Is there a difference between roasting and baking? It may seem like the words roast and bake are often used interchangeably, but don’t let that fool you. Roasting and baking are not the same thing. Even though they both are typically done in an oven, and they both are considered dry-heat cooking methods, there are technical differences between the two that distinguish them from one another.
It’s All About Chemistry
The main difference between roasting and baking is what it does to the food. Roasting cooks food, but baking actually makes the food what it is. You have to bake a cake in order to make a cake, otherwise you don’t have cake, you just have a bowl of cake batter. On the other hand, you don’t have to roast green beans to have green beans. So how the food is transformed by the cooking method is the biggest difference between roasting and baking, but there are some other subtle differences also worth noting.
- Roasting can take place in an oven or over a flame.
- Roasted foods are usually uncovered.
- Roasted foods are often basted.
- Roasted foods often have a seared, charred, or crispy exterior.
- Baked foods are usually made from several ingredients that form a batter or dough.
- Soft foods that become stiffer are usually baked, whereas solid foods are typically roasted.
- Baked foods are often covered.
- Most baking is done in an oven, but baking can also be done in hot ashes and on hot stones.
- Baked foods tend to have a spongy, crusty, or crunchy exterior.
Both roasting and baking are typically done at temperatures of at least 300 ºF (150 ºC). Oven temperatures lower than that are more commonly used for dehydrating foods and keeping food warm.
When Roasting and Baking Get Confusing
Sometimes the lines between roasting and baking can be quite blurry. When in doubt, it’s best to remember the main difference is how the food has been altered, and then determine to what degree the food in question is being created and defined by the cooking process. For example, you could make the case that baked french fries are actually roasted: they are a whole food being cooked on an open sheet in dry heat. However, french fries, by their very definition, need to be cooked and transformed into what they are. Most people would agree there’s a difference between a roasted potato and a french fry, even if the french fry was cooked in an oven.