Roasting and baking are the main cooking methods. Perhaps you have tried at least one of them (if not both) at least once in your lifetime, whether it was for a roasted chicken or maybe a baked cake.
Still, roasting and baking are hugely different, but not many people know the differences between each one. Although at first, both terms may be similar and are used in the same context, they are not the same thing.
The only similarity between roasting and baking is they are cataloged as “dry heat cooking.”
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What is Dry Heat Cooking?
Dry heat cooking consists of using hot air to conduct heat. The typical temperature for this cooking method is over 300ºF.
The results are similar in both methods, as they add a particular flavor and the characteristically brown appearance to the food. In the past, roasting implied cooking with an open flame, but now it is possible to achieve the same results using an oven.
That particular brown color that happens when you heat carbohydrates results from caramelization, such as when you bake muffins or bread. As for roasting, this coloration is due to the “Maillard Reaction,” which works exactly as caramelization but for proteins.
Differences between Roasting and Baking
Even if today both cooking methods are almost identical, there are a few differences you should know.
The Food’s Structure
When you roast food, it already has a tangible form. Therefore, this cooking method can only be applied to meats and vegetables, for instance.
The foods you bake do not have a concrete structure, for starters. For example, the cake mix is liquid. Once the process is over, space disappears.
According to several sources, there’s a massive difference between the temperatures used for baking and those used in roasting.
For instance, when it comes to roasting, the temperature is usually higher than 400ºF. This level allows the food to gain a “browned” crust, full of favor.
On the other hand, you need lower temperatures for baking; otherwise, whatever you’re cooking will burn. The temperatures are usually below 375ºF.
You can quickly notice the fat in baked goods. However, it has olive oil or other ingredients “brushed” on the surface when it comes to roasting.
It’s usual to roast something in an uncovered pan. On the other hand, you may cover some baked foods.
So, what method should you choose?
It depends on what you’re trying to make, solely. Therefore, if you’re making meats or vegetables, you’re not “baking” them. You’re roasting them.
If it’s about cooking something without a solid structure –casseroles, cake, or bread- baking is what you should be doing.
As for roasting, it means you’re cooking meat at higher temperatures. Therefore, the brownish color will be more noticeable once the food is done.
Some people, especially those involved in the culinary niche, prefer to use the term “roasting” for meats –excluding fish and other seafood-, vegetables and poultry.
As for fish and seafood, they will use the “baking” term instead.
Is it possible to roast at lower temperatures?
Yes, it is possible to roast at lower temperatures, but it implies longer cooking times. It will give your food a juicier and tender roast, but the browning surface will be affected, and therefore, it will not have as much flavor as you wish.
On the other hand, roasting at higher temperatures will give your food a drier roast.
Due to the previous facts, many people alternate between low and high temperatures to combine both worlds’ best.
When you think of baking, cakes, muffins, and bread will come to your mind. However, you can also bake fish, fillets, and steaks.
Baking fish implies stuffing it with vegetables, herbs, and different ingredients. As for steaks and fillets, you can place all the ingredients you want on top of them to prevent the meat from drying.
Many people tend to leave the fish’s head on when they’re baking it. Fish heads usually have tons of moisture, which means it can help the whole body to be juicy when baking it.
You can brush the fish’s skin with oil or butter before putting it in the oven. Other people opt for dipping it, for instance. The average temperature for baking a fish is 350ºF.