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:
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?
–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.