The 30 Minute Debate That Never Ends

How many times are we going to see articles testing whether Rachael Ray's meals can be done in 30 minutes? Sigh. For the record, here's what Rachael says about it: "It's kind of creepy if you actually go home and set an egg timer," she said. "If I open the wine before I start cooking, it takes me a good 47 (minutes). If you've never picked up a knife in your life, it'll probably take you an hour."

Now, this one in the Dallas News is better than most. The author, Darla Atlas, admits: "Sadly, not only would we be dealing with real time, but real-people culinary skills. That's part of Ms. Ray's appeal; she gives normal folks a newfound culinary confidence, unlike some of her more hoity-toity cohorts. (Ahem. Martha.)" Even after the meal didn't take her 30 minutes, she said: "It seems that Rachael Ray has empowered me with the enthusiasm and skills (albeit wobbly ones) it takes to become a bona fide person who cooks. At the same time, she's earned herself a new fan." I feel like she's buttering me up.

So the meal for six took her an hour and 40 minutes. She made a big menu for six: T-bone Steaks With Chopped Green Garni; Broiled Tomatoes With Cheese, Olives and Herbs; Bacon, Spinach and Cream Potatoes; and Holiday Parfitini for dessert. You can see video of her experience here.

Usually I go through and point out all the reasons it took longer than it should (like how she was talking the camera and used too small of a pan to sear the steaks instead of using a big one or a griddle as recommended, so she had to do two batches). But, she is so sincere and tried so hard, so let's just skip to the part where I tell you how Rachael (and all of us) can make it in less time. Maybe never 30 minutes, but certainly less than an hour and 40.

Rachael's shows are full of tips and tricks that her cookbooks assume you know. Here are just a few of them:

  1. She applies the chop and drop method of cooking (you chop and slice as you go, not before you start cooking).
  2. She never measures, so that time you spent trying to find your tablespoon measure in the back of a drawer? Yeah, she doesn't do that. In Rachael's world, cooking is supposed to be more instinctual than that.
  3. You just pull all the stuff out of the fridge (and she assumes you cleaned your veggies when you brought them home and put them away) and then you just jump in.
  4. All the while, you are throwing trash in your garbage bowl (thereby avoiding trips to the trash).
  5. You just hack the veggies up, okay? No perfect slicing, no perfect chopping and certainly no gadgets. Neither prettiness nor uniformity are important. Some people take a long time to perfectly drain their spinach - she just throws it in a kitchen towel and wrings it over the garbage bowl.

Journalists of the world, take heed - that's how Rachael Ray cooks and that's why we like her. Here's a news flash for you: maybe your oven is not as hot as hers. Maybe your stove is not as hot as hers. Maybe she chops faster than you. Maybe you measure stuff. Maybe you had to clean your veggies. Maybe you put too much water in the pot, so it took too long to come to a boil. Maybe you aren't good at multi-tasking. Maybe your knife is dull. Maybe your pots and pans suck. Maybe you need to learn more to cook faster.

Who cares? Cooking is a skill that must be learned over time. Someone who is not used to cooking probably can't make anything in 30 minutes for 6 people, much less a four course meal. So can everyone just accept that and move on? Can we just accept that even if it takes 32 minutes or 63 minutes, it really doesn't matter? What matters is that you made a meal for your family. Can we? Pretty please?

9 comments:

  1. This is a great post. I have almost all of Rachael's cookbooks, and when I do the recipes, it does take me longer than 30 minutes, but I know that's because I usually have to defrost the meat, or clean up the kitchen as I go, etc. Rachael is good at 30MM b/c she has it down to a science. She knows exactly how high to turn the fire, how much water to put in the pot, etc, PLUS she's good at multitasking.

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  2. Everyone's a critic. I like her show because I have learned simple techniques that I now implement in my everyday cooking. I say bring it on. She's easier to understand than the likes of Emeril or Giada.

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  3. Awesome, Madeline. It does take me longer to cook the meals, maybe an extra 10min. But I am also an anal nurse and have to measure everything out! I have used an egg timer too, does that make me creepy? or anal?

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  4. That Journalist - I completely agree. It's like they are comparing apples and oranges.

    Jennifer - I have tried a few recipes from Dave Lieberman and his are pretty easy too. Not easy enough for me to start a Dave Lieberman blog, but still easy.

    Janelle - I measure everything, too, probably because I am an anal lawyer. I bet you haven't used the egg timer to make sure it was 30 minutes or less! Maybe to time cooking times for parts of the meal and I do that, too.

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  5. I have Rachael to thank for setting me free from measuring when I cook. Of course, I still measure when I bake, but for an everyday meal, I've incorporated the palm and "just eyeball it" methods. Geez. Nobody's going to stand there and slap your hands if you put in 1 1/2 tablespoons of grill seasoning instead of 2. I love her relaxed approach.

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  6. She also doesn't stop to put things away, which saves considerable time too. An hour and forty minutes is crazy!

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  7. Lee Anne - I hope someday to stop measuring, but I'm not there yet. I have an irrational belief that if I don't measure, it won't taste good.

    Cate - I try to get my husband to cook the meat while I put things away. That usually saves a little time!

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  8. Thank you for this. I think it will actually allow me to stop feeling guilty / inadequate for never being able to finish any Rachael meals in the mystical 30 minute time range. She and I just do not cook the same way. I measure. I chop precisely and I clean as a I go. The important thing is that the end results are almost always pretty delicious. Yay Rachael!

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  9. Erin - you and me both. Although, sometimes I don't clean as I go, it depends how hungry I am!

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