What is the Difference Between Roasting and Baking

If you are someone who is recently exploring his culinary talents, you might get confused with all the terms thrown around while trying to learn to cook a simple dish.

Even people who have been cooking for many years get confused because let’s face it – no one cares about being technically correct as long as the food is delicious.

Two such terms that confuse people are roasting and baking. For example, why do you roast a chicken but bake bread?

And how is it possible to do both roast and bake potatoes? If you are feeling confused already, then continue reading this article, to know what exactly makes these two cooking methods different and when to use which.

What is Roasting?

Roasting is done usually on an open flame and used for whole foods like meat, vegetables, etc. Indirect heat and dry air are used in roasting to cook the food evenly, and the main goal is to get a crispy, caramelized end dish.

What is Baking?

Baking is usually done in an enclosed space. It might be done in an open space, too, but no direct heat is used. Foods that are not whole in structure, or ingredients that need to be combined together to make a whole new dish are baked. With baking, your goal generally is to get a solid structure in the end.

The Difference Between Roasting and Baking

Now that you know what these two terms mean in a general way, let’s delve deeper to get a clearer understanding of how exactly these two differ.

1. Exposure to Heat

Both roasting and baking use dry heat to get the food cooked properly. Roasting is done by cooking food directly in the presence of the heat.

For a long time, roasting food meant cooking the food in the presence of an open flame by default. In the present time, roasting can be done in the oven too. Meat (pork, turkey, chicken), vegetables, etc are food that people usually roast.

On the other hand, baking uses dry air to cook the food too but does not use direct exposure to heat. Baking is usually done in an oven, or in any enclosed heat surface. Roasting can be done uncovered, whereas baking is usually done in a covered dish. Fish, bread, cake, etc are food that people usually bake.

2. Temperature

The temperature used for these two different methods varies to quite an extent. Roasting is usually done in quite a high temperature, somewhere between 300-400 °F.

However, since constantly roasting on high food can lead to overcooking in some food like chicken breasts, it is recommended to roast in medium heat and turn up the temperature occasionally to get a nice crispy skin on the dish.

3. Type of food

Roasting usually involves food that is whole in structure. For example, meat, vegetables. These foods are complete and do not need to be consolidated into something else entirely. Roasting just gives them a nice flavor and caramelizes them, making them a delight to eat.

On the other hand, baking is used to combine a bunch of different ingredients into a whole. For example, when you are baking a cake, you are mixing egg, sugar, flour, baking powder, all liquid or powder structure – and turning it into solid food.

Same goes with baking fish – you stuff the fish with vegetables and the like and bake them all together to produce a uniform dish.

4. Fat Content

While roasting, food is exposed to direct heat, so there is a lot of loss of water. To keep the food from getting overcooked, or worse- burnt, fat contents are added to the food before roasting.

This is usually done by brushing some oil or butter around the food evenly before exposing it to heat. This helps keep the food from burning while also getting a nice roasted skin on it.

On the contrary, a lot of food that is baked do not need any additional fat source. While baking, the internal fat works to keep the food from overly drying out and helps retain a nice level of moisture.

5. The End Dish

There is a difference in the end results too. Roasting usually results in getting the food a nice and crispy outside skin while keeping it soft but not too tender in the middle. Baking involves getting a lot of ingredients to produce a solid, uniform structure, where a lot of the original structures are eliminated completely.

While these are the general differences, there can be quite a few exceptions. For instance, baking might not be done in an enclosed space always.

In a lot of ovens, there are not even different options for roasting and baking, so you just have to rely on the temperature settings. In others, roasting at 400 degrees and baking at the same temperature might even yield the same results.

Although baking and roasting are used interchangeably sometimes, and some food can be both baked and roasted, do these two methods actually get the same results? Let’s look at the example of potatoes to understand this since potatoes are one of those ingredients that can be both baked and roasted.

Roasting potatoes means peeling off their skins and getting them over an open flame with additional spices and fat.

Baking potatoes involves putting them in an oven in their skin with salt and water to get a nice flavor in it. While it may seem like they are both doing the same thing, roasted potatoes actually have more calories and are softer in the middle than the other one.

Conclusion

Now that you know the basic information and the difference between roasting and baking, you can definitely spice up your game.

Knowing what technique to use for your next ingredient definitely gives your cooking an edge and makes it so much tastier. So, get all your ingredients and oven ready, and roast or bake away to your heart’s content.