Roasting vs Baking
Have you ever wondered why it is called baking when we put a cake in an oven, and it becomes roasting when we put chicken inside the same oven? In fact, it is hard to differentiate between the two cooking methods today, but one has to remember that fire and its radiant heat are essential components in roasting. Let us find out the real difference between roasting and baking.
Roasting is one cooking method that is as ancient as civilization or at least when man learn to make fire. He cooked food on open fire, which was considerably tastier than eating it raw. Strictly speaking, roasting is cooking before fire. Meat is placed in such a position that heat of fire affects entire surface and there is a current of fresh air around the meat. This way, cooked meat retains its juices and develops more flavors than through any other cooking process. The heat should neither be insufficient nor too intense to char the meat. Insufficient heat makes the surface hard and causes the juices to evaporate making meat lose its flavor and taste. Basting meat every few minutes not only helps in cooking, it also helps to save the juices and improve the flavors.
Roasting can be done in an oven, but only when the system of ventilation in the oven is excellent. However, one has to compromise on flavors as some of the flavors do not develop in an oven. When roasting in oven, sprinkle salt and pepper only when the meat is almost ready as sprinkling before that will draw out the juice of the meat and toughen the fiber.
Baking is similar to roasting with the difference being cooking taking place in close, hot air. Baking in oven is not through radiating heat, though there is a large amount of heat radiated from top, bottom and sides of the oven. In baking, less mass of the meat is lost than when roasted but flavors are not developed that much and inferior to roasted meat. Again, there is constant, steady heat in an oven cooking meat in lesser time than when roasted in open air.
If you are preparing breads, pastry, cakes, puddings, vegetables etc, baking in an oven is always preferable to roasting. Thus baking is primarily cooking flour based foods in which the heat produced inside the oven sets the structures. This heat is just enough to produce browning on the outside and setting the dough at the center.
Both roasting and baking are ‘dry heat’ cooking methods as heat is not transferred through a liquid medium like oil. In a sense, roasting is a specialized type of baking. Roasting is traditionally done in an open pan implying that the meat being roasted in uncovered. In modern times, baking has come to be associated with breads, cakes and casseroles whereas roasting is linked with meat and vegetables. The difference in the two cooking methods is that you refer to roasting when the food item has a structure (meats and vegetables) while you call it baking when the food item does not have a structure and gets it when it is finally baked such as breads, cakes, pies pastries etc.