she should take her TV cooking shows and her talk show and magazine and call it a day. Whew!!!!


July 26th, 2011
5:12 pm

I make her Shepherd’s Pie recipe frequently and it takes anywhere from 45min. to an hour. If I want the carrots cooked instead of crunchy, I need at least twice the time to cook them. The recipe is delish, btw. ;-) Give it a try. I always use the ground lamb.


July 26th, 2011
5:16 pm

Did anyone watch the episode? I think it would be very interesting to “cook along with” the show to see how it timed out and also to see where the times diverged.

Sara Moulton used to have a show where you cooked with her. She even took phone calls along the way (like a radio talk show). Never did it, but always thought it was a neat idea.


July 26th, 2011
5:23 pm

Ahh, if this were the only pressing issue in America right now.