TTU faculty put Rachael Ray’s 30-minute meal claim to the test

Posted by Lori Shull - Thursday, October 06 2011
lshull@tntech.edu

thumb RachelRayWhen Tommy Elliott decided he wanted to learn to cook, like many other Americans, he turned to Rachael Ray.

A math professor at Tennessee Tech University, the celebrity chef’s promise of a 30-minute meal got his attention.

“The 30-minute meal claim, being a number, piqued my interest,” Elliott said. “I was having trouble with this 30-minute meal thing because I can’t cook anything in 30 minutes, and I needed a more experienced cook to test it.”

Elliott brought in Sue Bailey, director of TTU’s School of Human Ecology, to test the time claim. Over the course of a few months, the pair randomly tested 10 meals from Ray’s cookbook, “365: No Repeat, a 30-Minute Meal Cookbook.”

With the help of two students, they found that four people working together in the kitchen could not complete all of the elements of the meals in the allotted time.

“The time to prepare her list of ingredients is not included in the 30 minutes,” Bailey said. “The two things she included in the 30 minutes were mixing the ingredients together and cooking.”

Though both Bailey and Elliott said the meals they prepared were delicious, when they calculated how expensive they were per serving, they found that some were equal to the prices in a restaurant.

The most expensive meal they prepared was swordfish, served with fennel and radicchio salad. It cost more than $10 a serving and took 50 minutes to prepare. The least expensive was pasta and green salad for less than $4 a serving. It was ready in 24 minutes.

“I think the downside is that her recipes are very, very expensive for the consumer,” Bailey said. “She uses many spices and those are expensive.”

The group did change around the order of steps in most of the recipes to try to maximize their efficiency and to account for the layout of their kitchen. Some of the recipes they made a second time, and they did shave off a few minutes of time.

Ray fans have blogged that the 30-minute claim is doable once a person has mastered the recipe.

“This was no attempt to put down Rachel Ray,” Bailey said. “I think she would like people to eat more wholesome foods. I think she’s trying to make cooking fun; it’s not drudgery.”

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