Today, we’ll be focusing on the key differences between roasting and baking. These two popular cooking techniques have been around for centuries, and they’re used daily in the kitchens of millions around the world. But what are they, and how do they differ? Let’s find out.
What Is Baking?
Baking is a method of cooking food using an oven. Unlike many stovetop cooking techniques, baking uses dry heat, which means there’s no liquid involved in the process. Other dry heat cooking methods include grilling, broiling, deep-frying, and, of course, roasting.
Humans have been baking for thousands of years – baking is the oldest method of cooking that we know of. However, it wasn’t until the end of the 19th century that the electric oven was invented, and baking changed forever. Thanks to the oven, cooks can get extremely high temperatures at the push of a button, making it easier than ever to cook food quickly and evenly.
Baking using a conventional oven is easy. Simply preheat the oven to your desired temperature and wait for it to heat up. Once your oven is hot and ready to go, you’ll leave your dish in it to cook for a set amount of time. Then, pull out your meal, let it cool, and bon appetit!
What Is Roasting?
Roasting is a method of cooking food in the oven that employs temperatures of at least 400 degrees. In most cases, the best foods to roast are thick – think cruciferous vegetables, chicken, and potatoes. These foods need a decent amount of time to cook due to their thickness, and they respond well to high heat.
How Roasting Works
Roasting uses the air in your oven to transfer heat to your food, allowing it to cook. While many stovetop cooking methods rely on liquids, roasting is known as a dry-heat method of cooking. You won’t use any liquids when you roast, which contributes to the crisp exterior that makes roasted foods so popular.
When you’re using your oven to roast, the food inside gets exposed to high heat from all directions. This sets roasting apart from stovetop cooking or grilling, two common cooking techniques that only heat one side of the food at a time.
The Best Foods to Roast
The best cooking method to use always depends on what you're making. In many cases, roasting works best when used for cooking large cuts of meat – whole birds, racks of lamb, big slabs of beef – and vegetables. The best meats to roast are heartier and more fatty, as these cuts respond to the high heat better.
In addition to thick cuts of meat, you can roast just about any vegetable in the oven. Some of the most popular veggies to roast are potatoes and sweet potatoes, carrots, asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, and others. If your kids tend to squirm whenever you try to get them to eat their vegetables, roasting is a great technique to try. The crispy texture of roasted veggies makes them super appetizing, even to the pickiest kids!
Roasting traditionally involves very high heat, which cooks your food faster. However, another technique, appropriately called slow-roasting, uses lower heat and longer periods of time. If you want to get technical, cooking at lower temperatures like this isn’t exactly roasting. However, it’s a great technique if you’re trying to retain as much moisture in your meat as possible and give it a tender texture.
When you slow-roast meat instead of standard roasting, the proteins in the meat have more time to break down. Collagen – the most abundant protein in meats – dissolves more the more time you let a cut of meat cook, which gets you the tenderness you’re aiming for. In addition, slow-roasting can keep your meat juicy and moist. It’s an excellent cooking method to keep in your back pocket for meat-based dishes.
What’s the Difference Between Baking and Roasting?
For centuries, roasting was a term used for cooking food over a fire. Baking, on the other hand, was used to refer to cooking in an oven. However, while some chefs still use the fire-roasting technique to prepare certain dishes, roasting now typically happens in the oven. Modern ovens can get up to temperatures that rival the heat from a fire and get the same crispy texture that you’d achieve with fire-roasting.
However, the term “roasting” is still often used to refer to cooking over an open fire. That’s why we say we’re roasting marshmallows or hot dogs when we go camping. In that context, roasting means holding food over a flame and allowing the heat to cook it.
In modern times, the biggest difference between baking and roasting is temperature. Baking is a method of cooking at temperatures of up to 375 degrees. Any higher than this, and you’ve reached the roasting zone.
How to Roast Food Like a Pro
Looking to level up your roasting game? Follow these tips when roasting to get the best-tasting meals you can make.
Get Your Food to Room Temperature Before You Start to Roast
The process of getting food up to room temperature before putting it in the oven or on the stove is called tempering. In some cases, your food will have to thaw before it’s ready to roast or just warm up a bit after being in the fridge. Going through the tempering process before you start your roast is essential for your food to cook evenly and quickly. If parts of a cut of meat are still frozen when you start roasting, you’ll end up with an unevenly cooked cut in the end.
If you’re preparing to roast a big cut of meat, it’s wise to use a meat thermometer to make sure the cut is tempered before you start. With big, thick cuts, it’s often tough to determine whether the temperature is even throughout without a thermometer. Keep one handy whenever you cook meat!
Let Meat Rest After It’s Roasted
After you pull a roasted cut of meat out of the oven, it’s still cooking. That means it’ll keep getting tender until it’s ready to eat after 10 to 20 minutes out of the oven.
Stick to Baking for Sweets
The high temperatures used for roasting are typically too intense for cakes, cookies, and pies. That’s why it isn’t very common to hear about roasted desserts – the high heat isn’t kind to dough-based dishes.
If you’re planning on making a dessert, it’s smart to stick to lower temperatures and let your sweets bake slower. Roasting is a great cooking technique for savory foods like meats and vegetables, but it’s best to stay below 375 degrees when making dessert in the oven!
Other Great Ways to Cook
Both roasting and baking are incredibly useful techniques for any amateur or professional chef. However, these are far from the only methods of making food. There are plenty of ways to cook on the stove, from sauteeing to braising, and it’s always smart to consider all of your options before getting in the kitchen. If you aren’t sure how you should go about making a meal, stick to these rules, and you can’t go wrong:
- Roasting is best for savory foods that can handle high temperatures. You’ll never lose when you roast meat or vegetables.
- Baking is ideal for bread, pastries, pies, and other dough-based foods. The lower temperatures are ideal for these foods.
- Stovetop cooking is typically the right choice for eggs, pasta, rice, and more. There are plenty of exceptions to this rule – baked ziti comes to mind. If you just want some scrambled eggs or standard spaghetti and meatballs, cooking on the stove is the way to go.
- If you want to quickly brown meat or vegetables without the oven, try sauteing. This stovetop cooking method won’t get you the same crisp exterior that you’d get from roasting, but it’s a great option for quickly preparing a meal without using the oven.
Need Some Cooking Inspiration?
All this talk about roasted food is making us hungry. If your stomach’s grumbling, too, make sure to visit JOW and find a delicious recipe to make!
In addition to offering a huge catalog of free recipes, we specialize in helping you enjoy cooking as much as possible. Our super-smart shopping assistant uses a few key pieces of info – the size of your household, dietary restrictions, etc. – to build a personalized shopping list just for you. We can even order your groceries for you if you want! Once you get your groceries, we’ll find you simple, fun recipes that we’re sure you’ll love.