What’s the Difference Between Roasting and Baking?
Are you planning on hosting a dinner party for family and friends? If so, you might consider cooking a large portion of meat for your main course. (Think beef, turkey, pork, lamb, or chicken).
But how should you prepare your meat?
Generally, you have two options: baking and roasting.
But, what’s the difference between bake and roast?
Roasting and baking both utilize hot, dry air. Even though they are frequently used interchangeably, there are distinct rules and guidelines behind a roast vs bake.
After all, you typically don't roast a pie, and you won't find too many recipes for oven-baked vegetables.
So, to help clarify the difference between roasting and baking, we will cover both methods and highlight when to use them.
What is the Difference Between Roasting and Baking?
Let's start at square one in our bake vs roast debate. It's believed that “bake” originates from the German word bakan. On the other hand, the word roast derives its basis from the French rosten, which refers to cooking in a manner similar to our modern grilling.
When comparing roasting vs baking, it’s important to note that both methods of dry heat cooking.
Dry heat cooking is a term that refers to the cooking method when no water is used, as opposed to boiling or steaming. Before the introduction of gas stoves, these methods were restricted to open flames at home. Bread, for example, was traditionally baked in public ovens since they were massive (as well as costly), prohibiting most people from having one in the home. So, the difference between roast and bake is that before gas stoves changed our cooking habits at the turn of the 20th century, roasting was done at home, and people used the community ovens to bake.
The difference between bake and roast began to blur as gas stoves grew more prevalent. People were already making bread and roasting meats, all in the same unit. In the end, what is the difference between roasting and baking?
The temperature may play a role in that definition, given that a cake bakes at or below 375 degrees Fahrenheit, while a slab of steak would cook above 400 degrees.
An alternative take on the definition is the form that the food items start in before being cooked. If you start with a box of cupcake mix, you bake it into cupcakes since it doesn't have a predetermined shape. Conversely, roasting is merely cooking food that has a specific form (vegetables and meats). However, this concept also has problems as well: while you roast a complete chicken, you could bake chicken breasts.
Potatoes add another level of perplexity when defining baking vs roasting since you can use either method. However, you could further expand the definition to include the final results of a dish since a roasted potato is meant to be crispy, while if you bake a potato and it comes out hard, you’ve done something wrong.
We can go one step further in the difference between baking and roasting with the "cover rule."
The cover rule states that roasted food is always cooked uncovered, while you can choose to bake with a cover on or off at your discretion. However, this rule isn't foolproof, as exceptions will still pop up. For example, a pot roast is covered and doesn't use dry heat at all!
One further term can also be thrown in to complicate this matter.
The word "grill" has largely taken the place of the word "roast" when cooking over an open flame.
If you find yourself at a barbeque, you might choose to use the word roasting when cooking hotdogs over the grill. However, you would never say you're baking them.
To this end, we could attribute the difference between roasting and baking partly to where the cooking occurs. For instance, you would be roasting if there's an open flame, while it would be baking if the cooking is done in an enclosure.
Roasting uses dry heat to cook food at temperatures typically above 400 degrees Fahrenheit. It is most commonly done in an oven, although it may also be done over an open flame or at a barbeque, and would typically apply to meats and vegetables.
You can find a roast option on most convection ovens, which circulate hot air throughout the range to provide an even cook.
However, depending on where the heat source is located can also add to the confusion.
Broiling is a high-heat cooking method similar to roasting, but this method uses a heat source above the dish.
If you're preparing something that's not solid until it's fully cooked, you'll use baking. Baking generally revolves around batters and doughs that morph into soft, airy confections after being cooked at 375 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.
Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. Because it cooks more rapidly and is less likely to dry out than most large cuts of meat, seafood is often baked rather than grilled, such as baked salmon.
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