Recipe time estimates

I often see discussions in other fora about how long it takes to make a recipe and how the time estimates are not achievable. I rarely have a problem matching or beating those times. Is this, as I suspect, a matter of knife skills or is something else going on?

British celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver, has published two “quick food” books - “30 minute meals” and “15 minute meals”. Both came in for considerable criticism that the times were not achievable. I’ve cooked from both and, although I never timed the cooking, I doubt whether I was close to the times. It all looks quite easy when Oliver is doing it for the TV programme. I suspect that may well be partially down to knife skills but, more probably, a simple lack of organisation that would be second nature to a professional. It’s not something I fuss over.

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Maybe achievable with pro chefs and their equipment, meaning 3 ovens or 5 fires and never need to wash any pots, also the fact that they cook the same dish for months, speed up a lot in organization. But I also suspect the publishers of recipes cheat to say less time is needed not to discourage.

I don’t really look at the time any more.


I suggest the time is a factor when you’re trying to get a bunch of elements to finish at the same time and is indeed a source of frustration for some, especially novice cooks.

I timed myself tonight. Meatloaf with steak fries (cheating - frozen in a bag) and a salad. The meatloaf is based on an Alton Brown recipe I have adjusted to make my own. I just looked up the recipe and he says 15 minutes to prep. It took me 12 even with Netflix streaming in the background. grin Only knife work was dicing onion and mincing garlic. Mr. Brown may have made his own bread crumbs and I used some from a tube. Oh - the kitchen is clean - nothing piled in (anathema!) or next to the sink.

Someone - Epicurious I think - does videos with various levels of cooks. I wonder if times on recipes would be better if they accounted for novice, apprentice, and accomplished cooks so people might not be so frustrated.


Which is why we use guesstimates when following a recipe. Ovens vary, ingredients can differ, room temp can play a role.

When I share a recipe, I do so assuming the end user will also make the same alterations.

Cook time is pretty predictable. I can look at a recipe that grills chicken breasts and observe that cook time is pretty far out of the bound of reality. It’s the prep time numbers that are all over the map, and I think that is where skill vice equipment weighs in, with clean-up time coming in second place. There are lots of preparations for which using a knife is faster for prep plus cleaning than a food processor regardless of how fast the FP is for prep.

Dave story (possible repeat): my second wife (third time was the charm) suggested when we combined households that we take turns cooking and whoever didn’t cook would clean. That lasted a week. I’m a clean as you go and she was a “use everything, blow up the kitchen, and pile it next to the sink” person. So whoever cooked would clean and she would complain that I got out of the kitchen so much faster than she. grin

My wife and I have a different arrangement. When she cooks, I clean. When I cook, I clean. I’m not sure how that happened.

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Grills somehow seem less strict than indoor ovens. I was thinking baking not grilling.

As to cleanup, in our house… you see it needs cleaning…get to it.

Yes. Seems the kitchen is where I see things. Toilets on the other hand … grin