How Real is the 30-Minute Meal?

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Rachael Ray didn't necessarily invent the 30-minute meal, but she certainly made them the norm for weeknight dinners. Anything longer, and we save it for the weekend. Anything shorter starts to feel like we're not really cooking. But a recipe that claims to be ready in 30 minutes says, "I'm quick and easy! Make me tonight!" But how real is the 30-minute meal? Is it a myth? After our conversation yesterday about how long we spend making dinner, today we're wondering about the 30-minute meal. Have any of you have actually cooked a full meal from start to finish in just 30 minutes?

The only times when I can confidently say that I cooked a meal in 30 minutes is when I've made something very familiar to me: a simple pasta sauce with vegetables or a dinner frittata. Whenever I'm making a new recipe — even one that claims to be ready in 30 minutes — the slight slowness over an unfamiliar technique, the added time gathering the right equipment, and even the extra trips back to check the recipe will invariably push my time in the kitchen over the 30-minute mark. The extra minutes aren't much, but they add up.

But here's another question: do you really care? If a recipe feels like it was quick and easy to make, does it matter if it actually took 45 minutes instead of 30 minutes? Maybe the reality doesn't really matter as long as we feel confident that dinner will be ready within a reasonable amount of time.

What do you say? 

Related: 10 Quick Tips to Help Make Evening Meals in a Flash

(Image: Lucy Hewett)